David Fincher movies
I was quick to jump on the US Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie bandwagon after the first trailers were released. I was ready to love it. To be super impressed. To fangirl over a version that I initially labelled unnecessary.
Then I saw it.
Dragon Tattoo Girl For America is a solid B+. It’s good. It’s watchable. The problem in this case is that the original Swedish film is also a solid B+. So Dragon Tattoo Girl For America needed to be so much better. For justification. That’s the truth of it, isn’t it? If you don’t improve on the first iteration, and you release a second but charge more money, shouldn’t it be better? Demonstrably better?
I came out of that theatre reasonably satisfied. And reasonably satisfied, while comfortable and not alarming, isn’t exactly an enthusiastic reaction. Reasonably satisfied is a decent steak. It’s not a memorable steak, it’s not even a top 5 steak, it’s simply a decent meal.
As for Rooney Mara - I enjoyed Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. I wouldn’t say she kicked Noomi Rapace’s ass but she definitely didn’t suck. Mara is a solid actor. Mara is not Carey Mulligan in An Education. She's not Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone. Those two punched you in the face with their crazy performances. You remember how excited you were leaving the theatre after those films? It was exciting witnessing the arrival of emerging talent. Transformational talent. The role of Lisbeth Salander was supposed to have done that for Rooney Mara. I just...don’t consider her in the same category.
Still, the B-plus-ness of Dragon Tattoo For America isn’t on Rooney Mara. Rooney Mara isn’t lacking. What’s lacking, to me, is David Fincher. I just don’t feel David Fincher movies. There’s no soul in a David Fincher movie, you know? David Fincher movies are clinical filmmaking experiences. But the experience of a truly great film is that it reaches you in that intangible place where art and humanity connect, and David Fincher just...doesn’t take me there. It was the same with The Social Network and Benjamin Button (that Benjamin Button backlash was hilarious - click here for a refresher) and it is also the case with Dragon Tattoo For America. Se7en may have been the closest he’s come to that but I wonder if that wasn’t the work of Morgan Freeman almost in spite of his director.
Here was an opportunity for Fincher to take one of the most provocative and controversial female characters and go much deeper than editing and cinematography and the result... again a B+. Because aside from it being a more expensive and slicker effort than what happened in Sweden, how was this creatively infinitely superior? I don’t even know if Dragon Tattoo For America even stretched Fincher’s abilities as a director. Did he demonstrate a new vision? Did he show more imagination? Trent Reznor is awesome. But he did The Social Network too. See? You could argue that casting Scarlett Johansson, who auditioned for and impressed Fincher but ultimately lost out to Mara, would have, at the very least, represented a fresher, more audacious interpretation of the source material. Would that have been the right decision? It’s debatable. You are probably shaking with revulsion right now. I get that. And I’m not saying Scarjo is Lisbeth. What I’m saying is that at least a Dragon Tattoo Girl movie with Scarjo in the lead would have been markedly different from what you’ve already seen from Sweden, what you were expecting, what Fincher normally delivers, and a complete departure from what is already available, which, frankly, is maybe the poor little sister to Fincher’s offering, but still belonging to the same family. I just can’t see what the value of that would be.
The difference though is that Fincher probably couldn’t mold Scarjo the way he defined Mara. That, of course, is my own analysis of the situation, but if there’s any truth to it at all, what are the consequences when creativity is compromised to satisfy a director’s personal agenda?
Here’s Fincher with Mara and Daniel Craig promoting the film in Paris yesterday and in Madrid today.