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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is there any point in a Hollywood remake of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’?

As it always does, the inevitable has come to pass. The Swedish film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is getting the Hollywood treatment. Never mind that the original film is a worldwide phenomenon that has earned more than $100 million worldwide, including more than $9 million in North America, which ranks it respectably as one of the biggest foreign-language films ever in the U.S. and Canada. Never mind: It doesn’t count if it’s not in English. Because while audiences around the planet are somehow able to cope perfectly well with subtitles, mainstream American audiences absolutely refuse to do so. (I’m not sure about Canadians. Any Canadian readers care to enlighten me?)

So there’s still money to be made from moviegoers who simply must hear a film in English. David Fincher is attached to direct; Carey Mulligan and Daniel Craig are rumored to be starring. Will it all feel pointless by the time the film is finally released, which isn’t projected to happen till 2012? Because by then, the entire trilogy — in Swedish — will have run its course: Tattoo was just released on DVD in North America, and its two sequels will have come and gone from theaters and ended up on DVD as well. (The Girl Who Played with Fire opens in the U.S. July 9, with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest following on October 15.)
I suspect that only those American film fans for whom foreign movies are even on their radar will notice. For everyone else, a vague memory of someone saying Fincher’s Tattoo is some sort of remake will be the most it impinges on their consciousness that Mulligan and Craig (if indeed they’re the cast that Fincher ends up with) are not the first actors to inhabit the roles of punk hacker Lisbeth Salander and left-wing journalist Mikael Blomkvist… if, indeed, the characters even end up with those same names. Those fans will exist in a happy oblivion, content in the “knowledge” that this is a brand-new movie, even if rumor has it that it’s based on a book. Which is another thing they don’t read.

The isolation of mainstream American movie audiences is really too bad. Ordinary film fans in Europe and Asia and Australia and all around the planet consume movies from, you know, all around the planet. But most Americans will bother only with films spit out by Hollywood. To them, only weird arthouse snobs read subtitles. They have no idea what they’re missing, and they don’t want to know. How anyone can consider themselves a film fan and cut themselves off from movies like this is a mystery to me.

Apart from appeasing American moviegoers, Is there any point in a Hollywood remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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  • MaSch

    Because while audiences around the planet are somehow able to cope perfectly well with subtitles, mainstream American audiences absolutely refuse to do so.

    So do mainstream German audiences: Foreign films get dubbed. Problem is that the dubbing usually is of such a high quality that only weirdos (like me) think they miss anything when not being able to watch the original version; it would be far more obvious if the German soundtrack would only be one person monotonously reading the text for each and every character, as is practiced in some East European countries, if I’m not wrong.

  • Rykker

    Apart from appeasing American moviegoers, Is there any point in a Hollywood remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

    Other than the current void of creativity which pervades the town, nope.
    So few of the original scripts being penned in Hollywood today are worth the paper they are printed on that the only recourse is to remake.

  • Ide Cyan

    Films get dubbed in Québec, too. I don’t know about the rest of Canada, but the French-language release of the Millénium trilogy (all three films have already been in theatres) has been quite successful here, and we got the first two films out in Region 1 DVD & Blu-Ray ages before the anglophone market did.

  • surreyhill

    I’m a big fan of the novel and am going to have to rent the DVD, which I have seen nothing but praise for, including your review I enjoyed reading last night.

    I just don’t see Craig here, I just don’t. The remake is inevitable, though. The book sold a ton here and has a built-in audience if it comes off the art house circuit.

  • Nate

    You know, I really don’t think Americans would be resistant to foreign language films if major studios actually gave them a shot. We’ve seen successes in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Pan’s Labyrinth. Not to mention Inglourious Basterds became Tarantino’s highest grossing film even though 75% of the dialogue wasn’t in English.

    The problem with foreign films grabbing a US audience is that most studios aren’t willing to take the risk, so a movie like TGWTDT has to be distributed by a small studio like Music Box Films and receives little advertising as a result. The fact that it still managed $9 million is pretty amazing, to be honest.

