From Novel To Film: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:  Review of the Book, the Swedish Film, and the New English Film, in tandem
**Disclaimer:  This will contain spoilers, as I am comparing the book to both films.  Ergo, if you have not read the book yet, then I would probably avoid this review.  Consider yourself warned.

 As an avid lover of the Millennium book series, it was extremely interesting to see it put on the big screen.  I have watched all three of the Swedish films (which are phenomenal, by the way), so naturally when I heard that they were making an English version, I was ecstatic!  I patiently waited a year for this film, tracking its progress and watching the trailers as soon as they were posted on youtube.  And this past week I finally marched to the theatre line and walked in to see this film.  And it was so incredibly good!  =) 
This review, which just happens to be my first review, is actually going to be a “from book to film” (or in this case, films) kind of review, so it is structured a little bit different than normal.  But I have broken down my comments into general categories, with the corresponding commentary to follow.
Thus, my review. 
Rooney Mara
Lisbeth Salander:  After seeing Noomi in all three of the movies, I must admit I was very worried about an unknown Rooney Mara in the new movie.  However, she pleasantly surprised me with her obvious dedication to the role (including multiple real piercings).  Both her and Noomi do a fantastic job of showcasing the many emotions (or lack thereof) that Lisbeth experiences in the book.  They are both strong female leads who encompass the Lisbeth of the novel so very well.  I give 5 stars to both of them.  =)
Michael vs. Daniel.

Mikael Blomkvist:  Oh em gee Daniel Craig.  For serious, I really do not think they could have casted a better man to play the role of Blomkvist.  He is attractive, confident, determined, and dedicated.  Plus he’s sexy as hell. 😉   Swedish Blomkvist is very similar to Daniel Craig in my opinion, just a bit older.  And he’s a pretty good actor as well.  He is very intriguing to watch on screen, and plays just as convincing a Blomkvist as Daniel Craig. 
Henrik Vanger:  Swedish Henrik is a lot more of how I pictured the character of Henrik as I was reading the novel.  He is a weak but gentle old man.  English Henrik is more bold and too strong of a personality in my opinion to play the sweet old man who is so worried about what happened to his niece.
Bjurman:  Creepy character, played by two creepy men.  English Bjurman is a curly-haired chubby man  who looks like a nice man, yet has that creepy smile and just general bad vibe.  Swedish Bjurman is an older man with a really creepy mustache.  Both men were cast pretty well to depict the hateful man that the novel unveils.  He is supposed to be a very good citizen kind of man with a very secretive sadistic personality, and both actors really encompass this on the screen, almost too much.  It really is disturbing to watch. 
Erika Berger:  For some reason, neither film really captured the woman I saw while reading the series.  To me, the book portrays Erika as this strong, confident, and poised middle-aged woman, and I just didn’t see her in either of the chosen actresses.  But as she is only a minor character in the movies, it doesn’t really affect the movie so much. 
Martin Vanger:  As I was reading the book, I really didn’t view him as an ugly villain, but rather a handsome and charismatic, almost presidential-like.  Swedish Martin does not capture this image for me like English Martin does.  Swedish Martin is waaay too squimish and timid(much like Wormtail in Harry Potter), not at all the strong and confident character Martin Vanger should be.  English Martin played his role perfectly.    

The Mikael/Lisbeth chemistry:  There is a lot of chemistry, sexual tension, and general respect between the two of the in the novel, and you can’t really help but love them together, as odd as it may be.  The Swedish film, to me, fails at capturing the true essence of their relationship—it stays pretty much surface the entire time.   However, the English version—well, can you say hot?!  Yeah.  It was hot, and very real to me.  Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, however odd a pair, really pull off the very delicate relationship that is Mikael and Lisbeth, and they do it while staying true to Larsson’s written characters.  Props to them, I say. 
The Setting:
Honestly, I just love the way that the Swedish film lays out the map of all of the places.  That film really mirrored exactly how I imagined it while reading.  Not downgrading the new English film, but the cabin Mikael stays in and the Millennium office were just a little off. 
Plot Differences:
The main plot difference in both the Swedish and the English version do that is different from the novel is almost completely taking Cecilia out.  She makes only a small appearance in both movies.  In the novel, she becomes Mikael’s confidant and lover for almost half the time he is living in Hedestad.  But both movies remove her involvement with the plotline, just down to a very short “Hello, I’m Cecilia” scene.
The biggest change that occurs in the English film would have to be the way that Harriett is found.  She is not, in fact, living in Australia as a rancher as she should be.  Rather, she is posing as the real Anita Vanger in London.  Yet this change doesn’t really matter in the long run.  It was just one of those changes that directors make to simplify the plot.

 I did love that the English film included Blomkvist’s daughter exactly how she appears in the book, very little screen time, but a really big impact on the plotline.  The Swedish film leaves her out completely.

A small change in the English film is that Lisbeth’s mother is not included.  Instead, they include Palmgreen in the nursing home, with Lisbeth visiting him rather than her sick mother.  These visits with Palmgreen do not happen until book two of the series.  But again, not really that big of a difference overall.  Just a little detail worth mentioning. 


Let me be both nerdy and out of my league for a moment (for I have very limited knowledge and experience with the art of filmmaking).  Overall, the best cinematography award goes to the newly released English version.  The film was just filled with beautiful shots the really capture both the emotion and the essence of what is going on in a very skilled and artistic way that is very invigorating for the audience.  But I love the way that the Swedish film captured certain moments, even more so than the English version. 
For example, the scene where Mikael first moves into the cabin, and he is taking a tour of the island with Henrik and learning about the different members of the family, the Swedish film just does a much better job of capturing that moment.  For one, they actually walk around the island, with flashes to the cabin wall where Mikael tapes the pictures of each member.  The English film merely has Mikael and Henrik standing in his driveway and looking at each house. 

I think both films did a fantastic job of incorporating flashbacks and voiceovers of Harriett.  It really allows the viewer to feel like they can know Harriett like readers can in the book. 
Specifically for the English film, I really loved how it incorporated all of the background with the trial and what happens when Wennestrom is exposed through the news reports and paper headlines.  The Swedish film does this to an extent, but I thought that the English film did a spectacular job at really including a lot of details that otherwise couldn’t be included, especially when Mikael is reading all of the old police reports and highlighting on the screen so that the audience can read along with him.  Pure brilliance, there. 

And, as a mention of pure genius and mystery with the cinematography, the plastic bag over Daniel Craig’s face during the torture scene was just plain brilliant.  And I have absolutely no idea how they accomplished that.
The last minute of the English movie was exactly 100% like the book, which I absolutely adored.  The beauty of the emotion Rooney as Lisbeth expresses is so perfect and so exactly how it happens in the novel.   The last minute of the Swedish film is Mikael realizing that Lisbeth stole all of Wennestrom’s money and shows her in the tropics, which doesn’t happen in this book.  As far as endings go, English version takes the whole cake.

Overall Thoughts:
I love the books, and I love the films.  All of them, and both versions.  And I am really excited for the other two to be made with the new cast.  I am looking forward to seeing Rooney Mara grow as Lisbeth, and I am always up for seeing Daniel Craig on the big screen.  =) 


On a novel to film job well done.

Up Next on the Review Log:  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

One thought on “From Novel To Film: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  1. The Librarian says:

    I love The Millennium Trilogy. Although I've only seen the first (swedish)movie, but I've read all three books. Great comparison of both movies to the book. Now that I think about it, the swedish Martin did seem a little wormtail like. It bugged me that they changed up the part :finding Harriet in autralia, i was surprised when he called Anita "Harriet".

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