Critic Review - Wall Street Journal

It's certainly worth seeing if you missed the original. If you saw it, however, there's no way of unseeing it, and nothing in the new one to top it.

December 22, 2011 Full Review Source: Wall Street Journal | Comments (39)
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic IconTop Critic


Myra Arellano

Myra Arellano

Why so many critics decided to review by comparing the previous film adaptation with Fincher's version? That's an equivalent to compare all movie adaptations of books with their source material. And I'd much rather have a review based on the book than in the other film. Sorry for bursting their cloud but the Swedish films weren't as good as they want to make us think. Noomi is a brilliant actress but so is Rooney and Mara is closer to the original Lisbeth, the one in the book. Fincher and Mara seemed to have understood the character and her background better.I just can't see Noomi as Lisbeth because she doesn't match the Lisbeth I came to know because of the book. Noomi was too fierce, too bad ass, too cold for Lisbeth, Rooney has the right amount of vulnerability, hostility, smartness and emotional detachment than Lisbeth should have. Everyone who has read the book know how closer this version is to the ORIGINAL story a.k.a as Men who hate women BOOK . I find funny how most of the rabid Swedish film fans have never bothered to read the book and that's why they content themselves with a low budget movie which was originally meant to be TV series and in which the Swedish actors display no chemistry at all.

A new film adaptation was NECESSARY since the Swedish films had room for improvement and the story deserved to become a movie in the best possible manner. I just can't see Noomi as Lisbeth she doesn't match the Lisbeth of the book.

And some say that This is not the best of Fincher's films. Well, Even the worst of Fincher filmography deserves to be seen more than the swedish take on the story.

Dec 22 - 05:46 PM

George G.

George George

This X 1,000,000 times. Thank you. People need to go into this film with an open mind and forget about the Swedish film. Compare it to the book, people! Heck, don't compare it to anything. Fincher's adaptation of the novel deserves to be judged on its own merits. I also didn't like Noomi as Lisbeth. Great actress like you mentioned but Rooney definitely fit the part so well. This film would have had a higher rating if critics wouldn't keep referring back to Niel Oplev's TGWTDT. I wanna watch this film a second time.

Dec 22 - 06:12 PM

Michael Squints Palledorous

Michael Squints Palledorous

I was just about to comment on this as well, but you're comment sums it up. Quit trying to call the Swedish VERSION the original. It's not. The book is the "original". And this film did a much better job of adapting this book to film. I hope this continues with the second and the third, which were both lacking when it came to the Swedish adaptations.

Dec 22 - 08:50 PM

Bartlett P.

Bartlett Pears

Books and movies are not the same medium.

Dec 24 - 04:49 AM

Rich M.

Rich M.

Really? I didn't know that. Please, do go on! Explain to us further this astute and overwhelming observation!

Jan 13 - 10:20 PM


Dan Lin

He wasn't stating the obvious, he was referring to the fact that Myra said comparing the films was the same thing as comparing all movies to their book counterparts. When those things are obviously very different.

Apr 6 - 10:54 PM

Chad P.

Chad Pastrama

Well, I will admit the Swedish film version had its flaws. However, just because Fincher's movie was more faithful to the book doesn't mean that's a good thing. I feel the romantic relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth in Fincher's film was pretty pointless. The Swedish version, though, focused more on the murders and tension of mystery than any romance. It bugs the crap out of me when people say "READ THE BOOK". The book already had it's many errors, so why adapt those errors to the big screen? Swedish version: 8/10. The American version: 7/10.

Feb 10 - 12:20 PM

Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe

I don't get the big discussion on this. If you saw the Swedish adaptation, no matter if you go into it with an 'open mind' or not, you STILL saw the original and there is no way that you cannot compare the two. It's practically impossible not to. You are either going to think that it was better, worse or as good as. I don't see haw you avoid that. I also don't see what is wrong with it.

Dec 23 - 12:05 PM


Ross Daniels

There seems to be split opinion on this matter, and I tend to side more with Michael K. here. When a film is based on the book, then seriously, by all means forget about the book and judge the different media based on its own merits (This is why I HATE seeing Harry Potter fans lambaste a negative review by snidely telling the critic to "read the book").

But at the same time, when a film has been done before, especially only three years prior, "forgetting about" the predecessor is easier said than done. PLEASE notice that Morgenstern gave this a fresh. He thought it was a good film. He just provided the caveat that it does little to erase the memory of the Swedish film, and that this one would be like seeing it over again with no real improvement in quality.

