The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo starts off with an astonishing credit sequence consisting of oil, body parts, contorted faces and a unique cover version of Led Zeppelin's “Immigrant Song” blasting on the soundtrack. This seems to be director David Fincher making a bold statement that this is the new (and improved?) version of a much loved original trilogy of intricate and often brutally violent novels and movies.
But lest we forget that the late Stieg Larsson's lauded series of books has already been adapted for film (or TV which was then edited for film) in its native Sweden, starring Michael Nyqvist as disgraced reporter Mikael Blomkvist and Noomi Rapace as the eponymous tattooed girl, Lisbeth Salander, a punkish and methodical hacker who teams up with Mikael to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a girl 40 years prior.
You'd think, then, that Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Moneyball) would somehow justify a remake - and it is essentially a remake at the end of the day, much as some might try to convince you otherwise – by doing something different with the material. But alas this plays like a “copy, past, translate” exercise, a way for English language audiences who don't want to read subtitles to enjoy this complex story.
Without trying to sound too harsh, Fincher's version feels all too by-the-numbers even in spite of its most brutal of moments. A couple of scenes in particular involving – as it often does with the controversial stuff – sexual violence are indeed extremely tough to watch.. but they were in the original film, too. This film doesn't really do anything to massively improve on what was originally there and certainly still maintains some of the baggy plot issues of what was a far from perfect (but still arguably superior) original. Retreading old ground doesn't suit Fincher at all (I can just hear the jokes about The Curious Case of Benjamin Button being like Forrest Gump already...).
Stepping into the two lead roles are Daniel Craig and relative newcomer Rooney Mara. Apart from a distinct and peculiar lack of Swedish accent that makes him stand out from everyone else, Craig is perfectly fine in a fairly difficult role - perhaps most of all its his quite striking resemblance to Nyqvist that makes him seem perfect for it. But by taking up one of the most iconic female literary and cinematic roles of the last 10 years, all eyes are firmly on Mara as the incomparable Lisbeth. She undoubtedly nails the role, completely committing to something that requires her to act in some pretty full-on scenes and ultimately doing an amazing job of embodying the character by capturing all the nuances and mannerisms needed. But therein lies another issue; Rapace did the exact same thing with her portrayal of the character and thus Mara's is so similar that it again adds to that feeling of “been there, done that.”