THE GIRLS WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOS: A COMPARISON

If you’re looking for a predominantly spoiler-free, non-comparative opinion of David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I suggest you read the review. This particular blog entry is going to focus on the comparisons and contrasts of Stieg Larrson’s original book, Niels Arden Oplev’s 2009 adaptation and David Fincher’s 2011 adaptation. This entry will therefore be very spoiler-laden, with conversation meant for those that have either read the original book, seen the respective adaptations or all three. If you haven’t done any of those things, and wish to not have the story ruined for you, I suggest you stop reading now.

If you’re still with me, here we go…

  • Mikael Blomkvist
    The Blomkvist character fares, not surprisingly, the best in the book. At least given the opportunity to express back story and give you glimpses into his thoughts elevates his character to someone worth paying attention. The 2009 adaptation, with Michael Nyqvist in the Blomkvist role, at least attempts to give the character some of the ethics and morals that are set out in the book, and that work best as a foil to Lisbeth’s more morally questionable, and often illegal, research practices. Unfortunately, often it does so via exposition that seems forced, so it’s not perfect.

    The 2011 adaptation, with Daniel Craig as Blomkvist, doesn’t do much to make him interesting at all. He is simply the audience proxy, figuring things out. Shit happens around him and to him, but, eh… he’ll be fine. There is an air of this to him in the books too, and so the overall tone of the character is there but that doesn’t make him that engaging to watch. If you don’t get caught up in the mystery, I can imagine the film could get really boring hanging with him.

  • Lisbeth Salander
    The Lisbeth Salander of the book is presented as a small woman, looking almost like a teenage boy, who is extremely intelligent but also socially ignorant and/or awkward. Her actions often lead to questions about her being a potential Asberger’s candidate, and she manages to seem weak to those around her in contrast to the strength she hides just below the surface. Her wardrobe aesthetic wanders into cyberpunk realm, with more than a hint of punk, and seems to be the most glaring contrast of all; for someone seemingly so quiet and weak, why does she present herself in such a garishly unique way, considering her surroundings (for example, working at Milton Security)?


    Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth in the 2009 film got the brooding and socially awkward silences perfect. She plays the character’s strength a little closer to the surface, though; I would never characterize or see her as “weak,” which is a mistake so many make in the books. You never know what Rapace’s Lisbeth is thinking or what she is capable of doing, and that mystery elevates her character.

    Rooney Mara’s portrayal is strong in a different way. She seems to have the small size and the innocent look down; you can better see how someone would think they could mess with her and get away with it, even though they are horribly mistaken. Her demeanor comes across less than social awkward, however, and more often arrogant or condescending. Mara’s Lisbeth doesn’t seem to hide that she’s smarter than most. She’s also, as my wife expressed, “chatty.” Compared to Rapace’s portrayal, she’s extremely talkative.

    Of course, when you have a character such as Lisbeth Salander, finding someone who so completely hits what you imagine her to be is always going to be subjective. For me, the best cinematic portrayal would be a combination of Mara and Rapace. Mara’s small size and seeming innocence coupled with Rapace’s brooding strength.

  • The Rapes by and eventually of Bjurman
    Reading the rape sequences in the book is a brutal experience, as so much of what is hidden in the film (or not even hinted at) is flat-out expressed and explained in the book. In the book, what happens to Salander comes across as barely less than what should have killed her. It is, to understate the obvious, a very unpleasant read.

    When I went to watch the 2009 adaptation, my wife wished to watch it with me. Knowing what was in the book, I gave her a warning that there was some intense moments to come in the film, and they were likely not going to make for a fun experience. She listened, but watched anyway.

    As we got to the sequence where Bjurman forces Lisbeth to give him a blow job, my wife almost threw the remote at our TV. While both adaptations correctly portray the sleaze of Bjurman, the 2009 adaptation goes one step beyond, as he writes Lisbeth the check for the computer, but for a far lesser amount than she requested. It is, simply, insult to injury and the audience gets, in no uncertain terms, that the man is awful.

