Mar 23, 2012

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

There is a lot of controversy over which version of this story, the David Fincher "English" version (2011) or the Niels Arden Oplev Swedish version (2009), is the best or comes closest to the original Stieg Larsson novel or whatever criteria you may have for judging two movies about the same story. I am here to cast my vote after watching both in a couple of days.

English biking moments.

My critical judgement is mostly based on the motorcycling in these movies, since both stories are similar enough that I could watch either and get what the author/directors intended easily enough. However, the Fincher movie contains dramatically more motorcycle footage and creates a considerably more believable and interesting motorcycling character on a cafe racer-styled Honda CL350 than Oplev presents on a Yamaha WR250X (my best guess, since the motorcycle is so unimportant in the Swedish version). There you have it. I'm done. 

Swedish biking moments.

There's a little more to it than that, but not much. For my tastes, the Euro version is too dumbed-down, too slow, and a little old fashioned; editing-wise. Too much background is explained, rather than shown. Oplev's version has the main characters and secondary characters overwrought, over-defined, and the story moves slowly as a consequence. There are characters who are unnecessary, scenes that only serve to describe unimportant flashback events are repeated, and, in the usual manner, credibility in physical abilities are almost magically hauled out when convenient. [I could be talking about the Mission Impossible series here, with Tom Cruise's amazing but unpracticed ability on a motorcycle popping from thin air.]

From a motorcycling perspective, that was what I liked the best about Rooney Mara's Lisbeth. She didn't suddenly become a motorcyclist. She is a motorcyclist. She rides everywhere, not just when she can't find someone to drive her in a cage. Mara's character rides balls-out every time she's on the bike. She's got a lean on the CL when she's going straight. On the other hand, the few moments Oplev bothers to film the motorcycle it's straight up and toddling along at a sedate pace appropriate for a newbie on a tall motorcycle. She's as easily convinced to ride with an insecure cager as an old lady looking for a ride to the drug store.

For me, the credibility Lisbeth needs for every other thing she does came from the motorcycle scenes. Either she can do it, or she's just another movie-time poser. Whoever rode the bike for Rooney Mara built credibility for that character that made very other action scene believable. All of that said, both movies are pretty decent. The Euro version is a little slow-paced but it is filmed beautifully. The Swedish story is about a journalist and a girl who owns a motorcycle and rides it occasionally and some seriously evil bastards. The English version is a movie about a motorcyclist and a journalist and some seriously evil bastards. If I'm have a choice of two movies about the same story, I'll take the one with the motorcyclist.

Both movies had a severe motorcycling letdown at the end. [Possible spoiler alert]. The English version pulled the usual  Hollywood crap of having a motorcyclist get into a high speed chase in too much of a hurry to put on her helmet. As if you can actually ride a motorcycle fast with your eyes shut.  And, Tom Cruise-style, the English biker went to great efforts to get in front of the cage she was chasing, as if a diddly motorcycle can stop an SUV in flight. The Swedish movie did the helmet bit right, but missed the coolest moment possible when the motorcycling character gets off of her dirt bike to walk down a mild slope and stare dispassionately at the bad guy in the crashed cage. A real motorcyclist would have ridden down that hill and given the bad guy the stare from the badass black full face helmet.


Unknown said...

Yup, the American version, with a beater CB350, was much more believable for a punk hacker chick with little to no money. No way she'd ride that Yamaha. It would be like Steve McQueen riding a Husqvarna MX'er to jump the fence in The Great Escape.

Unknown said...

No way can a cb350 keep up with a Range Rover in a snowy night, on a damp curvy road and without helmet!