  • doa766

    the idea of an american remake gets more attractive once you see the sequels (you can import both DVDs for about $40), as much as I liked the first movie both sequels sucked

    first the have a different director who’s clearly not as good as the one from the first, also all the plot is about Lisbeth’s backstory, they don’t work on any other cases, and most importantly, she becomes a cliche:

    on the first there’s a passing reference to her being bisexual, on the sequel she has a full frontal lesbian scene that could be featured on a porno, on the first on the can hold her ground when she’s attacked, on the sequels she will (while unarmed) destroy anyone who comes after her

    there’s also the big sequel problem where scenes from the first movie are replayed and new stuff arises where there was nothing before (like on spiderman 3 where what happened when his uncle died on the first one was revisited and changed to include the new bad guy)

  • Nate

    The isolation of mainstream American movie audiences is really too bad. Ordinary film fans in Europe and Asia and Australia and all around the planet consume movies from, you know, all around the planet. But most Americans will bother only with films spit out by Hollywood. To them, only weird arthouse snobs read subtitles. They have no idea what they’re missing, and they don’t want to know. How anyone can consider themselves a film fan and cut themselves off from movies like this is a mystery to me.

    I also really have a problem with this statement. Go to Box Office Mojo’s International site and you’ll see that tastes abroad really don’t differ that much from ours. The top grossers are usually the same mixture of typical Hollywood blockbusters and domestic fare.

    It’s because of the international audience that 2012 was able to turn a profit.

  • doa766

    for the american version maybe they should move the action to Alaska, like with the remake of Let the Right One In

    it will create some problems but it would be better than if they take place on Sweden and the actors speak english with swedish accent

  • Sarah

    Not sure blaming the audience is the fairest course here. There’s little incentive for an audience to acclimate themselves to subtitles if such movies are nearly always dubbed or remade into English by the time they get to a geographically convenient theater. Not everyone lives in New York or LA.

  • Erik

    I know that foreign (for them) films in Poland are also dubbed into Polish (very, very badly from what I saw), so it isn’t just in America, as others have pointed out.

    I have always had a love/hate relationship with subtitles. One of the things I always enjoy watching in movies is the actor’s eyes. I’m sorry, but when you’re reading the dialogue, you can’t watch the actor’s eyes as well and see everything they are conveying. Then again, I also want to hear them acting in their own voice, hence the love/hate. I once tried to watch “Run Lola Run” dubbed (figuring since it was such a visual movie, it wouldn’t matter), but the dubbing was so horrific, I lasted only a couple of minutes before switching back to subtitles.

    Then there is the fact that, to me, half the charm of old Godzilla movies is the bad dubbing. They just aren’t as fun subtitled. Oh, and if anyone has a chance to see the ’90s Gamera movies with the “Lake Texarkana Gamera” dubbing, do so, it is absolutely hilarious.

    Regarding the original question, with that director and cast, I not only do not have a problem with it getting remade, it is one of my most anticipated movies on the radar now. I have a feeling this question was not asked back in the day when it was announced John Huston & Humphrey Bogart would be remaking “The Maltese Falcon” so shortly after the original was made. As long as true talent is involved, go for it. In cases like the recent “Death at a Funeral,” not so much. Besides, it’s not like the Swedish version will suddenly disappear off the face of the earth, it will still be there to watch and go back to and give many people a feeling of superiority that they knew about it first.

    Besides, considering the crap we’ve had in the theaters this summer, I don’t care how they do it, I just want some decent movies again. Give me a remake of a Swedish film over “Jonah Hex” please.

  • LaSargenta

    Pointless.

    Not worth my time to engage in the dubbing vs. subtitling argument.

    I just think that remakes are pointless if the first one was good. This goes for foreign-language-to-english just as much as older-to-new-version.