    When we get to the anal rape sequence, the 2009 version pulls no punches, literally. While the 2011 version seems to make Bjurman just very sly and sneaky with handcuffs, the 2009 film makes him physically intimidating and violently brutal. On top of that, due to Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth as strong and silent, the sudden contrast of seeing her truly victimized hits extremely hard. If you detested Bjurman before, now you want him dead, a feeling that only increases when you see a shaken and destroyed Lisbeth review the video footage later on at her apartment; a detached viewer, seemingly removed from her body, even as she manages to express that the gears are rapidly turning on the inside.

    In comparison, the 2011 film, while also brutal in its portrayal, doesn’t make you connect with the brutality in the way the earlier adaptation did. You still hate Bjurman, but for some reason you get a very matter-of-fact feeling about Lisbeth’s eventual revenge on him. Not that she shakes off what happened to her, hardly, but she seems to hide the smolder of hate more. Even my wife, after seeing the 2011 version, felt that the earlier film was far more devastating.

    When it comes to tying up and anally raping Bjurman, I always expected the film adaptations to spend more time showing his discomfort and really getting across the revenge. Not in a sadistic way, but if ever was the time to really push the envelope on a revenge moment for an audience, Bjurman’s comeuppance was that opportunity. The 2009 version makes him suffer, but no more or less than Lisbeth (though she does make him watch the whole video while she leaves the room to smoke, making his psychological torment that much greater while he suffers physically; she wants him to know the extent to which his life will be ruined should the video get out). The 2011 version adds some violent glee to the moment (having Lisbeth kick the anal plug repeatedly was a nice touch), but otherwise doesn’t take the opportunity to make the experience that much more awful; she even mutes the video.

    Both films, for whatever reason, make the tattoo message shorter than it is in the book, with the 2011 film the shortest of them all. And while Lisbeth is a newbie at giving tattoos, the 2009 version allows for a more rough and seemingly scarred and scraped rendition. Far less clean than the 2011 version.

  • Harriet’s Identity
    In both the book and the 2009 film, Harriet has been living an entirely new life in Australia, completely removed from her family and that history. She’s built a new, successful life for herself and, save her need to send flowers that she thinks are hints to Henrik that she escaped, to give him comfort, really doesn’t think of her past at all. It is revealing in both the book and film that, upon finding out the torment her flower-sending has caused, Harriet returns to Henrik and apologizes for the misunderstanding.

    The 2011 film, however, moves Harriet to London and introduces her into the story earlier by having Blomkvist meet with her (even if she is pretending to be Anita). It is the biggest change to the source material Fincher makes, it shows that Fincher isn’t afraid to alter the book to his liking… but why this change, when so much of the rest of the film is dead-on? Why was this the main narrative departure? Considering even the lead-up from the book, with the phone tapping and hacking, is still in the film, why just change who Harriet is, and what she’s been doing?

    For me, it opens a hole in the character, for the Harriet in the book is divorced from the family so completely, living in Australia and running a corporation, that it’s not surprising that she would never grasp that her sending the flowers to her Uncle Henrik every year could be tormenting him. She has no contact with him, knows nothing of what is going on; that he is even still trying to figure out her disappearance.

    In the 2011 film, however, she meets Blomkvist and he is obviously very interested in events. Sure his cover is the biography, but you get the feeling she’s grasping that his initial visit is more than that. Being only in London, and now meeting a reporter still wondering about her disappearance 40 years later, and she never considers that maybe, just maybe, her flower-sending actions may be having some unforeseen consequences? And the way she acts to the the disappearance in the same “Oh, Henrik’s obsession” type of dismissive way isn’t in keeping with someone who knows nothing about what’s been going on since she left. Put more simply, moving Harriet to London and introducing her character to the search earlier on removes the ignorance, and makes you question her motives. Plus, where’s the “I’m sorry, Uncle Henrik, for torturing you so much”?

