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Film / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a 2011 thriller directed by David Fincher, based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson. An English-language adaptation of the book, it follows an earlier trilogy of Swedish films (based on Millennium series) that were released throughout 2009.

Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is a Swedish journalist investigating the disappearance of a woman from a wealthy family four decades earlier. When he recruits young hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) to the case, things get decidedly more complicated. Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Steven Berkoff, Joely Richardson and Robin Wright also star.

While The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a critical hit and received five Oscar nominations (including a Best Actress nod for Mara), it stalled at the international box office, only barely making back its $90 million dollar budget. Because of this, development of a sequel remained in development hell for close to a decade.


A sequel, The Girl in the Spider's Web (based on the fourth book in the Millennium series), was finally released in 2018. This new film is a soft reboot, featuring none of the original cast or creative personnel, but retaining the same continuity of its predecessor.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo contains examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In both other mediums, Lisbeth leaves Mikael and Sweden on good terms, only after realising that she is in love with Mikael (and, in at least one example, because he's in prison). In this film, she is about to give him an elaborate Christmas present when she sees him with Erica, which leads to her believing he devalued their relationship and doesn't care about her. She takes off devastated.
    • Interesting example. Harriet manages to Earn Your Happy Ending in the book and film, as she has a family. In this film, she has no-one and seems extremely isolated and unhappy.
  • Adaptational Dye Job: Follows the Swedish films as Harriet has blonde hair, which she never dyes. Harriet of the book had dark hair that she dyed blonde.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Joel Kinnaman has a cameo that was supposed to be this for The Girl who played with Fire, but it never came about.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Lisbeth's hostility towards Harriet is not explained in this film, nor is her motivation for setting her father on fire. That was probably a Sequel Hook for The Girl who played with fire, which didn't happen.
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  • Age Lift: Upon her casting, Rooney Mara was older than Lisbeth is in the first book.
  • Blinding Camera Flash: Several in the flashbacks of Harriet at the Children's Day parade, and in the trailer.
  • Casting Gag: David Fincher cast Daniel Craig (perhaps best known for being James Bond at that point) as Mikael. The gag would have paid off in the third film, when Mikael spends the entire novel playing spy games vs. "The Section."
    • This trope is subverted in the movie adaptation. In the books, Mikael's sex life is no big deal. In the films, it is apparently front page material for not only tabloids but rival newspapers.
  • Composite Character: Interestingly intentional and plot-relevant case. When we meet Harriet's cousin Anita in London, it's not much of a surprise, as that's where she lives in the book, too, before it's revealed that she's covering for Harriet, who is living out in Australia. Then it's revealed that not only did Harriet assume Anita's identity but, as in the Swedish film, Anita has actually died beforehand. Fincher melded the position of book-Anita with that of the Swedish film's Harriet in his Harriet.
  • Creepy Basement: Martin's kill room, so, so much.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Two interesting examples. Lisbeth is only shown sleeping with a woman, presumably Miriam Wu, after being raped by Bjurman, while their relationship continues for longer in the book. This film retains the book's plot point that Martin planned to rape Mikael after abducting him, though he admits it's not his usual type.
  • Death by Adaptation: As in the Swedish film, Anita is killed off before the events of the film.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The opening credits. So, so much.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: David Fincher confirmed that Joel Kinnaman was meant to come back for the sequel, which didn't happen.
  • Eye Scream: The opening credits include a lit match falling onto Daniel Craig's eye, and later a fly hatching out of it.
  • Fat Bastard: Extremely obvious example as Bjurman is thin or at least average build in every other version, but very overweight here, and treated as disgusting even before he violently rapes Lisbeth.
  • Golf Clubbing: Lisbeth attacks Martin with one of his golf clubs, whereas in every other medium she uses a different weapon.
  • Goth Spirals: This Lisbeth wears spiral earrings and jewellery all the time.
  • In-Joke: All the characters say Lisbeth's name with English pronunciation, "Liz-bith" or "Liz-beth". But toward the end of the movie when Martin learns her name, he says it with Swedish pronunciation as "Leez-bet," which makes sense seeing as Martin is played by Stellan Skarsgård, the only actual Swede to have a major role in the movie.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Daniel Craig is the only actor to make no attempt at a Swedish accent, instead retaining his natural English one.
  • Pet the Dog: Lisbeth visits her previous social worker throughout the film and is shown taking care of him.
  • Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: The photograph of the Children's Day parade that shows a blurred-out face watching Harriet.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: A much stronger example of this than the Swedish one, retaining much more of the novel's depth and detail while running only six minutes longer than the latter. Notably included in this version but cut from the previous one are the bulk of the Wennerström subplot, Blomkvist's daughter, the original Vanger family configuration, and a fair amount of screen time for Erika Berger. Anita's still dead though.
  • Product Placement:
    • Features the characters' MacBooks quite prominently — though really it would feature whichever brand of computer they used prominently given the nature of the story. McDonald's is also plainly visible.
    • For the nerdier types, the actual placement of Macs in the film is rather strange. The exact timeline of the film isn't clear, but it's either a present-day OS (Tiger, circa 2005) running on computers from the future (the unibody MacBook Pros from 2008, which came with Leopard), or computers of today running an OS from several years before they came out.
    • Lisbeth enjoys chowing down on Happy Meals, even while staying at a posh luxury hotel.
  • Promotion to Parent: Lisbeth's kind social worker has very little of a role in every other adaptation except this one, where he appears to be her surrogate father.
  • Rape Leads to Insanity: Although Lisbeth does respond aggressively to being raped, this trope is most evident in this film for Martin, as the script maintains that he was also raped by his father, which leads him to being unsure about raping Mikael in the basement.
  • The Rich Have White Stuff: Although subverted by every other Vanger, CEO Martin has a very beautiful white house full of minimalistic white possessions. And a white torture cellar.
  • Softer and Slower Cover: Would probably not apply in most other contexts, but Karen O's version of "Immigrant Song" over the opening credits is slower and softer than Led Zeppelin's original.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In-universe, as Martin likes putting on Enya during his murders on Daniel Craig's suggestion.
    "Sail away, sail away, sail awaaaay..."
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Unlike the Swedish films, this one keeps its two protagonists on a more equal footing.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The second trailer is a loose summary of the entire story with the exception of the two really big plot twists ( Martin and Harriet.)


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