The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – A revised review after reading the book

Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace

Synopsis: Based on the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, this follows the story of a disgraced journalist trying to solve a mystery of the disappearance of a sixteen year old girl that occurred forty years earlier. He receives unexpected help from a young female hacker.

This is an absolute first for, reviewing a film again which I have already in the past covered.   Perhaps this will lead to Dragon Tattoo overkill on this site, especially after the release of the American version of the film starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.   Yet in going back and rewatching the film, this time fully armed with a good knowledge of the source novel, my impressions of this film were somewhat altered.   Not necessarily in a bad way, but perceptions have certainly shifted.

My reading of the book by Stieg Larsson I do feel was partially informed by having seen the film first.   Whilst reading, it was Nyqvist I saw in my head as Blomkvist and Rapace as Salander.   So watching them again in those respective roles did not greatly alter my opinions of the film.   They are both very talented actors, and inhabit their roles very well.   However, a lot of the more external characters, now more fleshed out in my mind with more significant back-stories, that at times jarred with me.   I think the prime example of this was in the casting of Erika Berger.   In the novel she comes across as strong, independent, and reliable.   She does not get enough screen time in this film version, and most of that time is spent looking at Blomkvist with a love-sick expression of worry.   True, these emotions are true to the character, but in this performance for me she came across too weak, and far from a strong editor-in-chief for Millennium.

Also, as with any film adaptation, the flaws are not so much what is included, but what has been left out or simplified.   For one thing, the Vagner family tree was slightly altered, most likely as an audience is unable to flip to the relevant page in the novel when the inter-relationships of the family get confusing.   A minor change, true, but as someone who devoted time to get it all straight in their head, these changes do tend to stand out a little.   What is mainly lost though are the external stories that flesh out the characters and the world a bit more.   Already mentioned is the fact that there is scant use of the Millennium offices.   There are a lot of interesting characters on the staff of that magazine, and I can only recall one staff member being mentioned by name.   Interestingly, there is a scene with Blomkvist’s sister transposed from the sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, yet for thew purposes of this film, I fail to see why the scene could not have remained in its original spot.

Yet it is still a great film to watch, and I feel I can say that for both the uninitiated, and for fans of the book.   Changes for good or bad have to be made for a successful translation to screen, as well displayed by Peter Jackson in his Lord of the Rings adaptations.   The film does include all the most fascinating clues and incidents of the novel,  and the source material is so strong it translates strongly in any medium.

4 stars out of 5


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on IMDB

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=]

One thought on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) – A revised review after reading the book

  1. Pingback: The Girl who Played with Fire (2009) – A review by Film Nerd | Revenge of the Film Nerds

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