  • The Wennerström Affair
    Both adaptations manage to do most of the heavy lifting about Blomkvist’s legal issues through TV reports that bookend the films. Blomkvist of the book is seen as a crusader for justice for the little man, and his Millennium magazine is often up against the greedy and corrupt. In the case of Wennerström, Blomkvist moved forward with an attack piece that wound up being built on information falsely fed him in an effort to hide from Wennerström’s real wrongdoing and, in the process, ruins Blomkvist’s credibility (and gets him convicted of libel). In both the book and the 2011 version, Blomkvist’s public embarrassment and need to distance himself to protect his magazine create a burning desire for revenge against Wennerström. In the 2009 adaptation, while he still gets Wennerström in the end, it’s played off less as a motivation for helping Henrik (not even mentioned) and more of a gift from Lisbeth, who was investigating Wennerström on her own anyway. Also, in the book and the 2009 film, Blomkvist does serve jail time for his conviction, something that is dropped for the 2011 film.
  • Millennium Magazine
    Blomkvist’s magazine gets more of a look in the 2011 adaptation, and the importance of it, and the dynamic of those that work there, is better expressed than in the 2009 film. Additionally, the relationship between Blomkvist and editor Erika Berger, such a consistent plotline through all three of Larsson’s books, was only hinted at in the the 2009 adaptation. The 2011 film restores that dynamic, mainly because it attempts to restore the Lisbeth-Blomkvist relationship that the 2009 film more or less danced around. Additionally, the 2011 film brings in the plotline of the Vanger’s buying in to Millennium in an effort to help Blomkvist out, and protect the magazine while he is otherwise engaged. While it is nice to see more of Blomkvist’s vocation involved, both films fail to touch on how extensive Blomkvist’s revenge on Wennerström is, particularly when Millennium launches the special issue and publishes a book about Wennerström.
  • Giving Away Too Much
    Both film adaptations utilize information about the characters that doesn’t come out until later books. In the 2011 version, for example, Lisbeth not only explains how she became a ward of the state, but also that she even is one. In the books, Blomkvist, and most who know her, are pretty much ignorant of this information and the “how” is one of the bigger mysteries of the second book. It’s part of what makes her character so interesting; no one seems to know everything, making her, and the books, seemingly unpredictable (even when it turns out that they really aren’t). By having the 2011 film openly address these aspects, it lessens the impact. Sure, it adds audience sympathy, but the last thing the Lisbeth character wants is anyone’s sympathy.


    The 2009 film is more subtle about it, and even when it reveals information, it tends to reveal it to the audience but not the other characters in the movie. In this way, we know what’s going on even when others don’t. Similar to reading a novel.

  • Overall Tone and Spirit of the Source Material
    The book is a suspense thriller that also dances with the crime genre. As such, it has to reveal things in a manner that makes you want to turn the page. At times, it is a maddening experience; the book has a nasty habit of leading you to a clue and then abruptly changing the narrative to a different character to keep you waiting for the resolution to the previous narrative segment. This is best employed in the first of the Millennium trilogy and only gets more obnoxious as the books get longer (and the plot gets leaner). In other words, as far as suspense goes, this is the best of the three books.


    When it comes to adaptations, I think the 2011 version is the most true to that suspenseful tone, mainly because it walks the audience through in a way that is not too confusing while maintaining the mystery of it all. It does so cleanly, and without leaving much out of the story. The 2009 film, on the other hand, is a victim of some severe edits where, all of a sudden, you’re hopping from main point to main point, but some of the subtlety is lost. In my opinion, more of a Cliff’s Notes approach that really only works as well as it does because of Noomi Rapace’s portrayal. There is an extended edition of the 2009 version that adds another 30 minutes, and I haven’t seen it, so maybe the abrupt edits are corrected within it, but the 2011 film proves that you don’t need another 30 minutes to stay true to the tone and spirit of the book.

  • Overall Faithfulness to the Source Material
    Of the two adaptations, Fincher’s stays the closest to the source material (except for the instances expressed above where he strays from it seemingly for little reason; he’s faithful about 95% of the time). Again, I have not seen the extended edition of the 2009 adaptation, so I do not know if that fills in all the gaps the film, as originally released, has in it. Regardless, the 2009 and 2011 adaptations are roughly the same length, and the 2011 one manages to fit it all in. Where the 2009 narrative can feel disjointed and jumbled at times, the 2011 never does. The flow is better, the overall story is more faithful and complete. While I like both, the 2011 film is by far the more user-friendly.


