Dragon Tattoos And Flirting With Pointlessness

Right. So David Fincher’s remake of Neils Arden Oplev’s _The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo_ is out, and even the normally-hard-to-please Andrew O’Hehir isn’t entirely displeased with the product. For myriad reasons: Fincher’s cast adds “emotional depth;” the movie is “beautifully engineered;” it possesses a “depth and subtlety” that was perhaps absent in the Stieg Larsson’s novel; all resulting in “an ingenious and engrossing work of pop cinema.” Still, all these encomiums are powerless to prevent “a wave of ennui” from washing over our critic. Two more remakes? Is this is the best way for Fincher to spend his time?

I feel similarly drenched by ennui, and I haven’t even seen the movie yet. This induced lassitude finds its springs not just, however, in the thought that a beloved auteur might be wasting his time when he could be turning his film-making attentions elsewhere. Rather, I am struck, in general, by the pointlessness of remakes that hew so closely to the original’s plot, setting and visual grammar. For all the differences noted by O’Hehir in his review, it is pretty clear–from the trailer and various clips I’ve seen–that Fincher’s remake aspires to the Scandinavian setting and aura of the original, that the plot is, twist-for-twist, turn-for-turn (till the end) the same, and that many frames are replicants of the Swedish-language version. This high degree of fidelity to the original in the copy seems to be a waste of possibilities galore.

Why not, for instance, set the action elsewhere? In Argentina following the Dirty War? Or in South Africa during the apartheid days? Change the hacking to other forms of system-cracking and surveillance? All the while retaining the central themes of political and moral corruption, misogyny, unlikely alliances, and social violence? The richness of the cinematic medium and the palette of tools it affords the talented movie-maker cry out for more ingenious reconceptions of the written word than the mere path-following involved in remakes such as Fincher’s.

Fincher should take O’Hehir’s concern for how he spends his time seriously; if he does feel compelled to remake the remaining parts of Larsson’s trilogy, he should consider Oplev to have “been there, done that” and turn his not-inconsiderable talents to more imaginative reworkings than this sort of mimicry.

Update: replaced “hue” with “hew”; classic, embarrassing typo.

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