09 June 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

A bland title like "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" had me avoiding anything about the book for quite awhile. I just assumed it was some schlocky airport book that everyone was reading, something self help or Tuesdays with Morrie plus edge. How wrong I was. After digging just a little, I found out that Girl the Tattoo was the new Da Vinci Code, fitting neatly into the fast paced, clunkily written, poorly characterized, page turning thriller book ride niche. The kicker is that the Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, passed away before his great success. Read the New Yorker profile of Larsson for the whole background story.

Originally titled "Men Who Hate Women," I wish they had kept that name since it would have caught my attention much faster. I had avoided reading the books before the movie because I'd heard that the movie was actually quite good and I wanted to watch it before tainting my feelings with the book. And I mean "tainted" as in the book is almost always better than the movie so I didn't want the film experience to disappoint. In short, the movie is pretty decent, well paced even at its long running time, and has some truly disturbing moments. It's not scary like I was expecting, just a pretty straightforward whodunit. I was expecting a little more overall but I can't really complain because I enjoyed my afternoon and Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous girl with the dragon tattoo, is magnetic on-screen with her quiet ferocity.

What's interesting is that the next two movies are already done and will be released Stateside this fall. Hollywood is looking to remake the trilogy (with Kristen Stewart possibly cast, which would be a grave mistake) but that's just a dumb idea. Leave it be.

The June 9th episode of Slate's Cultural Gabfest talks about Stieg Larsson and why his stories have hit a nerve. It's well worth the listen, especially Stephen Metcalf's minutes long breakdown about why he thinks Swedish movies are the way they are. Since I think all the Cultural Gabfest folk are brilliant, I'm incined to agree with his analysis. I'm a sheep obviously. I mean, there are certainly some awesome Swedish movies recently, eg. Let the Right One In and there must be a cultural reason for the bleak movies Sweden exports.