I’m guessing – based on its box office take – that at least some of you saw The Hangover: Part II. Which means that you also saw the teaser trailer for David Fincher’s highly anticipated remake of the hit Swedish film based on the megahit crime novel series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (or you just saw the “bootleg” online). Wasn’t it awesome? That dark, foreboding atmosphere? The almost alien-looking Rooney Mara, widely tipped as a serious Best Actress contender? And holy cow, who could forget that killer version of “Immigrant Song” from Karen O and Trent Reznor? Plus, you have to give some credit to any major studio release that advertises itself as “THE FEEL BAD MOVIE OF CHRISTMAS,” though I suppose selling a depressing blockbuster isn’t quite as ballsy anymore in the wake of The Dark Knight. Not only that, but word has gotten around that the version that had “leaked” on YouTube last Saturday was actually a marketing stunt to contribute to the grunginess of the trailer. Now THAT is cool!
However, I’m here to warn you all: don’t be fooled. Underneath all of the style, the talent involved, the hype, it still has the framework of the original Swedish film. Because of that, I am still confident in predicting that it is going to suck. Actually, I’m more confident than before.
Let’s just get the obvious over with. I hope I don’t need to point out that countless terrible films have had amazing trailers promoting them before. That’s the whole point; they’re meant to show it off in the best light possible to get moviegoers to buy a ticket on opening night. I’m sorry if that sounds condescending, but I’m not entirely sure that everyone understands this. Not long ago a commenter on this very site declared The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to be a “sure bet” for several Oscar nominations based on a teaser that was barely a minute long. Throughout the history of cinema (well, trailers at least) we’ve seen one to two-minute marketing montages that blew us away, only to deliver duds: Shutter Island, Antichrist, A Single Man, Superman Returns, Little Children, The Ring Two, The Matrix sequels and several others among them. Hell, even Fincher has had this happen to one of his works. I still remember in the summer of 2008 joking with a friend that the teaser for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was one of the best short films I had seen all year…or, I would have been joking if I hadn’t completely meant it. But come December, we were all struck with the great director’s least interesting work.
But even beyond that borderline-routine reminder, this film is hobbled by having to repeat a terrible movie. It’s hard enough to successfully remake a great film, how in the world can a remake of a sadistic mess like the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo be decent? In case anyone forgot, it was an insultingly juvenile story centering on an obvious Mary Sue and yet another Hot Damaged Skinny White Chick Who Kicks Ass solving a ridiculous mystery, all to put forward the groundbreaking idea that a) misogyny is evil and b) all evil people are misogynists. Of course, instead of genuine female perspectives on destructive male entitlement, we get not only a gratuitous anal rape scene, but an anal rape revenge shortly after, doing absolutely nothing for the story except to tell us that, wow, Lisbeth sure is messed up (which we knew already)! But we still have to sell tickets to teenage boys, so let’s have her start off as a lesbian and then be “cured” of it by the sheer manly awesomeness of Stieg Larsson, oops, I mean Mikael Blomkvist.
Ah, but what of its director, you may ask? After all, David Fincher is certainly no Niels Arden Oplev, and he might possibly improve and deepen this version in ways that I can’t anticipate. Possible, but unlikely. Rewatch the trailer and you’ll notice snippets of the worst elements of the original practically copied. Lisbeth bound and gagged on a bed before being raped, check. Lisbeth exacting the same fate on her tormentor, satisfying an audience’s most base revenge fantasies, check. The aforementioned male wish-fulfillment sex scene between Lisbeth and Blomkvist, check. Those stupid framed flowers, which gave way to the most laughable plot hole in the original film (why didn’t Henrik just track down who and where the flowers were coming from?), check. That contrived chase climax, which tries to convince us that a motorcycle could plausibly run down a Range Rover…oh, you know that one is prominent in the trailer! Scene-by-scene, it’s headed towards the same junk that we all saw in a different language a year ago. Granted, Fincher has proven himself to be one of the industry’s most daring visual stylists, and on that level the remake may very well be compelling. But The Curious Case of Benjamin Button also had amazing visuals, and that didn’t stop it from being unbearably boring. This just looks to be unbearably offensive and stupid.
Could it still be an Oscar contender? Sure. Every member of the AC staff currently has Rooney Mara pegged as a Best Actress nominee in our early predictions (with all but myself predicting her as the current favorite to win), which, who knows, might be justified. The Social Network certainly proved that she’s a talented actress. The original Swedish film got a whole slew of undeserved awards from organizations like BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, and it probably would have been a frontrunner for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar last year had it been eligible (while people were whining about the violent content of Dogtooth…*sigh*, whatever). This version also has Scott Rudin – second only to Harvey Weinstein as far as Oscar campaigners go – as one of its producers.
But all of the awards in the world can’t stop it from having to retell a story which is a disaster even down to its basic premise. I’m sure it’ll be a huge hit, and a bunch of critics will continue to hail it as some feminist rallying cry, but I hope at least some of you will recognize this series for what it really is, and what Fincher – hardly a filmmaker with an eye for the feminine point of view, anyway – probably won’t overcome.