    Having said that, it also has similar flaws to the Chris Columbus adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which is that it is so complete and faithful to the source that it can be a detriment to the narrative cohesion of the standalone film. Sure, we get it all, but does that mean we should? At times, the Columbus Harry Potter adaptation felt like it was going page by page, which is great for the fan looking for such loyalty to the material, but it also felt very dry and matter-of-fact. The 2011 …Dragon Tattoo doesn’t suffer too much from the dryness, but the isolation of the main setting coupled with that feeling of cold that comes through the screen, already detaches the audience somewhat from what is going on. I guess it just feels that, more often, decisions were made in the 2011 version to be the most faithful adaptation of the book, but not necessarily the best film that could’ve come from the source material, if that makes sense.

    For example, the relationship aspect between Lisbeth and Blomkvist felt forced in the book, and the 2009 adaptation kept their physical relationship in tact but removed the emotional context. It was a more blunt way to adapt the material, but it also worked best within the context of that film. With the 2011 film including the relationship, even to the ending scene of the film, it felt just as forced as in the book. Again, it’s faithful, but does it work? For me, the liberties taken with the 2009 adaptation make that film easier to connect with, even if the 2011 film is easier to understand. Then again, for all its faithfulness, the 2011 film does flub the Harriet reveal, as expressed above.

There you go. Those were the aspects I desperately wanted to discuss while writing the review of Fincher’s film, but that I felt had no real bearing on the effort as a standalone film devoid of the compare-and-contrast context. Maybe some of what I said will make sense, or not, but hopefully a conversation can begin.




Posted on December 22, 2011 in Blogs by
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22 Comments on "THE GIRLS WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOS: A COMPARISON"

  1. KJ Doughton on Fri, 23rd Dec 2011 2:41 am 

    Very insightful essay. There were two key components I’m compelled to chime in on: Craig doesn’t cut it for me as a bleeding-heart journalist. Nyqvist had a warm demeanor that better suggested Blomkvist’s empathic nature. In my opinion, this created a more potent dynamic. Nyqvist seemed more sincere in his attraction to Salander’s wounded, vigilant soul. Craig wasn’t nearly as interesting. As for the rape scenes, I agree that Bjurman seems far less diabolical in the second film. The scenes are harrowing both times around, but the first one really hit home how horrific Salander had been violated – while explaining why even someone as supportive as Blomkvist couldn’t quite break through her protective armor. For the record, I never read the book. Sad but true.


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  2. Matt Sorrento on Fri, 23rd Dec 2011 11:47 am 

    I just wish we could go back to a time when Fincher’s films weren’t overhyped. From Rudin ranting to Fincher saying he could care less about the critics and press, I couldn’t get up enough interest to make the screening. It all leaves me indifferent.


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  3. Mark Bell on Sat, 24th Dec 2011 9:16 am 

    KJ, agreed. The Blomkvist character is obviously better defined in the books but, to be honest, even his character in those starts to wear out its welcome by Book Two. Considering most dig Salander’s character above all, I wonder how they will react to the next two movies that, while dealing with her, are also based on books where she is out of sight or doing very little for large chunks of the material.

    Matt, I don’t think the film is worth ignoring due to a reverse reaction to hype. I also think the Rudin-Denby situation was a form of public shaming and damage control; Rudin calling out the embargo break allowed him to set the stage for anyone else thinking of breaking embargo, and let the critic community shame their potential embargo-breaking peers from there. He figured folks would take the “How dare he!?!” view on Denby and then hold their own reviews, if they had previously entertained the idea of an embargo break. Damage control all the way, and it worked, for the most part.

    For me, I take each Fincher film as it comes, because I’ve liked many, but also disliked a few. I knew the source material, so I can appreciate what he brought to it. At the same time, I’ve now read much criticism of Fincher for this particular film that, really, is predominantly based on source material shortcomings. I think he did a very faithful adaptation, and it is the closest any adaptation has come to catching that suspense you feel when you’re reading the book, for better or worse. But because the majority of its personality is the source material, the type of things that would make you think Fincher, perhaps, are not as obvious.

    If you told me someone other than Fincher had made this movie, I wouldn’t be surprised. It doesn’t have so personal and obvious a directorial stamp to call attention to itself. Is that a bad thing? Again, it’s a predominantly spot-on adaptation so I don’t think it is much of an issue. Maybe big fans of Fincher specifically would be hoping for more, but fans of the book got, in my opinion, the best you could get (save some of my points above).


