‘Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’: From best-selling book to movie screen

By Jessica Foreman

What is hidden in the snow comes forth in the thaw. Well, at least secrets buried for 40 years will be revealed if actor Daniel Craig has anything to do with it.

The American movie rendition of Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy hits the theaters Dec. 21, and with a stellar director/screenwriter combo, anticipations are high.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is Columbia Pictures and Goldwin-Mayer Pictures’ first adaptation in the three film series. Swedish films were released in the U.S. in 2009, but this is the first version without subtitles.

Director David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Fight Club,” “Panic Room”) and screenwriter, Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “American Gangster”) worked together to re-create the murder mystery of a 40-year-old cold case that has been haunting the affluent Vanger family.

The plot involves journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig (“Cowboys and Aliens,” “Quantum of Solace”), who is approached by Henrik Vanger, played by Christopher Plummer, to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece, Harriet. Harriet disappeared from a small island owned by the Vanger family 40 years earlier, and Henrik is still troubled by the mystery.

Craig is aided in the investigation by Lisbeth Salander, played by actress Rooney Mara, a young and very pierced (she sports several facial piercings, among others) computer hacker who is a bit rough around the edges.

Fincher described Mara’s character to Entertainment Weekly on Thursday.

“I told Rooney, ‘You’re going to be emaciated, you have to get raped [on screen], get pierced, smoke cigarettes, ride a motorcycle. I need you to really concentrate and tell me this is something you want,” Fincher said.

Mara did have to make quite a few physical alterations to play the role, and the original Swedish title, “Men Who Hate Women,” subtly tells a little bit about the sexual politics within the film.

Another controversial aspect is the obvious uncertainty that comes with the transition of a novel to film.

Although the Swedish films were already released and did quite well at both the box office as well as in terms of critical acclaim, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is another literary adaptation waiting for its verdict.

“The Swedish version was very good but it’s just a good story in the first place,” Waco sophomore Zachary Korpi, a film and digital media major, Waco, said. “I’m really looking forward to David Fincher’s interpretation of it, being one of the top directors working in Hollywood right now.”

Korpi said the Swedish film did a good job interpreting Larsson’s original work and kept the essence of the story without leaving anything out.

The film’s condensed version may actually contribute to holding the attention of audiences, Korpi explained. The mass market paperback version of the novel, for example, is 644 pages long.

“It’s not the tightest story you’ve ever read. I think being turned into a movie actually benefits it because it cuts out all of the bulk,” Korpi said.

“Hollywood tends to like to adapt novels because they have a built-in audience and they’ve already established a name even though the audience for books is smaller than the audience for what films really need,” said Christopher Hansen, Baylor film and digital media division director. “So ultimately they like to draw on that name and that popularity but then they change it to make it acceptable for a mass audience because they need way more people to come see the movie than have read the book for it to be profitable.”

“In the case of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ I don’t think that they’ve done that by hiring David Fincher to adapt the book into making a movie,” Hansen said,

“I believe Fincher is keeping to the core of the book, at least from what I’ve read. I’m generally not opposed to adaptation personally. Hollywood tends to overdo it and then change the book so drastically. I get the impression that Fincher is trying to keep to the spirit of what the author was intending,” Hansen said.

Movie critics seem to get the same impression. The film has several five-star ratings from Rolling Stone, as well as Paper Magazine’s Dennis Dermody, who said the film is “a relief for fans of the novel who can forgo ‘the book was much better’ phrase for once.”

With a cast led by Craig, an award-winning director in Fincher and screenwriter Zallian, and trailers that have already generated viral buzz, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is expected to receive excellent feedback and keep movie-goers as well as literary gurus very satisfied.