THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Reviews Call It 'Se7en Meets Zodiac'

Though the general consensus seems to be that Fincher's Tattoo is no better or worse than the grim Swedish-language crime thriller original.

The reviews embargo has broken for David Fincher's remake of the grim Swedish-language crime thriller The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and the verdict is in. Promoted as being 'the feel bad movie this Christmas' and certainly marketed towards adults as a rare smart film for grown-ups, the general consensus seems to be that the movie is good and worth seeing for those reasons but it is probably no better or worse than the 2009 original film and it isn't a Fincher knockout by any means. Inevitably the comparisons to his recent A-grade works Zodiac and The Social Network are being made and Tattoo isn't coming off the victor but many claim it to be a darker experience than the original that is held together by a better central performance from Rooney Mara. Many are calling it 'Se7en meets Zodiac' in that it blends the pulpy and horrific darkness of the uncompromising 1995 film but also has the detective/procedural feel of Zodiac and that scenes often play for their story thematics rather than character building as we piece together the murder mystery. Variety's Justin Chang's write up is easily the most positive and he is expecting Fincher to have made a film that audiences will drive to in their droves; "As classy a film as could be made from Stieg Larsson's sordid page-turner, David Fincher's much-anticipated return to serial-killer territory is a fastidiously grim pulp entertainment that plays like a first-class train ride through progressively bleaker circles of hell. If the brooding intelligence and technical mastery on display at times feel disproportionate to the material, Rooney Mara's riveting take on Lisbeth Salander amply validates what will likely be Fincher's biggest success to date." David Denby in The New Yorker loved it too, also praising Rooney Mara's performance as one that he couldn't take his eyes off. He says of Fincher's work; "This is a bleak but mesmerizing piece of filmmaking; it offers a glancing, chilled view of a world in which brief moments of loyalty flicker between repeated acts of betrayal." But then the majority of the rest of the reviews are written by critics satisfied by the movie but who weren't ready to declare their love to it. Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter seems to sum up the feeling perfectly; "In the end, there's not much extra even David Fincher can bring to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." "...for all the skill brought to bear on it, the film offers no surprises in the way it's told (aside from a neatly altered ending) and little new juice to what, for some, will be the third go-round with this investigation of the many skeletons in the closet of a powerful Swedish corporate family. Dedicated Fincher fans are likely to find this redo rather more conventional and less disturbing than Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, all of which end far less reassuringly. Box office returns for this dark Christmas offering will certainly be big, although it will be interesting to gauge if Tattoo is still as major a part of the zeitgeist as it was a year or two ago. Hollywood Elsewhere writes; "Fincher's film looks, plays and feels exactly like a remake, albeit one that's costlier, punchier, gloomier and more vigorous?" "Boiled down to basics, that's what this film is -- a highly efficient, A-grade, gripping-as-far-as-it-goes deja vu experience. It's a bit darker and very well acted all around (especially in terms of one crucial performance), and more atmospherically noirish in an almost luxurious, Hollywood-comes-to-Sweden sort of way. But these are attributes of efficiency rather than vision or art." Basically he says it's a fine film but doesn't have that extra "something" which made Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac and The Social Network so great and it's more of a "cash-grab enterprise" that makes it more on the level of Panic Room, The Game or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Though Jeff Wells does praise Rooney Mara's performance - 'Mara, I feel, gives Salander a sadder and more vulnerable aura and a more emotionally readable quality than what Noomi Rapace delivered in the Swedish trilogy." Todd Gilchrist writes for The Playlist and says the movie is to David Fincher what The Departed (similarly a remake of a foreign language movie) was to Martin Scorsese; €œThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo€ withholds none of the sophistication or intelligence of its cinematic forebear, creating a dyspeptic thriller that succeeds precisely because it flirts with conventionality until audiences themselves start to want anything but that". They also agree that it is "a lesser work in his canon, even as his pedigree gets sharper and more refined with each film he directs". "Ultimately, €œThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo€ is beautifully-executed, well-acted and well-told, but it shares one unfortunate thing in common with the film that preceded it (and which may have been the reason Hollywood chose to remake it): for all of its promised viscera, intrigue and melodrama, it isn€™t particularly emotionally engaging, preferring the details of a mystery that is solved without a lot of pyrotechnics, literal or otherwise. And while its final scene ranks among the best of the year craftwise €“ a brilliant example of storytelling that builds to an unconventional payoff, and somehow miraculously synchronizes the audience€™s appetite for just that kind of an ending €“ the loose ends of its many story strands confuse the emotional focus of the overall film, leaving the audience following characters whose journeys are over, or worse, whose journeys they weren€™t aware they were on for the previous two-plus hours." Drew McWeeny for Hitfix; 'Purely judged on its technical merits, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is sensational, another example of just how much control Fincher is capable of exerting over every element of his films. It is gorgeous, and I feel like you could pull almost any frame of the film out as a stand-alone work of art thanks to the contributions of cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth. The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is just as effective at setting a particular mood as their Oscar-winning work on last year's "The Social Network." So why is it that at the end of the two-hour forty-minute run time, I felt absolutely nothing for this film at all?" More reviews are of course being added to Rotten Tomatoes all the time. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo opens Dec 21st in the U.S. and Dec 26th in the UK. We have a brand new tv spot for the film here...
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Matt Holmes is the co-founder of What Culture, formerly known as Obsessed With Film. He has been blogging about pop culture and entertainment since 2006 and has written over 10,000 articles.