Adding David Fincher to Stieg Larsson's "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" story "has proved counterproductive," Kenneth Turan says tonight in his review on the L.A. Times website. And Turan doesn't fault Rooney Mara, the actress charged with portraying Lisbeth Salander. Hiring a twist-the-knife kind of Hollywood suspense director like Fincher, Turan writes, "betrays a misunderstanding of what's at the heart of the phenomenal international success of the Millennium trilogy books, which clock in at 65 million copies and counting."
That would be the character of Lisbeth Salander, one of the most unlikely, idiosyncratic and compelling crime fighters to hit the scene since Sherlock Holmes. One reason Salander is catnip on the page is that she is anything but in real life. Antisocial when she's not downright furious, a sullen 24-year-old computer hacker with more piercings than friends, she is fierce, furtive and feral. You never want to get in her way.
Though less well-crafted than the Fincher version, Niel Arden Oplev's "Dragon Tattoo" did have the crucial advantage of actress Noomi Rapace. Her savage Salander was as skittish and tattooed as she should be, but there was always a sense of an actual person inside those fierce defenses that enabled audiences to connect on screen in the way readers do on the page....
[Mara] committed herself totally to the "Dragon Tattoo" role and clearly did everything her director asked of her, but this film's cold, almost robotic conception of Salander as a twitchy, anorexic waif feels more like a stunt than a complete character, and so the best part of the reason we care enough to endure all that mayhem has gone away.
That had to be the fear of a lot of Salander fans who heard Fincher say early on that he didn't really feel her appeal in his soul. So it's maybe not a surprise he would mistake her for a waif, if an intriguing one, and not see her, as A.O. Scott writes in his New York Times review tonight, as "an avenger...an outlaw feminist fantasy-heroine, and also an avatar of digital antiauthoritarianism." Scott mostly likes what Fincher did with the story he was given, and is more fulsome than Turan in his appreciation of the handling of Salander: "It is her movie, and Ms. Mara’s." Mara, he writes, "captures her volatile and fascinating essence beautifully."
More review snippets:
- "You can’t take your eyes off Rooney Mara as the notorious Lisbeth Salander...[she] makes every scene that she appears in jump....It’s Mara’s shot at stardom, and [Daniel Craig] lets her have it." David Denby, The New Yorker
- "[Fincher] has made "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" into an electrifying movie by turning the audience into addicts of the forbidden, looking for the sick and twisted things we can't see. As Lisbeth Salander...Rooney Mara is a revelation." Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
- "In the end, there's not much extra even David Fincher can bring to 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.'" Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" currently sits at 94% among top critics on the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes, 87% among all critics.