Last night, advance screenings of Screen Gems‘ “Straw Dogs” around the country were preceded by a pleasant/nasty surprise from parent company Sony, in the form of an eight-minute preview of David Fincher‘s Feel-Bad Movie Of Christmas, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” While it was cut together like a trailer, and it may surface online, it was strictly for the hardcore fans, and, while un-spoilery, did indeed lean towards the R-rated end of the spectrum.
The footage begins with Henrik Vagner (Christopher Plummer) receiving a series of familiar packages, the latest in what we’re told is a long line arriving over the course of several years. Enter Rooney Mara’s physically brittle, possibly coke-using Lisbeth Salander. She offers no opinion on her latest research target, Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), though, when prodded, she provides a few juicy secrets about the rogue journalist, specifically his cunnilingus methods. She does conclude that he’s honest. And yes, in case you were wondering, the footage pretty much follows the story, look, and texture of the original films, albeit with that Fincher sheen, that swift attention to detail and sense of overwhelming dread.
At this point, Vanger meets with Blomkvist, telling him his subjects are, “Thieves, liars, bullies, the most detestable people you’ll ever meet. My family.” He tells the story of young Harriet, the missing girl who shapes the narrative, which involves what seem to be extensive flashbacks featuring Julian Sands as a young Henrik. From that footage, we move to the first confrontation between Lisbeth and her abusive parole officer, who offers her freedom in exchange for a few gropes, which is a little rougher to watch than it is in the original, Mara’s features being much softer than the angular Noomi Rapace.
From then on, it’s a montage of clues and suspense sequences, as Blomkvist interviews various members of the Vanger clan, including Anita Vanger (Joely Richardson) and Martin Vanger (Stellan Skarsgard), both of whom seem unamused by this roving reporter. As we’re introduced to the familiar number clues from the original, Blomkvist is teamed with Lisbeth, despite his shock after learning she had previously investigated him. He enters her apartment forcefully, and, in Bond-ian fashion, quietly commands, “Why don’t you put some clothes on, get rid of your girlfriend?” as a lover clumsily falls out of bed, the second of this footage’s references to Lisbeth’s bisexuality. Then, Craig’s Blomkvist drops the trailer-ready line, “I want you to help me catch a killer, of women.” Oooh!
From that moment, it’s another montage, showcasing the film’s action sequences, including an exploding barn and a memorably mangled, dying man. The entire preview seemed to be scored by Trent Reznor, with a thick, moody droning sound giving way to, at the end of the clip, a staccato synth drum rhythm that was abrasively industrial, a sign that we’re in less poppy territory than Reznor’s work on “The Social Network.”
The good news is, the footage definitely shows that Fincher is working within his wheelhouse, and the film will be visually dynamic, with rain that drips off the screen, and snow that seems oppressive and borderline violent. The bad news is, the footage seems so similar to the original that, beyond dopey commercial reasons (“OMG SUBTITLEZ” says a nation of xenophobes), it doesn’t yet feel like it has a reason to exist. And with the story remaining so similar (although we saw locations suggesting that portions of the second film/book would creep into this version, but that may be our own faulty memory), we’re still waiting to see what Fincher and writer Steve Zallian have done to the original narrative to make it their own (we already know the ending has been changed). “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” opens December 21st.