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  4. Ron Hutchison on Sun, 25th Dec 2011 8:08 am 

    I have three points I wish to advance from a sort of sociological point of view. 1. the book and the European 2009 film demolished almost every social institution, from the family to the church to the welfare state leaving Lisbeth to struggle nearly alone to survive. 2. the 2009 European film was shot “in plain air” naturalistically, conveying a realist message. The 2011 American film’s trailers look like it was shot in the basement of Dungeons and Dragons, giving an unreal, psychological cast to the film. 3. If you look at the condition of this generation of European youth, you can see the reflection of reality in the European version. This European version will find favor in the consciousness of American youth as the economy continues to tank and the real situation of the 99% becomes clear.


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  5. Ron Hutchison on Sun, 25th Dec 2011 12:05 pm 

    *leaving Lisbeth to struggle nearly alone to survive through guts and wits.


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  6. JC Harris on Tue, 27th Dec 2011 3:01 am 

    I liked the 2009 movie better. The editing in the new one seems rushed. Yeah, it fits all the details in, but the scenes don’t have time to -breathe-.

    Also, I think the ‘swedishness’ of the 2009 one is missing and that’s important. Forget how Daniel Craig’s ‘accent’ comes and mostly goes. What’s -really- absent is the feeling of Swedish personality—the relative lack of emotion and ‘matter of fact’ attitude that is part of the main culture—and the punk hardcore of Lisbeth’s world. Despite the big budget, the new one just doesn’t ‘get’ Sweden.

    AFA actors, the new Lisbeth is fine, but she, like the whole movie is Hollywood. Naomi looks and feels far more feral and mal-adjusted and just plain -real-. The 2009 Mikael is better because he’s more vulnerable. He looks a lot more like a regular guy in over his head. And the 2009 Henrik is better for the reason I mentioned before—he just -looks- like a traditional Swedish guy.

    The 2009 movie looks kinda like a Made For TV movie. The dialog isn’t as ‘snappy’ and the production values are not as big. But in the end, the Swedish ‘reality’ and the more relaxed pace matters far more.

    BTW: When I first saw the 2009 movie, I didn’t think it was so great. But after seeing the new one, I gotta say, by comparison, they did a GREAT job.


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  7. Michael Blomkvist on Thu, 29th Dec 2011 11:25 pm 

    Shitty Movies, Great Book.


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  8. Matt on Tue, 3rd Jan 2012 9:32 pm 

    This was a great comparison. I am excited to see the 2011 version to draw my own conclusions. However, I am curious as to anyone’s thoughts about the implications of one (2009) being a European film and the other (2011) being a film in English, catering to Americans, mainly.
    I do not know too much about Swedish film making, so I cannot comment on the cultural implications that drove how the storyline, the characters and the dialogue were enacted.
    I can say, though, that the “Hollywood” version of the film is bound to take a more “refined” approach to the film, maybe spending less time on delving into the characters themselves as people and more into finding a balance between story characters, cinematography and sound track. Hollywood film making is often times much more focused on the overall experience that a viewer gets rather than putting the vast amount of the weight that the film carries into the hands of the actual actors–which is what I often feel is the case in “foreign” films.
    Anyone else have thoughts on this?


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  9. Amy R. Handler on Wed, 4th Jan 2012 9:03 am 

    If you were to generalize about Swedish films, I’d say minimalism is key, both in script and dialogue. Moodiness, slowed down (but certainly not diminished) emotions, and exploration of the spirit world run high— even in the most raw and realistic situations.


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  10. Marion on Sat, 7th Jan 2012 5:48 pm 

    What a fun blog post. I appreciate your doing this and allowing comments. I ‘ll say that I don’t always agree with your conclusions.

    Bloomkvist: Daniel Craig’s gave Bloomlvist presence. Prior to seeing the film, my better-half questioned whether or not Craig was too good-looking for the part. IMHO, Craig’s performance was spot on. Women in the book just seem to fall into bed with Bloomqvist. With Craig in the role this makes sense. I don’t think he’s much of a counterfoil to Lisabeth’s methods in the other film or book.

