I can’t help but think that the reason why we Americans are getting Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy novels a year behind the rest of the world is to give Hollywood time to prepare their own version of the movies. But if you don’t want to wait, the Swedish version of the first installment is in theaters right now. I went to check it out this weekend, and here’s what I’ll tell you.
Normally, I’m quick to advise against the Americanized version of a foreign film, as they tend to range from the unnecessary (Insomnia) to the offensive (Vanilla Sky). But even though this film is Swedish like the book, it’s still an adaption, and one without the benefit of the author (Stieg’s dead). So what’s the draw? Why bother?
It’s hard to predict what the American version will be like, but at least it will be filmed in English, meaning you won’t have to scan between the subtitles and picture. It’s also certain to have prettier actors, though I’m not sure I’d list that as a benefit. Me, myself, I am always excited by a movie where the people look like people, not like the plastic mannequins that line Sunset Boulevard. Not that Noomi Rapace is hard on the eyes, mind you. She’s a bit of a crime, really, being far more attractive than the character described in the book.
No doubt the biggest difference will be in realization of the book’s theme. A literal translation of the original title would be, “Men Who Hate Women.” In the Swedish movie, this is realized in a fair number of shocking scenes (right out of the book) that I can’t imagine any American producer signing off on. This violence, and how women deal with it, was the whole point of the book. We should expect, however, that like the original title, it will be lost in translation. So if you’re hoping to see the book faithfully realized onscreen, it’s probably worth living with the subtitles.
That said, perhaps the best argument is that the Swedish version is both good and in theaters right now. Considering how terrible this summer’s movie line-up has been so far, that alone should be a winning argument.