The arrival of David Fincher's English-language version of Stieg Larsson’s Scandinavian publishing phenomenon was greeted with as much shoulder-shrugging as anticipation.
Even in a landscape filled with the strip-mining of same-old source material (New Star Trek! New Superman! New Spider-Man, only five years after the last one!), why would one of Hollywood’s brainiest auteurs accept the task of remaking a much admired local adaptation?
Not to mention be seduced by a blockbuster series that, for all its millions shifted, Daniel Craig sums up as “great reads – that’s it. I read [TGWTDT] in two days.” It took him that long?
Steven Zaillian, who distills a fine screenplay from Larsson’s work, is even less circumspect, citing TGWTDT’s merits as a solid mystery and two great characters.
Although really he means one great character… because as sound as Craig is as Mikael Blomkvist, the crusader asked to solve a decades-old vanishing, his kind are a dime a dozen. Whereas Lisbeth Salander is an androgyne-punk revolution, and Fincher wouldn’t have touched TGWTDT with a 10ft pole without her.
Even as Blomkvist sleuths his way through the Vanger clan while her hacker waif is off suffering sexual humiliation before their paths dovetail, Salander’s spectral presence towers above his. Just as it does on this superb disc.
From the director’s expansive commentary to a flurry of docs examining everything from the ebony-nightmare title sequence to Scotty the cat, the bonus material will deepen your appreciation of the film’s emotional and visual intricacies and of Fincher’s obsessional methodology.
It peels back the layers to observe Mara’s chrysalis-like transformation into TGWTDT’s heroine. The actress recalls a friend telling her she could never play Salander after they’d just watched the original. “I was like, ‘Fuck you, I can do what I want.’”
As terrific as Noomi Rapace was, Mara is quite simply the bomb. On commentary and doc, Fincher proves an expert tour guide, savouring every detail (who else would bother getting a digital effects house to create a barely noticeable part in Mara’s hair for one scene?) and revealing a jagged sense of humour.
“I think people are perverts,” the filmmaker muses. “That’s the foundation of my career.” We can’t argue with that, even if TGWTDT will be remembered less for Fincher’s genius than one beautifully strange girl.