I plan on seeing this film tomorrow, but at the same time, I find this scenario quite analogous to "Let the Right One In"/"Let Me In." "Let Me In" is an awfully good film, but "Let the Right One In" (its Swedish counterpart, released in the USA in 2008) had already made a profound impact on me, and as open a mind as I wanted to have on "Let Me In," there was no humanly possible way to forget about the fact that I had already seen "Let the Right One In," a film made in the same cinematic era.

All I'm saying is, Morgenstern makes a valid point. Take it easy.

Dec 23 - 05:41 PM


Jennifer DiFilippo

This is exactly what I felt but couldn't really out to words.

Also Noomi was exactly how I imagined Lisbeth to she crawled in my head and replicated my imagination.

Dec 30 - 02:36 PM

Aaron Robinson

Aaron Robinson

I forgot the original adaptation, just as I forgot the book. It's all a matter of how you approach adaptations or remakes, surely one can seperate a movie from the source material and watch in isolation if one wanted to. I can.

Dec 30 - 08:11 PM

Lana W.

Lana Wilson

I didn't forget the book, since I love the book, but I DID forget the first movie, so I completely disagree with the reviewer -- and I saw the Swedish version less than a year ago. For one, it was in Swedish, so I didn't connect with a lot of the dialogue. Second, I thought Noomi rapace looked way too old to be Lisbeth. She looked like a woman in her late 30s, not someone who would be mistaken for a teenaged boy. The only thing I disliked about the American version was the opening title sequence, which seemed to be trying way too hard to be artsy, but then we didn't get a very artsy movie to pay that off.

Jan 1 - 02:34 PM

Bartlett P.

Bartlett Pears

The reason why one needs to compare the remakes to the original within the medium (comparing movies to movies, not movies to books as much) is to answer the question "Did this movie need to be made?"

It's not the only qualifier that makes a movie good, but it's a point worth critiquing. I find the comparison between the Swedish version and the new version to be a legitimate issue.

Dec 24 - 04:53 AM

Robert Perkins

Robert Perkins

Agreed. Problem with people who love the films, directors, actors, etc being reviewed on.. they don't care if the reviewer actually makes some good comments or bad especially if they're biased to a certain thing about the film.. in this case, Myra A. seems to be a huge fan of David Fincher. Fine. Some of us aren't, though.. and just like Let Me In.. while a good movie, this was ultimately a very unnecessary movie to make.

I'm afraid even the "great" David Fincher has succumbed to the Hollywood vice of regurgitating films of past... even if that past is as recent as barely even 3 years ago.

"And some say that This is not the best of Fincher's films. Well, Even the worst of Fincher filmography deserves to be seen more than the swedish take on the story."

Is proof that Myra A. is going into this film with a huge bias. As I said.. some of us don't really like David Fincher. I'm one of them. I still enjoyed this film, just not nearly as much as the Swedish version.. mainly because of the Let the Right One In type of impact. I already had an impact. I didn't need another one.

Dec 25 - 05:21 AM

Andrew StClair

Andrew StClair

The stupid thing about the phrase, "did this movie need to be made," is that it can work for the Swedish film as well. Considering that there is a perfectly good novel out there which tells this story much better than the Swedish film did, did a Swedish film ever need to be made? If people want to know the story, they can just read the book. Unless you're implying Swedish people can't read at all (which makes complaining about Americans not reading subtitles incredibly stupid). The Swedish film did not need to be made, but its there....

Dec 25 - 09:34 PM

Trent Ledford

Trent Ledford

I agree, people need to compare it to the book. Just like the movie Let Me In, people compared it to the other version Let the Right One In. Read the book and compare it to the book stop comparing it to the other version. The swedish version isn't the original they just made it first. I like the other version but if you read the book then you know that the story is a very dark story and the swedish version it didn't really feel like the book. I give the swedish version 4 1/2 stars. I never seen this version but when I do I am not going compare it to the swedish version.

Dec 31 - 10:12 AM


Julia V

Thanks Myra for speaking out - I couldn't agree more. I'm a big fan of the books, and felt totally isolated in somewhat disliking the Swedish versions. In fact, I felt so little for the portrayal of the characters in the first Swedish film that I didn't waste my time with the second or third. There was just so much left to improve, Noomi's brilliance notwithstanding.

Jan 11 - 05:00 PM

PlanetaryAssault S.

PlanetaryAssault Systems

"And some say that This is not the best of Fincher's films. Well, Even the worst of Fincher filmography deserves to be seen more than the swedish take on the story."
Huge Fincher bias here.

Jan 23 - 08:22 AM

Joshua Thomas

Joshua Thomas

This isn't a remake of the Swedish film, it's an adaptation of the novel.

Dec 25 - 05:15 PM


joey mcsweeney

Even if you were to compare the two movies Fincher's is still better in every way.

Dec 27 - 08:44 PM


mc sw

just what i figured...why redo something so perfect?

