New to DVD: Dragon Tattoo Should be Removed

April 3, 2012

Movie/DVD Review

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published in our March 28, 2012 print edition.

A remake of a 2009 Swedish film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is easy enough to watch, even though it runs two-and-a-half hours long. The problem is that it mistakes darkness for depth. Director David Fincher seems interested in nothing more than serial killing, sex and sorrow.

The opening credits feature stylish but meaningless sex and violence in liquid imagery. With an industrial version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” playing along, these credits resemble a disturbing commercial. The film doesn’t get any more sophisticated. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an inept mystery, with zero emotional resonance.

The plot is best summarized as Daniel Craig (James Bond!) and Rooney Mara (the girl in the film’s title) investigating the disappearance of a 16-year-old girl, 40 years ago. The two investigators suspect the girl was killed by a member of her wealthy family, and they eventually discover a series of murdered women that coincide with the girl’s vanishing. They also find that these murders were inspired by the Book of Leviticus, from the Bible.

The mystery is just stupid. The film gives simple answers to its questions, like Nazism and a crazed interpretation of the Bible. When the perpetrator was revealed, I blandly accepted it. The movie doesn’t cause one to think of the possibilities, as any good mystery should. Instead, it hands the explanation to you. The whole thing is a silly campfire story.

Oh, but David Fincher’s film is very serious. With a dire tone, the tattooed girl references a famous movie, when she takes revenge on a rapist: “And there will be blood.”  What a misplaced reference, given that There Will Be Blood is a dark comedy, not merely dark, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

As the girl with the dragon tattoo, Mara has screen presence to spare, but her character is poorly written. What we know is that she’s had a tough life and is crazy because of it. We also know she likes drinking Coke, eating McDonald’s Happy Meals and using Apple computers. Product placement equals character development in Fincher’s slick mind.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fails most profoundly with its theme of unrequited love. Fincher doesn’t establish any believable emotion between Craig and Mara. He only shows Mara’s breasts multiple times and asks her to have an orgasm in one scene. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo absurdly believes its focus on sexuality is somehow similar to, say, Pip’s struggle in Great Expectations.

Fincher wasn’t this banal with his other serial killer movies. In Seven, he upended genre conventions. In Zodiac, he demonstrated how unresolved murders take a toll on humankind. However, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he attempts to pass off a trashy television special as cinema. It’s too bad for McDonald’s, that children can’t watch this movie. The chain could have sold even more Happy Meals.

Jed Pressgrove is a technical writer and master’s student in sociology at Mississippi State University.

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