    My list of utterly wasteful remaking:

    Cousin, Cousine to Cousins
    Mutiny on the Bounty (Gable) to Mutiny on the Bounty (Brando)
    Les Visiteurs to The Visitors
    Wings of Desire to City of Angels (This one was more than just pointless…it was a travesty!)
    Dial M for Murder to A Perfect Murder
    La Femme Nikita to whatever that piece of shit was with Brigit Fonda in the early 90’s
    Sabrina (Audrey Hepburn) to Sabrina (that woman who was totally miscast as Smilla in Smilla’s Sense of Snow)

    The list goes on and on and on.

    Maybe I’m willing to cut Omega Man to I Am Legend some slack. Will Smith is a much better actor than Charlton Heston.

  • Nate

    But what of The Departed? If we’re willing to excuse Scorsese, why not Fincher?

  • Chris

    Who cares? The Swedish version is a fine film and hopefully the Fincher version will be also. The book has become quite popular in America these last 12 months and with an American audience the movie would stand to make $200 million or more along with additional revenue from worldwide box office. Thats more money for the Larsson estate. Not a bad deal if you ask me.

  • LaSargenta

    But what of The Departed? If we’re willing to excuse Scorsese, why not Fincher?

    Wasn’t that a remake of that Hong Kong film with Tony Leung Mu Gan Du? Did I excuse it? Did anyone here? That was a great flick. I didn’t see the Departed. Was it so great that it eclipsed the original (which was an awesome film) and gave us something truly new? I doubt it.

    The list I made up above is entirely my ‘top ten’ of pointless remakes, completely subjectivly chosen out of what is probably a huge potential pool. Those are movies I saw or was forced to see. The remake of Wings of Desire pissed me off so badly that I not only wanted to punish everyone involved in making City of Angels but the person who dragged me there, too.

  • Nate

    Wasn’t that a remake of that Hong Kong film with Tony Leung Mu Gan Du? Did I excuse it? Did anyone here? That was a great flick. I didn’t see the Departed. Was it so great that it eclipsed the original (which was an awesome film) and gave us something truly new? I doubt it.

    MAJ did, and I certainly am; granted I haven’t seen Infernal Affairs.

    Remakes have been mostly pointless because they’re usually just money cash grabs by studios who hire no-name directors and mediocre actors. If you have an auteur director in charge of it, there’s usually a much better chance it’ll stand on its own. I haven’t heard anyone make a fuss about the Coen brothers’ remake of True Grit opening late this year.

  • LaSargenta

    granted I haven’t seen Infernal Affairs.

    if you have a chance to, I really recommend it. I like a lot of the Hong Kong cinema, especially their noir. This was a great film.

    I think that often when we (in the english language hegemony) hear of someone complaining, it means that A LOT of people have already been complaining for it to have reached critical mass to reach our ears.

    I hadn’t heard about True Grit getting remade, but I think I’ll be skipping that as it seems like it would end up on my list of Pointless Remakes, too. Not particularly fond of the Coens, either.

  • Erik

    Frankly, I don’t care as long as we get a good movie. Just because something was a foreign film first, doesn’t automatically mean it was better which seems to be the usual opinion. Granted, it is helped along by flicks like “City of Angels” which taught me what it is to hurt. (I could not agree with you more, LaSargenta) At least with that steaming pile, I was able to tell my friends who shared my pain to check out “Wings of Desire” and they were all the better for it. This is also the case with most bad remakes, it makes it easier to get the relatively unkown originals in front of people which is a good thing.

    “The Departed” is a great example of a good movie being made out of a remake. In my opinion, the remake of “The Ring” is better than the original Japanese version (gee, how handy that EVERY ONE of the main characters is psychic! Hooray!). I just want good movies. I don’t get pissed when people do covers of songs either (well, Vanilla Ice pissed me off, but at least he quickly went away) as I still have the originals to listen to and sometimes the covers are pretty damned good, if not better than the originals (Joan Jett’s “Crimson & Clover,” The Beatles “Twist & Shout,” Johnny Cash’s “Hurt,” Anything Ray Charles ever covered).

