It’s hard to fault the video presentation of Fincher’s version of Dragon Tattoo on this Region Free UK Blu-ray release. Presented in stunning 1080p High Definition, in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen, detail is fantastic throughout, from the clinical close-ups; the frequent study of photographs and journals; skin textures; and clothing weaves, through to the longer panoramic vistas which establish the monochrome palette as being as symbolic of the harsh narrative as much as it is of the bleak setting. There’s no obvious digital issues here, a hint of banding arising but no overt edge enhancement and certainly no unruly DNR tinkering to impinge upon your viewing pleasure. The colour scheme is, as you might have guessed, almost monochromatic, although there are plenty of dashes of vibrant colour on offer, thrown in to juxtapose the winter settings which do, in the fullness of time, evolve into warm spring tones. Throughout the piece the colours remain strongly presented, even if it’s clear that the director intended this movie to look as bleak as the material feels. Consequently the piece relies heavily on blacks and thankfully shadow detail and black levels are outstanding. The film certainly looks brilliant, a far cry from the original Swedish piece, even if this itself does not make up for the lack of originality.
You’ll be similarly impressed with the accompanying DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track which is resoundingly good, easily demo quality, and immersively impressive right from the outset. Trent Reznor’s credits sequence track will certainly get your attention and set the mood, but it’s not all about overpowering you, there’s plenty of subtlety to the material’s sound design, and the track picks up on ambient nuances as much as it does the basstastic bombast, providing viewers with a thoroughly engaging and wholeheartedly atmospheric mix that is near flawless. Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, and effects are finely observed across the spectrum, with excellent directionality and separation, noteworthy use of fronts and rears, and some eager LFE support, which kicks into its own during the moments when the superb score takes over, thundering out an oppressive bassline that mimics the narrative’s darker undertones. Superb.
Although this release is packed-to-the-hilt with extra features – so much so that there’s a second disc dedicated entirely to them – it’s quite strange that, amidst them all, there are no Deleted Scenes. Theoretically, one could suppose that Fincher only shot what he wanted, and didn’t cut anything out, but unfortunately he himself has admitted to the Deleted Scenes being available during the Commentary he provides for the movie, so I guess we’ll have to wait for a potential Extended Cut one day. Furthermore the piecemeal format of the extras makes you wonder whether they wouldn’t have been perfect for an IME / Maximum Movie Mode enhanced option a la 300: The Complete Experience. Still, there’s everything else here you could possibly want – even if it is all a little bitty – and more than enough to assume that this is the definitive Dragon Tattoo release for the time being, at least until all three remakes are complete and a collector’s trilogy box comes out.
DISC ONE – THE FILM
Audio Commentary with Director David Fincher takes us through the entire production, from the innovative opening titles to that rape sequence; from the locations chosen to the cast and their performances, noting the difficulty working with the unusual narrative structure – five acts rather than your usual three – as well as the sheer logistics of this heavily plotted investigative mystery drama. For fans of the movie, and fans of the director, it’s definitely worth a listen, even if I’d have personally liked him to have been a little bit more respectfully observant of the significance of the original Swedish movies.
DISC TWO – SUPPLEMENTS
The second disc, dedicated entirely to HD extras, is split into several different sections which are, themselves, further split into numerous sub-sections.
Men Who Hate Women is a 7-minute Featurette which offers up an overview of Larsson’s books and characters – in particular Lisbeth – with input from all of the main cast and crew on this topic.
Characters – Lisbeth Salander
Casting Salander kick-starts this sub-section with a quarter-hour Featurette that has the cast and crew discussing the choice of Rooney Mara for the role, her previous work with Fincher, what she brought to the character here, the efforts she made to prepare for the role, and the affect that it has had on her career – both good and bad (i.e. having to stay shaven-headed for a number of months if not years).
Different in Every Way further accompanies this first Featurette with a 5-minute look into the character of Lisbeth, what makes her tick, what her skills are, and what made her the way she is.
The Look of Salander takes a further near-fifteen minutes to look specifically at how they brought Lisbeth to life visually, complete with styled, dyed and bleached hair, piercings all over the face and body, tattoos and hours of makeup, topped off with very specific bulldog-collar leather outfits.
Mara/Fincher has the director and lead actress on mutual back-patting form, chatting about one-another’s dedication to the project for a brief 4 minutes.
Irene Nesser takes six-and-a-half minutes to look at Lisbeth’s alter-ego (the character who looks much more like Mara does naturally), and how they transformed her between the two parts.
Salander Test Footage rounds off this section with a brief, three-minute look at some test footage shot by Fincher on the streets of Los Angeles, where he got Mara to wander around in-character.
Characters – Mikael Blomkvist
Casting Blomkvist kick-starts this sub-section with a 7-minute look at the choice of Craig for the role, what interested him in the part, and how Fincher tried to make him co-lead with Mara’s Salander, and thus maintain the importance of his character.
Daniel Craig on Film Acting spends a further four minutes with Bond, talking about what he does to get into character (although not, unfortunately, addressing his random on-again, off-again accent).
