The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Alice
Okay, I’m cheating a little since Alice is actually a 3-hour Syfy mini-series, but I watched it as a single movie rather than as a two or three-part show, so I’m reviewing it like it’s a movie. Deal with it. Alice follows the adventures of its eponymous hero as she pursues her boyfriend’s kidnappers, who have pulled him through a mirror into a weird world of vast forests, a huge lake, a city built in a precarious pile (like something from Inception) and a casino that looks like the house on the poster for Cabin in the Woods. She soon discovers that she’s in Wonderland and the tale proceeds from there. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the Swedish adaptation of the Steig Larsson novel by the same name. You can read my review of the novel if you need a plot synopsis. A few thoughts:
- Both films give us characters who are both head-strong, self-assured, and able to defend themselves. Where Lisbeth finds no end of abuse and has learned to fight because of it, Alice seems to know karate so that it makes sense that she can punch her way out of situations when she needs to. It’s a pretty satisfying way to make fight scenes, actually.
- When you adapt a work from a well-known book, you always have to make choices about how to carry the story forward. Alice’s producers, well aware of the vast history the text has already being adapted, went for a new look and a twisty version of the tale. The elements from the original books are there, but slightly different. It’s enjoyable to see the references to the other work, and at the same time not to be chained down by the adaptation. Girl‘s producers, on the other hand, did their best to develop their story directly, providing a pretty straight translation of many aspects of the story. A few pieces of the investigation into the missing niece were shortened by necessity, but overall, it’s a straight translation of the novel. Both films mentioned here are less prominent adaptations of the tale than the ones that have come out more recently (namely David Fincher’s Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and Tim Burton’s Alice). I haven’t seen either of these newer films. Perhaps I will watch both near each other and review them together as well.
- Each heroine has a male helper who hovers on the edge of being a romantic interest. Hatter, played cute and emo (or pop-punk), is a shifty grifter who mans up when he realizes how important it is to help Alice. Over the course of the film, Alice comes to share his feelings for her, in straight up Hollywood fashion. Blomkvist is a womanizer (though not a cruel one) whose respectful approach to Lisbeth and awareness of her damaged emotional state doesn’t keep him from sleeping with her once she proposes it.
- When the filmmakers decide to make changes, they do a good job with it. In Alice, they decide to add a resistance force whom Alice must decide to trust or not. In Girl, they don’t explain Lisbeth’s anger with Blomkvist, something that becomes a major factor in their relationship in the next two books. I’ll be interested to see how they approach that in the next films.
Both stories are decent, with reasonable acting. Alice isn’t all that memorable, and wouldn’t make a “worth re-watching” list for me, but it has charming twists to the original story and quite a few actors you’ll recognize (Tim Curry, Kathy Bates, Harry Dean Stanton, Matt Frewer, and Colm Meaney). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very good film, a tight adaptation of the novel with really good acting and regular looking people (rather than the shiny, gorgeous stars Hollywood finds to make such movies). I’m looking forward to watching the other two films in the cycle, and then will wait to watch the Hollywood adaptations until all three have been made.