    Salandar: Rooney Mara wins hands-down. I liked Rapace’s performance when I saw it, but her size bothered me. She may be small for a Swede, but she’s not tiny, and she looked possibly too old. Mara was convincing physically. She did come off as arrogant with people, but people who are aspy or otherwise awkward in social situations often come across that way. I didn’t notice that the character was more “chatty” in the American version. There was the reveal when she’s in bed with Bloomkvist, but a change from the book that felt forced, but that’s about it.

    The Rapes: I think you are dead wrong on this. I thought they were very powerful scenes in both films and Bjurman comes across as awful in both. It may be that you were seeing the rapes for a third time having read the book and seen the earlier version. In the packed movie house I was in, people applauded when Salandar took her revenge.

    Harriet: You raise good points. I disagree only that I don’t think the relative proximity makes much difference, except for one thing, with the family’s believing Anita is alive likely to sometimes travel to London, there’s always the possibility that Harriet’s ruse could be discovered.

    The Wennerström Affair — As you say later, the 2011 film walks you through a lot of the stuff and makes it clearer.

    The Magazine — Agree with you.

    Giving it away — I’m not sure the movie reveals “too much” although her explaining the fire to Bloomkvist seemed questionable, and I wasn’t sure it was necessary. It makes sense that Bloomkvist has checked out Salandar and knows she’s a ward of the state, even that he’d ask her about it. I don’t think she’d tell him that much.

    The relationship never felt forced to me in any of the settings. They are alone with each other a lot. Bloomkvist is a nice person, and I don’t think Lisabeth meets many nice men, and they share something so I could see her developing feelings for him. Like the book,it also gives us a sense of why Bloomkvist would be clueless about Lisabeth’s feelings.


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  11. Philip on Sun, 15th Jan 2012 12:45 am 

    Not since Sigourney Weaver kicked Alien butt has there been a character to Love so much about but won’t allow us to get too close, which makes us Love her all the more.

    I haven’t read the books but, having seen all three Swedish films, then seeing the hollywood production today, I am in Love with both Heroins in their respective different movies. They are different films.

    I agree with Amy (Jan 4) that less is more with the Swedish films. I am much more connected to the Swedish characters with or without having to focus on reading the subtitles. There is a depth to the Swedish films not reached with the hollywood ride. I agree that Blomqvist is much more interesting in this version because we know more about his values. I got the feeling that he felt Lisbeth’s absence when she left the cottage. In this film I thought it was possible Martin would kill Blomqvist. I got his sense of gratitude when Lisbeth saved his life. In the Swedish film I never had a doubt the film was about Lisbeth and her life story. She made me want to know more about her.

    That said, I enjoyed the hollywood version as a better hollywood story than most and would have the film in my collection for the same reason that Fight Club is still in my top twenty favorites. I like the way Fincher tells a story. I wish they would have cast someone less known than Stellan Skarsgard as Martin though. My girlfriend new immediately who was going to be the mass murderer. He does a great job but there wasn’t much mystery there. It was a fun ride but a bit slick. I thought I walked into a James Bond film during the opening credits. I thoroughly enjoyed Lisbeth in this film even though it felt like she supported Blomqvist in this version. In the Swedish version I think Blomqvist asked for Lisbeth’s help. She ain’t nobody’s assistant. The ending ticked me off too Lisbeth!

    Both are worthwhile watching but they are different experiences. In the end I had to go home and watch the Swedish version again to feel better about Lisbeth being in control of her relationship with Blomqvist. I would have loved to have heard Daniel Craig say during one of the bedroom scenes, “I just want to be close to you” and hear Rooney Mara say as she rolls away from him in bed, “okay but I’m going to sleep”.


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  12. David on Mon, 16th Jan 2012 7:38 am 

    @Mike Sorrento

    “…could care less…”

    I hope/think you mean “couldn’t care less”

    Sorry to sound rude but I’m not even being pedantic, it’s just an incorrect expression that’s creeping into blogs written by Americans. Is it used either way there and if so, how/why?