Dressing Blomkvist is another bitty 3-minute piece which shows how they tried to dress Blomkvist in a way that would distinguish him from Craig’s other big alter-ego, Bond.
Investigation (Stills) rounds off this part with a gallery split into four sections: In the Cottage, Anita in the Window, Harriet at the Parade, and Vanger Newsletter.
Characters – Martin Vanger
Stellan Skarsgard on Acting spends 3 minutes with the actor talking about what he does to bring his characters to life.
Psychopathy has Skarsgard talk about psychopaths for 6 minutes, and discuss how to play one.
Bondage offers up a 5-minute look at the specific design of the choking device used during the torture sequence.
Torture accompanies this with a 4 minute look at how they shot this specific scene.
Wrapped in Plastic offers up a further 5 minutes related to this scene, looking specifically on how they shot first-person POV with a plastic bag over the character’s head.
Set Design (Stills) rounds off this second with another 4-part gallery: Hedestad, Vanger Estate, Vanger Attic and Harald’s Den.
On Location – Sweden
Stockholm Syndrome kick-starts this section with an 18-minute look at why they decided to stick to Sweden as a location – as they felt that it was integral to many aspects of the book – as well as the pros and cons of filming there, and the impact that the Dragon Tattoo books and subsequent adaptations have had on the Swedish film industry.
Stockholm’s Tunnelbana spends 6 minutes with the cast and crew talking about the early Salander scene where she gets mugged on the underground, and discussing the underlying social problems in Sweden and the general cultural attitude.
F*ck These People is the closest that we get to seeing a Deleted Scene, spending 6 minutes looking at a scene which was partially shot before filming was interrupted, and then had to be reworked and reshot in a different part of the movie.
The End takes 12 minutes to look at the conclusion of the movie.
Picture Wrap closes out this section with a 7-minute look at the end of filming in Sweden and the subsequent wrap party.
On Location – Hollywood
Casting Armansky dips back into the casting process for a 5 minute look at E.R.’s Goran Visnjic and how he got the part of Lisbeth’s boss at Milton Security.
Armansky Audition spends 7 minutes further detailing the casting process, with Visnjic working with Fincher in bringing the character to life.
Thinking Evil Sh*t spends 5 minutes looking at the camera angles used to perfect this unusual shot.
Rape/Revenge then spends a further 17 minutes detailing the film’s most traumatic sequences, discussing how they brought them to life and what they sought to deliver in terms of emotional punch.
Int. Blomkvist’s Cottage offers up a 6-minute look at shooting within this cottage and some of the more challenging aspects of the close confines, particularly for one key sequence.
Int. Martin’s House spends 8 minutes looking at Vanger’s glass-based house and how they shot some of the important scenes within it.
Int. Salander’s Apt. rounds out this trio of Featurettes with 3 minutes of behind the scenes footage of the scenes shot in Lisbeth’s apartment.
In the Cutting Room offers up a quarter-hour look at the editing process on the film, looking at the scenes under question and what Fincher did to streamline the piece.
ADR spends 7 minutes looking at the dialogue that had to be recorded in post-production
Main Titles takes a 3 minute look at the integral opening credits sequence, which can be viewed using a three-way comparison with optional commentary by Tim Miller of Blur Studio.
Visual Effects Montage rounds off this section with an 8-minute look at the visual effects required for certain scenes in the movie, showing the various effects layers used.
Hard Copy looks at this 8-minute faux TV show crafted for the viral internet campaign, with optional commentary by David Prior.
TV Spots offers up 7 thirty-second TV Spots: Introduction; Me, Killer & You; Character; Graphic Event; Pedigree; Duress; and Revenge.
Trailers gives us access to four different Trailers, ranging in length from 1-4 minutes.
Metal One Sheet rounds out this section with a 4-minute look at creating the metallic poster for the film’s promotion.
At the end of the day it’s hard to score or rate or even review this movie as it is arguably a fairly redundant product of Hollywood cynicism/plagiarism at its worst; they can’t be bothered to come up with new, original ideas, so they just buy the rights to other people’s ideas and, rather than give the original works the proper promotion that they deserve, they just churn out an utterly pointless remake which is purely designed to be more audience-friendly in the West.
I respect director David Fincher, and I was actually looking forward to his take on Stieg Larsson’s internationally bestselling Dragon Tattoo book – despite my strong reservations over remakes of any kind – but this moody, stylish, fast-paced, relentlessly efficient, and well-acted production is still, ultimately, just a more commercially viable package for the same story that had already been capably adapted just a couple of years ago. And that was a better film too.
If you’re a fan of the film, or if you want to test the waters with a comparison between the two, then this package is certainly an attractive, near-perfect one – boasting stunning video and audio, as well as a comprehensive second disc packed-to-the-hilt with extras. Certainly it'll appeal to the same viewers who lapped up Scorsese's pointless remake of Infernal Affairs, The Departed. Still, if you haven’t seen the original, then I strongly recommend seeking that out first. Fincher’s remake will always come in second place, in every way.
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