Dec 28 - 07:59 AM

Fernando Jaramillo

Fernando Jaramillo

This version is about a thousand times better than the Swedish version. It's an improvement in every single possible way.

Dec 28 - 12:43 PM

Spencer Paulec

Spencer Paulec

I just left the theater completely dissapointed. After watching the swedish version i thought i'd be able to take my girlfriend to go see a good Mystery movie. I am only comparing this film to the swedish version, and this movie did nothing to allow for trying to predict what was going to happen, and then possibly being wrong (something i personally enjoy getting out of Mysteries.) I felt like i was being thrown through conclusion after conclusion of crime-solving without any audience-participation of connecting the dots or curiosity.

Dragon Tattoo 2011 might have been more accurate based on the book, but it was not a good movie. I'm really dissapointed to see so many people blatantly disregarding how important character development is in cinema. With Finchers version i received information that I should smoke Marlboros, drink Coca-Cola Classic, and drive a Mercedes. Where's the money at?

The only reason we're comparing the two movies is because the american version is absolute garbage if you want to see a mentally engaging film.

Also the sex scene between Mara and Craig was completely incongruent for a girl who just got raped. Especially the part where Craig got on top.

Jan 17 - 12:07 AM

Jean H.

Jean Holland

I have to agree with Spencer P. I did see the Swedish films and found them to be excellent character studies in the midst of a compelling, very contemporary mystery. I have not read the books, but in general,movies should be separated from the books on which they are based. Different medium.

In the American version, it took me about 3/4 of the way through the film to start to see the characters (esp the reporter and Vanguard patriarch)rather than the actors. Daniel Craig, whose performances I usually find to be well-realized, did not get this one formed. The Millenium set was way too slick, the magazine as a cultural force was lost--we could not see it as a "character" in this film, not all all. Roona Mara's performance was certainly adequate, but the film did not give her enough play for us to have much of a take on her other than tough but vulnerable waif. The abuse scenes made no sense, she simply succumbs to the first demand (and the abuser was poorly acted) and they are shot pornographically and pretty gratuitously; her later sexual scenes with Daniel Craig's character made no sense, either. The fate of the cat was also gratuitous. In short, there were no reasons for me to sit through these episodes because they did not contribute to the understanding of character at all; I did not feel this way with the Swedish film, where I felt the violation and the scenes were not shot as, well, spectacle. American filmic violence here as elsewhere is pornographic, gratuitous, and demeans/degrades the audience. It does nothing in this film either to explain or help us understand the character of the abuser or the abused. Really disappointing.

The opening sequence was so "artsy"--reminded me of James Bondian openings with an artsy twist, and also seemed absolutely gratuitous.

There were two quite well-realized parts of the American version, however, that saved the film and helped me want to see the next story: the actor who played the ultimate villain in the film (don't want to reveal who for those yet to view the film) did a fine job, and the script/storyline certainly made more sense than the script/storyline for this character in the Swedish film.

And, as has been written elsewhere, the final scene for Lisbeth left me wanting to see how her tentative steps toward this relationship play out.

So, I remain a bit hooked; but truly disappointed by the facile Americanizations of the sets and story in this film version. Another tiny example of gratuitous detail: the beautiful line ring worn by Lisbeth that crosses several fingers. I attended to the fashion; loved it; but it really did not fit the character at all. Instead, I wanted to grab my sketchbook and recall this detail for when I left the theatre. Gawd, display, display, display, when really, isn't the film supposed to be a mystery and a study of character, as all mysteries are?

Jan 22 - 06:27 AM

Andy Yaworski

Andy Yaworski

I have to agree with Joe. An elegantly economic summary of my views as well.

The performances of both the Swedish and Hollywood casts were outstanding. Fincher's film is much more graphic than the Swedish version, but that is due to European film audience's sensibilities on violence in general.

The Swedish version (if I recall correctly) didn't include the jacket purchase, but that may have been a choice by the producers who didn't know if they were going to get funding for the remaining films. The trilogy has been greenlit in Hollywood so the writer has much more latitude to include information that will set up the story of the second film.

I was struck by the fearlessness of Ms. Mara in her performance, nothing seemed to be taboo in playing this role and it served the performance well. I guess when your audition is the rape scene, you either have the chops for a gritty character or you don't.

For all the flag waving yankees defending this film because it was a Hollywood production, please heel yourselves. I find it amusing that some would insist the Swedes would not know how to adapt one of their own novels as well as hollywood. That's like saying the French could do a better version of Tom Sawyer, it's simply nonsense.

