David Fincher is at a disadvantage. I don’t merely expect his films to look good, I expect them to look incredible. To be meticulously framed, immaculately lit, and evocative in every moment. Basically I expect everything David Fincher does to be at genius level.
The 8 minutes of footage from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo that Sony screened for nationwide preview audiences does not disappoint in that regard. The film looks visually stunning, another example of Fincher making almost perfect looking movies. And the snippet of score that played, from The Social Network team of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is driving and menacing, and sounds exactly like what you would want their score for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to sound like.
But what the 8 minute sizzle reel didn’t sell me on was the story. I have attempted to read the book The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo twice now, both times quitting in frustration at horrible prose and poor storytelling. Most crucially I was totally in hate with the character of Lisbeth Salander, who read less like a character and more like the author’s wet dream version of a woman who would fuck him in weird ways and without complications.
The footage shown was mostly a Cliff’s Notes version of the first act or so, setting up the characters of Salander (played by Rooney Mara) and Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) and the murder mystery they’ll be investigating. The beats, as far as I could tell from my 50% completion of the book, are about spot on. Of course The Godfather is a fairly faithful adaptation of a not-terribly good book, so I’m reserving my judgment. I do sort of wish that this 8 minutes had been one solid sequence, so that I could get a better sense of how Fincher is playing things.
The big question coming into this, as my friend Mr. Beaks said on Twitter the other day (@mrbeaks), was about Rooney Mara’s performance. How would she play Salander? The answer: like an alien. Fincher’s film is embracing Salander’s autistic qualities and her poor socialization; in the footage I saw (which was full of quick cuts), Salander seems to exist right in the middle spot between cool and bizarre. Mara, unrecognizable, is fully immersed in the character. Her eyes are dead and her demeanor is prickly and tough. I’m not sure I’m going to like this character any more in the film than I did on the page, but the quality of the acting is undeniable.
The footage reinforced what I already expected to be great: the look of the film, the feel of the movie, the score and the acting. But the central aspect - will this adaptation make a poor story better? - remains unanswered until I see the final film.