Pale remake

Rooney tunes!

Rooney tunes!

Rated 2.0

As somebody who has seen, and very much liked, the original Swedish film based on Stieg Larsson’s book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I just don’t like David Fincher’s Americanized version. It’s just about one of the dumbest film projects of 2011, a movie whose very existence constitutes a major waste of good creative energy.

I don’t see the logic in remaking a Swedish film so soon, and setting that American remake in Sweden. It irritates me that one of our finest directors, David Fincher, has dedicated a big chunk of his time to a film that feels like a note-for-note recreation of director Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 original.

And, being that blood still pumps mightily through the veins of actress Noomi Rapace, replacing her with a far less remarkable American actress is a major misstep. As Rapace has proven with the recent Sherlock Holmes sequel and the upcoming Prometheus, she speaks English well and is capable of fronting a big budget American picture. I’ll whine a little more about the absence of Rapace later in this review.

Watching the redone—but not really—Tattoo, I was reminded of Gus Van Sant’s silly attempt to remake Psycho, where Vince Vaughn replaced Anthony Perkins and Van Sant recreated virtually every shot of the original. It was ultimately a useless exercise.

Fincher takes a few detours from the original movie, including a stranger and messier ending, but, overall, the film delivers the same scenes and plot points. This movie was made as if to assume most Americans don’t read books or watch foreign films, and Fincher’s version would be their first foray into Larsson’s dark territories.

A lot of people did watch the original, and I’m thinking that many of those people will have the same annoyed vibe I had while watching this one.

The plot centers on troubled journalist Mikael (Daniel Craig) who, while facing jail time for a story he wrote, moonlights helping a grieving man (Christopher Plummer) find a woman who’s been missing for 40 years. Mikael isn’t getting it done on his own, so he enlists the help of computer hacker and private investigator, Lisbeth Salander.

In the central role of Salander this time out is Rooney Mara, an actress who has failed to really impress in the past. She did OK with her few minutes in Fincher’s The Social Network, but she was awful in another pale remake of a great movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

If there’s any good news regarding Mara it’s that her work has improved since her unconvincing cowering in the presence of old Knife Hands. And, yes, Fincher’s film is an overall better production than the mishandled Nightmare redo.

As Salander, Mara certainly looks the part. Jet black, oddly placed hair, bone white skin, lots of real piercings, and that infamous tattoo on the shoulder. Like Rapace, she spends a good portion of the film naked and, like Rapace, she does naked well.

Mara is serviceable in the role, but Rapace just had a lot more going on behind her eyes. She just seemed more “wounded”—something that suits this anxious computer hacker better. Allegedly, there was a campaign for Rapace to reprise the role, but she apparently turned down the chance to do it again (so says the Internet Movie Database).

So with Rapace not an option, why do this really? If you are going to Americanize something, why not set it in America, instead of saddling your lead actress with a thick, and kind of weird, accent? This is essentially the same movie with the performers speaking in English rather than Swedish. Set it in San Francisco, and at least give the film some sense of a new setting and approach rather than retracing all of the original’s steps.

For the uninitiated, meaning those who never saw the Swedish version, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo might be passably good. It’s shot well, it has a Trent Reznor soundtrack that is only mildly distracting, and good-looking naked people in it. For those who did see the original, there’s nothing new for you, other than a far less interesting actress in the central role.