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Good but unnecessary. Fans of the excellent, original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo are unlikely to cozy up to the much-ballyhooed, Americanized David Fincher version, though it technically hits all the marks of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster novel and does so with all the brooding chilliness of a typical Fincher.
It kicks off with Karen O and Trent Reznor’s screeching (in a good way) cover of “Immigrant Song” and goes ever-so-slightly downhill from there. The plot — except for a tweak at the end — remains the same: Journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has just lost his money and his reputation in a libel suit when he’s recruited by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the patriarch of a wealthy business family, to help solve the possible murder of his niece 40 years ago. Mikael eventually takes on an assistant, the antisocial and wounded Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), an investigative hacker who’d been hired to dig up information on Mikael before Henrik approached him.
Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress who originated the role, will always be The Girl. But Mara is surprisingly serviceable, her button-cute baby face hardened by bleached eyebrows and Mom-cut black bangs. Lisbeth is a ward of the state, having been in and out of institutions since she was a child with a record of violence. And Mara is appropriately Goth and tough, her Lisbeth believably fighting back ugly when ugliness first confronts her. But it appears that screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Moneyball) doesn’t trust the audience to quite get it: “They say I’m insane,” he feeds into Mara’s mouth. “I am insane.” Noted.
Craig, too, goes through all the correct motions, with his Mikael deviating only slightly from the actor’s usual strong-but-silent types by showing a little uneasiness and uncertainty now and then. (Though really, his only edge on the Swedish version’s Michael Nyqvist is that you won’t spend the film thinking, Hmm, that guy kinda looks like Daniel Craig.) He and Mara make an intriguing investigative team, but only newbies will be enraptured by the story. To the rest, it’s all just a retread, and Fincher doesn’t bring enough of an interesting twist — in fact, there’s really no twist at all — to make this Dragon Tattoo worth the 158-minute sit.