I believe Joe is right to compare both films against each other, after all they are the same media and damn near contemporaries. I also agree with Joe that the Swedish version is the "original" since it is the first film. Let's face reality, hollywood would not have bothered to make an Anglo version of the story had the "original" trilogy not been such a hit. There were no gunfights, car chases or nubile A-list actresses willing to bare their boobs to the camera to make the mortgage payment on the beach home. This is far too cerebral and about a "dirty little family secret" subject that makes most yankees squirm.

What hollywood will cash in on is the casual film goer who will never watch a subtitled film. THEY are the ones the studio execs are planning on profiting from and will.

Dec 31 - 06:31 PM

Barry Bozeman

Barry Bozeman

Since I own both the regular and extended Swedish films and both the print and Audible book that I've seen or listened to and read more than once.

This film version is quite enjoyable in every respect and there is nothing about it that is less compelling than the excellent Swedish films or the books. Fincher, Craig and Mara along with the rest of the cast and crew do justice to the material and it's easy to like them all. The books, films and the casts and crews.

It's so difficult to make a great version of a work that already has great versions.

Mar 20 - 07:52 AM

Cham Ferguson

Cham Ferguson

Whether this film is a remake of the Swedish film or not, if you saw the Swedish film (which was only released last year) then this film is pretty much a remake as it covers the same story. I could care less, as the story is crap. I didn't see the Swedish film, but I saw this one last week and enjoyed it enough but it wasn't anything great. The only thing making it worth seeing was Rooney Mara's performance. Other than that, nothing of interest. Not sure why the books are so popular.

Dec 31 - 09:26 PM

Gabriele Cookstown

Gabriele Cookstown

the original with Noomi has everything you need..I do not need an extended anal Rape Scene...the swedish version was hard to look at but enough that you didn't need a Fincher version...and Mara looks like a f$cked up Cancer Patient....I'm sure she watched Noomi's performance 10000000 times

Jan 1 - 07:43 AM

James Taylor

James Taylor

nope Mara actually said she had never seen the Swedish adaptation and only read the book.

Jan 1 - 09:04 AM

Andrew StClair

Andrew StClair

The Swedish film was shit. It was not what you needed to see. Hopefully the Fincher film was eradicate the horrible piece of garbage from history, and all fans of the Sweedy film will grow up and stop being idiots....

Jan 13 - 01:39 PM

Justin Chung

Justin Chung

This movie sucked.....

Jan 1 - 09:53 AM


Aaron Thomas

no u

Jan 20 - 10:37 AM

Justin Bramlett

Justin Bramlett

loved the swedish version until i read the books, when i read the books i went back and watch the swedish movies and i was very disapointed. they didn't live up to the books changed a bit and left alot out. Then this christmas saw the american version and was very pleased, they nailed it except changing up the end just a bit to tie it together.Great perfomance from rooney mara! loved her! saw it again and took a few friends and they loved it as well. sorry people but if you likedthe swedish one better you obviously have not read the books. can't till the sequals!!!!

Jan 18 - 07:33 AM

Justin Bramlett

Justin Bramlett

sorry my grammar is crap this morning, i just woke up!

Jan 18 - 07:35 AM

manuela o.

Tante Helen

great review. want to see it now thanks.

Jan 19 - 03:41 PM

Michael Collins

Michael Collins

Well I never read the book or saw the earlier movie, but I watched this one to see what was the hype. I like the mix of the main two characters.
Sort of like how the female is the tough one, tougher than James bond, and James bond in this movie is the female in a way. lol. There was no strong or intense acting except for from the victims, yet while watching I actually wanted to see what was going to happen in the end. So I stayed. I rarely do that when there are no fantasy monsters involved to keep my blood bubbling. lol.

Jan 20 - 01:43 PM

Pouya Baratian

Pouya Baratian

Exactly true thanks nothing new if u saw the original movie just new director and actors lol, hollywood is out of ideas they try to sell their movies by name of director and actors not better or even good movies

Jan 20 - 08:10 PM

T.J. Scholl

T.J. Scholl

"Just new director and actors" Wow, ignorance is bliss, isn't it?

Mar 19 - 08:07 PM

Barry Bozeman

Barry Bozeman

Impersonal? To you perhaps - and I find that to be rather incredible since you work for Rolling Stone

This film is personal to anyone who understands our battle with the powerful and corrupt. Particularly the Fascist Conservative Nazi types whose dementia is so recognizable. And particularly to those of us who applaud a woman who refuses to be a victim of men who have power over her or who abuse women.

I would think you could draw on the personal parallels between Millenium Magazine and Rolling Stone to get personally involved as a writer. I wonder what happened to you?

Mar 20 - 07:46 AM

Find us on:                     
Help | About | Jobs | Critics Submission | Press | API | Licensing | Mobile