Which Version of ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ is Better? America vs. Sweden! SPOILER ALERT!
Ever since it was announced that David Fincher would be directing the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, people have speculated whether it would be better than the already fantastic Swedish adaptation. Now that Fincher’s version has finally hit theaters we can finally dissect the two and come to a conclusion of which is the definitive version of Stieg Larsson’s best seller.
First lets examine the plot. The story may be from the same source material, but these two films have radically different narrative structures. In both adaptations, the first hour keeps Mikael and Lisbeth apart to build their characters up to the point in which they meet. Fincher’s version did a far better job keeping me entertained during this part of the story. Not one scene lasted longer than it should have. It was truly brilliant pacing. I found myself a bit bored with the first half of Oplev’s version.
However once they meet, Oplev’s film improves because he kept the characters together to develop this peculiar relationship. Finchers version did not quite have as many scenes with them together with Lisbeth often going off by herself to do her own research.
But in both versions the climax is a highlight. There are a few differences but they lead to the same end with Martin dying in an explosion. Although, the aftermath to this event is completely different. Harriet is alive in both versions but in Oplev’s she lives in Australia, whereas in Fincher’s she has been living as her cousin Anita for years. Fincher’s ending has less random globetrotting and also does a much better job showing Harriet coming back to see Henrik. The scene is quick and subtly powerful, whereas Oplev gave us a long reunion of two characters we do not necessarily care all that much about.
The final plot differences come from Lisbeth’s attempts to clear Mikael’s name. In Oplev’s it is implied that Lisbeth killed Wennerstrom. In Fincher’s, she merely uses her hacking skills to destroy his reputation, which leads to his business partners to kill him. Then we get Lisbeth finally about to open up to someone and try and connect, only for her to see Mikael walking with Erika in the final heartbreaking shot of the film. While I do love this last image of Lisbeth, I also liked it better when it was implied that Lisbeth killed Wennerstrom. So the epilogue pretty much breaks even between the two version.
Overall, the plot is a bit better orchestrated in Fincher’s film, but true fans will miss some of the moments left out from Oplev’s film.
Now on to the characters. Daniel Craig gives Mikael a bit more personality than Michael Nyqvist did. Both do the job of downplaying their roles to give more attention to Lisbeth extremely well, but Craig manages to inject a little more personality and fun into the role.
Lisbeth Salander is a difficult role to play for a lot of reasons and both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara pull it off brilliantly. Noomi’s Lisbeth is a bit quieter and shows fewer emotions. Rooney’s Lisbeth shows a lot more emotion but is also a bit meaner when she needs to be. But which actress does a better portrayal of this fascinating character? The answer is Rooney Mara. There is more emotion and more darkness in Mara’s version. The character has more layers in Fincher’s film than it does in Oplev’s.
As for some of the side characters, Christopher Plummer has a far better screen presence than Sven-Bertil Taube did as Henrik Vanger. Also Robin Wright’s character Erika is given a much larger role in the American version than in the Swedish version. This benefits the film since her character adds more layers to both Mikael and Lisbeth. ‘
The only character I would say is better in the Swedish version is Martin Vanger. In Oplev’s adaptation the character is prominent but you have a hard time seeing what is coming with him, whereas Fincher constantly shot Stellan Skarsgard darkly and did a poor job of hiding his true nature. Skarsgard played him well, but it was less obvious in the Swedish film that he was the villain.
The characters in Fincher’s film are richer and deeper than those of Oplev’s. Maybe it is because of the major actors playing them who command the screen every time they show up. But still, America wins the battle for a better Lisbeth and that counts for a lot.
The last thing I am going to talk about is the artistic style that went into both films. The cinematography in Fincher’s film is gorgeous. Also Trent Reznor’s score is unforgettable. And what about that incredible opening credits sequence? This is a place where the Swedish version was lacking majorly. There are very few interesting shots as the whole thing kind of looks like a typical TV show. Fincher’s version is far superior in this respect.
As you can see, David Fincher did what many thought was impossible by surpassing the already great Swedish adaptation. I found myself less bored by the American version because of the swift pacing and trading of scenes between characters. Also the American version features the better Lisbeth. This is not to downplay Noomi Rapace’s wonderful performance, but Mara just barely outdid her. But what sends Fincher’s over the edge is the amazing atmospheric style and the powerful score that carries on throughout. 2011 is the year for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.