Sunday, January 15, 2012

I'm always fascinated by book to movie adaptations. They so often feel wrong, of course, to the reader. But they're so much fun, too. And I usually feel like half the fun is analyzing where the movie altered the story (the other half of the fun for me is popcorn, Cherry Coke and Sno-Caps).

MJ and I recently went with friends to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, I loved that book, even parts that others hated -- the in-depth explanations of financial fraud, the descriptions of sandwich combinations that don't commonly appear in the U.S., even the laundry list of items that Lisbeth bought at IKEA.  I know it wasn't perfect writing, that perhaps the novel could have done with some good editing, but it made me feel like I was there in Sweden, a place I've never been to, and I valued that.  And it was also just a heck of a story; there was no way I could have stopped reading. So I had very low expectations for the film; how does a movie adaptation ever compete with a book you thoroughly enjoyed?

The movie is brilliant. 

It's a long film, but it does a great job of compressing the book: simplifying a storyline here, changing a location here to reduce the timeline of Blomkvist's investigation, wrapping up all that financial fraud into a few quickly explained sentences. Sure, the latter is a huge simplification, but no one but me and a few other financial geeks cared anyway. The acting was spot-on, and the cinematography striking (though there is a James Bond reminiscent series of opening credits that didn't jive with the movie at all, but that's quickly enough forgotten).  

There were some funny little differences from the book, one of them being the substitution of Lisbeth's beloved pan pizzas for McDonald's happy meals. However, given that Stiegg Larsson based her character on a dark Pippi Longstocking grown-up, I thought this was sort of a fun nod to Lisbeth's child-like side: the dangerous, brilliant hacker with a little red-and-yellow kid's meal.  

All in all, I'm glad I read the book. I'm glad I saw the movie. And rarely do I appreciate both at once.