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  13. Elmer on Mon, 16th Jan 2012 12:09 pm 

    Great comparison! Thank you for writing it. I never read the book, and am passing on the new movies because the 2009 Swedish rendition of the movies was so compelling and such an amazing (albeit emotionally draining) experience, I don’t want to mess with it. I was, quite frankly, amazed that they remade the film so shortly after the others. It seems unnecessary to me, given the power of the earlier series. I was DELIGHTED to see Noomi Rapace in the new Sherlock Holmes film, and glad to see (via IMDB) that she seems to have been in steady demand. I think she is a brilliant actor. I also thought Nyqvist’s Blomkvist was, for me, just the right mix of sympathetic journalist and dogged investigator. I didn’t think that his discovery of Lisbeth’s illegal activities was forced at all, but I might have just been too in love with the movie to care or notice. I was also delighted to see him in “MI: Ghost Protocol” last night, although, his performance there was pretty well buried under the rubble of the Kremlin and non-stop action.


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  14. Ianb on Tue, 17th Jan 2012 3:22 am 

    Great detail in your approach to the movies and book. I personally prefer by far the Swedish version. The reasons are more intuitive then factual. This is a great story and I believe best enjoyed in it’s native language. Both versions are a great watch but only one has an authentic voice. Sub titles are a pain but you know no pain no gain. :-)


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  15. Tony on Tue, 17th Jan 2012 6:53 am 

    Have just seen the Hollywood version (which I had to see) after thoroughly enjoying the Swedish version a few weeks ago. After all the hype about the latest version, I have to say that original was much better. More depth, emotion and rawness. The Swedish actors were more believable and natural. Having said that the Lisbeth portrayal in the latest version was in my opinion the best acting in to any of the others. I am a Daniel Craig fan, but his take on the journo was nowhere near as good as the original.


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  16. Elvis on Sun, 18th Mar 2012 10:13 am 

    Great analysis – thank you.

    I have not read the book, but recently watched the 2011 version and then the 2009 version.

    For some reason I was expecting the 2011 version was a much better production, so I was not expecting much from the 2009 version. I was wrong on this assumption. The 2009 version to me was overall more realistic and believable.

    I was also expecting the 2009 Lisbeth to not to compare to the brilliant 2011 Lisbeth performance by Mara. I was wrong again here. Portrayal of Lisbeth by both actresses were brilliant and I fell in love with both of them. I did think Blomkvist’s performance in 2009 version was better than Daniel Craig, simply from the fact the 2009 Blomkvist was less stoic versus a James Bond character.

    Overall both films were excellent. I’d love to read the book if I could find the time :)


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  17. Squidward Testicles on Mon, 26th Mar 2012 7:06 am 

    Perhaps you should have watched the original, Swedish, “extended version” labeled versions of the 2009 series, which was done for TV. Much more detail, different in many ways, even better than what you would expect. There is no comparison between Rooney and Noomi, Noomi is Lisbeth, Rooney just acts as Lisbeth. Other than that, you really wrote it out. Oh, yes, it really bothers me that Daniel Craig always goes around with a pout. The duckface is really laaaaaaame.


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  18. sharon on Wed, 4th Apr 2012 11:57 pm 

    I read the book and saw both movies. Of course the rape scene was brutal in the book and the movies, However after reading the book, I thought the 2009 version of the movie portrayed the brutal-ness more. Overall, I found the 2011 movie difficult to follow and it was also difficult to stay awake. In the 2009 version, I couldn’t take my eyes away. I did find it a bit difficult to keep reading along with the 2009 movie, but now that I’ve seen the 2011 version, I would rather own the original. I havent read or seen the sequils yet but plan to.


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  19. Jay on Wed, 20th Jun 2012 1:52 am 

    This was very good comparision, thanks! I havent read any of the books, so i will be comparing the 2 films together. I recently saw the whole swedish trilogy (extended) and Finchers version. Watching the Swedish version first, i have to say i fell in love with Rapace’s Lisbeth over Mara’s, and somehow feel kind turned off by Finchers remake just because I feel like there is no need, so I might be a little biased. Rapace makes Lisbeth more interesting, in her actions and her clothing. I dont know why Fincher toned down that gothic look to something more plain and drab. You say that the 2011 version flowed better, but i feel like they rushed through it, but maybe that is because the Swedish version dragged on and on about fact finding. And yes, Mara’s Lisbeth was extremely chatty. How the Lisbeth and Mikael meet is also different in Finchers version, and how they solve the case is also different, in the 2009 version, they do alot of the investigation together. Martin is far more menacing in Finchers version, Henrick is more believable heartbroken in 2009 version, and Lisbeth was just plain “cooler” in 2009. Both Mara and Rapace have excellent versions of Lisbeth. I find Daniel Craig and odd choice for Blomqvist, because I am used to seeing him as strong as Bond, its hard to see him as vulnerable and weak.


