With the upcoming release of the American adaptation of ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’, I felt like it was an appropriate time to give a shout-out to the original three Swedish movies and discuss my feelings about the novels and the new American movie. MAJOR SPOILERS!
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:
First of all, let me point out that Swedish movie Lisbeth’s tattoo is a giant dragon ripping out of her skin. Not some Japanese ‘I flipped through a book and this is what I got’ tattoo.
Secondly, instead of the pornographic description of Lisbeth’s rape like we read in the novels, the rape scene is so horrifying that unless you were also a rapist I see not way of getting off. Lisbeth’s screams still ring in my ears as I write about it.
Thirdly, Blomkvist (who is the main character of this first book/movie) is not a hunk who sleeps with everyone. Sure, he may have a little something going on with his boss- but its not important. In the books they are involved in a very long affair which broke up his marriage and where she gets permission from her husband. Who cares? I really don’t. It is not an element that is important to the plot or the mystery at all. In the movies Blomkvist isn’t obviously attractive like, say, James Bond, but instead he is kind and charming. Which is what attracts Lisbeth to him.
Which brings me to this next related point: Lisbeth does indeed fall in love with Blomkvist. But not in the way she does in the novels. In the novels she falls madly for him, then is heart broken when she sees him with his boss/mistress (therefore boob job?). In the movie she falls in love with him, but leaves him anyway- for the betterment of both of them.
In the first movie the main focus is really on the task at hand: the mystery to figure out what happened to Harriet. It is sort of like a really long, awesome episode of Law and Order SVU, with Lisbeth as Stabler (because she is a little violent and mentally unsound- posterchild for Asberger’s Syndrome) and Blomkvist as Olivia (because he is the compassionate one capable of talking to people).
The Girl Who Played With Fire:
This is really all about Lisbeth. When she was 12, she got sick of her father abusing her mother and treating her like a whore- so she ran out to his car, poured gasoline on him, and lit a match. In GWPWF we discover that her father is actually still alive and a former Russian spy. After the attempt on his life, he had Lisbeth sent to a psych ward where she was tied up for 381 days and raped. Which unlike the books it’s just alluded to- not shown.
The biggest difference between the books and the Swedish movie is Lisbeth’s boob job. In the books, she gets a boob job to empower her because she is unhappy with her no-cup.
In the movie she doesn’t get a boob job. But she still gets shot four times, buried alive, crawls out, lands two injurious blows with an axe to her father, and shoots her monster half-brother. Like a boss.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
This movie is a direct continuation of the last, picking up with Lisbeth and her father in the hospital. This film is a long, drawn-out conclusion that ties up all of the loose ends.
Most notably, it ends with Lisbeth’s trial. Throughout the proceedings her doctor from childhood is present who claims that everything Lisbeth says to have gone through is just a result of paranoia. Eventually, Lisbeth’s lawyer is able to find evidence that Lisbeth was tied to a bed for over a year. But that wasn’t enough- Lisbeth’s claims about her guardian (the one who raped her) were just totally untrue. So, they show him the tape.
One of the things that I think was most interesting was Lisbeth’s clothing. Sure, she’s this Euro Goth-Punk most of the time, but she known when it is, and when it isn’t appropriate to be dressed in full platformed-regalia. Thank God! Thank the stars someone realized that it isn’t practical to wear heels or shit all the time! Although you can apparently wear whatever you want in Swedish prison (and you also get a dorm room with a desk) Lisbeth saves her gothy trappings for the courtroom. It is in this movie, in court, where we see her dressed like a warrior. By realizing the difference between Lisbeth’s choices of dress, the pattern is obvious that she dresses in spikes and chains for protection (which didn’t work too well with her guardian actually).
In the end, Lisbeth goes free and finally has a chance at a real life.
Overall, I feel that the books are pseudo-feminist and use this to disguise their misogyny. Let me ask this: Why did the adapters of the Swedish movies eliminate all of the problematic areas of the novels and actually turn Lisbeth into a strong female character? Let me rephrase: Why didn’t the editors who published the books? At what point do we see this as limiting our ‘creativity’? Honestly I wish the books’ editors had done what the later films achieved. Not only because it would be great for everyone, but also because then I wouldn’t have to preface every conversation I have about the series with- “I only like the Swedish movies”. If the editors had edited, I wouldn’t be forced to sound snooty 🙂
Perhaps my biggest concern with the new film is this: that they will actually make it like the books. This seems likely since they chose Daniel Craig to play Blomkvist and since America is boob-obsessed. From the trailers you cannot really glean much. But there one line in particular that bothers me. “Would you like to help me catch a killer of women?” See? This is about women and feminism and all that right? Wrong. The Swedish movies achieved feminism without having to make it so in-your-face.
Although I know that having to read for 2.5 hours isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But seriously, if you want a to watch a kickass movie watch the Swedish Millennium Saga.
Note: The first movie is not as action-packed as the last two. There is a lot of talking.