  • Erik

    And lest we forget the Turkish “Star Wars” and “Batman,” not to mention the Japanese King Kong movies. While fasinating in their blissful ineptitude, they are all pretty damn craptacular. We aren’t the only ones to make a mess of foreign films.

  • I_Sell_Books

    At least it’s Fincher who’s directing. Hey, it could have been McG! There are some remakes that aren’t too bad, The Departed was pretty good (though you must first see Infernal Affairs, which is pretty mind-bendy), as was The Ring (though not as freakin’ creepy as the original). The Visitors…not so much. Oh, and for anybody who like Kenneth Branagh’s Wallander, I’m sorry to report that it isn’t a patch on the Swedish version.

    Anyway, I’ll watch it when it comes my way, but if it’s good enough, I’ll still recommend it.

  • Lenina Crowne

    “Wasn’t that a remake of that Hong Kong film with Tony Leung Mu Gan Du? Did I excuse it? Did anyone here? That was a great flick. I didn’t see the Departed. Was it so great that it eclipsed the original (which was an awesome film) and gave us something truly new? I doubt it.”

    Haven’t seen either film, but from what I understand, significant changes were made, the tone of The Departed was quite different than that of Internal Affairs.

    Remakes can sometimes be better than the original. The Thing, for example. But something like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo should not be remade. Remakes are usually better because they take the material in a different direction to try and improve on it somehow, and right now, I can only imagine Hollywood taking it in the following direction:

    “Let’s take all that unseemly business about the misogyny out; audiences don’t like all that thinky stuff and we don’t want to alienate the all-important fratboy douchebag demographic by making this be all about broads and their lady problems. That Salamander character had some violent stuff happen to her in the past, yeah? That’s good, but in the original movie the violence wasn’t nearly sexy enough. Let’s have her get raped in sexy lacy negligee while Ave Maria plays in the background so that the viewer knows how poetic it is to watch a woman be brutalized. Let’s focus on the man more. Maybe a scene where she’s lying naked in the rain and he finds her there. But we’ll have her wearing skintight black leather so everyone knows how edgy we are”.

    I haven’t seen the movie or read the book, this is just going by MAJ’s review. So if any of that stuff actually happens in the original, I apologize.

    I agree with everyone above: it’s not really fair to blame the audiences for cutting themselves off when a lot of the time it’s really not their fault. If you don’t live in a place with arthouse theatres, you might not get the opportunity.

  • Erik

    Well, Fincher is directing it, and he gave us some very un-Hollywood movies with “Seven,” “Fight Club” & “Zodiac”. I mean, just in “Zodiac,” we have an almost three hour movie where all the action happens in the first half hour then it’s all about two groups of people trying to solve a case…that they never solve, no grand finale, no intense emotional breakdowns, any of the standard cliches, and he made one hell of an intense movie. He has earned my trust for this flick.

  • Omega Man to I Am Legend

    Is the Will Smith thing considered a remake of The Omega Crap? I’d viewed it as a case of ‘Well, the first two adaptations of the novel didn’t work, so let’s start up the fail-train one more time!’

  • Boingo

    I reside in the State of Hawaii, where we host an
    International Film Festival. At the time, there is a
    spike in articles about a few visiting filmmakers,etc.
    But for the majority of the year, we are held captives
    to basically 2 corporate theater networks-all showing the same crap at the same time. The economy has killed
    the art house theaters. There presently is only one
    venue on the major populated island of Oahu.

    The Hollywood marketing machine pumps more bucks
    into their releases, so an overwhelming amount of
    theater goers will hear about this English release. Though I wish more could have seen the
    Swedish version, I’m glad the crowds will be exposed
    to “whatever version(provided they don’t butcher it).”

    I’m only sorry Larsson didn’t live to see his work
    enjoyed by countless millions.

  • As a movie buff living in Canada, it is maddening to encounter people who fear subtitles. Some complain, “I can’t read that quickly.” That’s about as much sense the subtitle-phobics will make. More so than this doozy: “I don’t go to the movies to read.”

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