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  20. Billy Batz on Wed, 27th Jun 2012 2:02 am 

    Am I the only one who was wondering how Lisbeth became a legendary hacker when she spent most of her youth in an asylum? Its a trope. If she grew up as a nerdy tech head I would buy it, but its kind of just a thing she does at the beginning of the story and it falls by the wayside.Hackers can access bank accounts right? That rape scene would never have happened if she remembered she was a hacker. Stieg Larrson why did you do that?


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  21. Johnny on Wed, 29th Aug 2012 6:42 pm 

    So glad I stumbled onto this post! I started the book two years ago and never got through it. I saw the 2011 on DVD last month and then was curious to compare with the 2009, which i just saw on DVD last night. Not having read the book, I wondered about the departures in plot between the two that I noticed, some minor, some relatively larger (ie, the Harriet/Anita change you mention). Three important differences to me that you didn’t mention I wanted to point out:

    1. Blomqvist has a connection to the Vangers in the 2009 film — his father worked there and Harriet and Anita babysitting him, but I don’t recall this at all in 2011 version. It creates a significant “way in” to the story for his character in the early part of the film and a moment of revelation regarding the necklace and it being Anita in the window, not Harriet.

    2. In 2011, Blomqvist’s religious daughter’s visit prompts him to discover the scripture clues in the diary; whereas in 2009, Lisbeth gives him this critical connection directly because she has been shadowing his investigation, unbeknownst to him. Plot-wise it doesn’t matter I guess who makes the connection as long as it gets made, but it tilts the 2009 much more toward Lisbeth’s character as the one who unlocks the case (and this is what prompts Blomqvist to seek her out to help), whereas the 2011 one gives Blomqvist more “credit” for it as he sort of stumbles on it based on his daughter’s tip. And he contacts Lisbeth mostly because she is such a good hacker.

    3. Lisbeth’s backstory. I honestly don’t recall much of anything in the 2011 film about her backstory, and certainly nothing so specific as the burning car/revenge on her abusive father story line and images. The 2009 version plays this up quite a bit — with the parallel of the Lisbeth watching Martin burn in the car just like her father with the super-imposed images. In the 2011 she seems much more an enigma, partially to due to Mara’s more waif-like inscrutable interpretation.

    Overall, I like Fincher’s film better — I would say it was more suspenseful, but that may be because I saw it first and didn’t know the story line whereas the 2009 version I saw second and new the plot. Even so, the feeling of suspense and dread in Fincher’s film is more powerful I think — the cinematography, editing, art direction, pacing, etc. are handled in a more compelling way. As the reviewer at the NYTimes said, the 2009 films feels more like a made-for-TV procedural. It seems a little clunky and obvious (I lost count of how many times they cut to the close-up portrait of Harriet). I also was more drawn to both Craig and Mara as the lead characters. Mara felt deeply wounded and intense with a sly/stealth aloofness, Rapace seemed to wear the character’s toughness on her sleeve. I find Craig is a more charismatic actor than Nyqvist which helped give that character some presence and made the relationship between Lisbeth and Blomqvist more believable and fascinating.


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  22. Oz on Mon, 11th Mar 2013 7:51 pm 

    In the comments people have caught a few other differences in the two films. How the religious connection is made, how Mikael and Lisbeth meet, the fact that Mikael had a connection to the family as a child. One other VERY important difference in the movies (I didn’t read the book so I don’t know which one is more true to the book) that has not been discussed is that in the 2009 vs. Lisbeth has a real opportunity to save Martin from the car crash and in the 2011 vs. not really … Very different from a moral point of view for Lisbeth. There is also a line in the 2011 vs. when she runs out of Martin’s basement to chase after him she asks Mikael “should i kill him ” or “can I kill him and Mikael says yes …. Any thoughts? Big difference.


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