Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy (DVD Review)

DVD Review of Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy 4-Disc Edition including the three films in the trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor, The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes plus special features.

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Legal Line Les Productions Point de Mire Inc. © MMIX. All Rights Reserved.© Yellow Bird Millenium Rights, AB, Nordisk Film, Sveriges Television AB. Film 1 VÄST 2009. All Rights Reserved. © Yellow Bird Millenium Rights, AB, Nordisk Film, Sveriges Television AB. Film 1 VÄST 2009. All Rights Reserved. Distributed Exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

The Millennium Trilogy comes alive all in one handy-dandy package with all three films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor, The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden & The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes) plus extras including interviews with cast & crew. The films aren't an easy watch, but the series is a formidable accomplishment and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor still remains strong on my 2010 Perfect List and truly is an amazing film. I sadly didn't feel the high quality it presented was sustained throughout the series, but I did appreciate seeing the story continue and complete over the series.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/ Män som hatar kvinnor
Dir: Niels Arden Oplev (To verdener / Worlds Apart, Drømmen / We Shall Overcome)
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Sven-Bertil Taube
Sweden/Denmark/Germany/Norway, 2010

Reason to see: Trailer looked astonishing + the film trilogy has had huge success already

Going in to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor, I knew it would be a harsh film just from reading reviews about people mentioning harsh content when they never do. Then I noted the literal translation of the title is Men Who Hate Women. That gives you more of a true sense of the film, but even so I didn't think it would be as harsh as it is. The hardest thing about it though, is the fact that the film is also brilliant. Often when things are very disturbing, they can also be easily dismissed as bad movies but this isn't, it's an excellent by each and every measure I can think of.

The film threads together a mystery story line that intersects with parallel journeys of two protagonists. The English title role is Lisabeth Sander, a hacker/rogue researcher played in a tour de force performance by Noomi Rapace. We're talking Oscar worthy performance here, not only in execution but also in terms of dealing with extreme situations. Our second protagonist is the fallen from grace investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played sensitively by Michael Nyqvist. Both of these characters are compelling and very human, and each is played very well and the actors reach amazing depths. The film has many depths, not only in character but also in story. The mystery is weaved throughout lengthy 2 1/2 hour running time at a remarkable brilliant pace, I hardly looked at the time at all while watching up just stared and stared at the screen letting the film unfold like a disturbingly beautiful flower.

The challenge with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that it's a hard film to recommend. It's so harsh that I'm not sure I even want to be responsible for someone ending up seeing it, even though it's an excellent film, likely one of the best of the year. I don't regret seeing it, but if you are going to take the venture I'd advise to keep in mind that it have a central theme of victims & victimization along with a lot of deal breakers: extreme violence, sexual violence, torture, disturbing imagery, content & ideas. These are all contextual and never excessive or gratuitous, but are disturbing nonetheless.

The film is adaptation of the first in a book trilogy (followed by The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest) all by the late Stieg Larsson.

Warning: Extreme violence, sexual violence, torture, disturbing imagery & ideas

Shannon's Overall View:
I appreciated it as an excellent film
It'd be a challenge to re-watch
I'd recommend it to anyone who can make it through the film after considering the warnings

The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden
Dir: Daniel Alfredson (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes)
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Georgi Staykov, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Yasmine Garbi, Paolo Roberto
Sweden/Denmark/Germany, 2010

Reason to see: The first film in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor was fantastic and therefore this title landed in my Most Anticipated Films of the Year (Part 2!) List

There are two very important things to know before seeing The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden. First, it is clearly Part 2 coming after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor and therefore you need to Part 1 first. The second thing to know is that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor is a film I've called easy to praise, but hard to recommend as it is an extremely hard film watch and includes xtreme violence, sexual violence, torture, disturbing imagery & ideas. But, if you can make it through those warnings, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor is one of the best films of the year so far. Sadly, The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden does not live up it's predecessor.

Both Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist reprise their roles of hacker Lisabeth Sander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist respectively, which I was very exited about as they are both such great characters. But there felt like a bit of an imbalance with the characters, not only with each other but also separately. Lisabeth Sander who was ferocious and feral in the first film, is very mellowed out here which I can understand and don't have a problem with. I do have a problem with that they actually changed her character in not only historical references but more so in the minute details, which in another film series I would barely even note as an inconsistency but with Lisbeth these slight changes and even notations of carelessness completely shatter the basis of which her character is created. Shatter. I didn't believe it for a second. On the flip side, with Mikael Blomkvist we get almost no development with his character at all. He is present and involved in different aspects of the plot, but here wasn't much Micke kicking around, which is a shame because he's one of interesting characters I've come across in ages for oddly being very normal: emotionally accessible, kind and genuine. He still was all those things in this film too, but they didn't have a chance to shine likely because there wasn't much interaction going on.

Although the characters one of the most compelling part of the series, they are mysteries at heart so plot is of huge importance. Being spoiler-free I'll only touch on it, but again I was so surprized at the take here. It has some new veins of plot here, but it relies heavily on what happened in the first film. I was like "I don't want to go through that again!", and I really didn't expect to see footage from the first film, but it's there. It does have it's own arc, but the mystery is nowhere near as clever and flushed out as the first film which I akin to those fuzzy pictures you see at malls that suddenly 'appear'. This film, it's more like just putting the puzzle pieces together without the picture on the box and then at the end going "Oh, okay".

I wanted more. I expected more. A lot more. If you are going to sit through the extremeness of the content, the pay off has to be huge and I didn't feel like it was enough. It's also clearly Part 2 in the sense not only of coming after Part 1 but also because later we will get Part 3 to complete The Millennium Trilogy. Now, will I go see Part 3, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes? Yes, I will. Before seeing this part, I was invested in the characters and the world, but now I want to know what happens and my curiosity will get the best of me.

Warning: Extreme violence, sexual violence, torture

Shannon's Overall View:
I didn't love it
I'd watch it again
I'd recommend only if you've seen and enjoyed the first film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes
Dir: Daniel Alfredson (The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden)
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Annika Hallin, Lena Endre, Anders Ahlbom, Micke Spreitz, Jacob Ericksson, Sofia Ledarp, Hans Alfredson
Sweden/Denmark/Germany, 2010

Reason to see: I'm a completist. After seeing both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor and The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden), I was very much anticipating seeing the completion of The Millennium Trilogy films based on the books by the late Stieg Larsson.

Trilogies are an interesting thing, and inevitably I want to draw comparisons and/or a ranking order between the three films in the Millennium Trilogy and although that isn't my normal nature to start a review that way I'm going to go with it. Out of the trilogy, the first film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor is the best of the series and truly is a masterpiece of film, storytelling, acting and easily defies audience expectations on multiple levels including an unconventional double protagonist team of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) and Mikeal Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). The second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden we have not only a huge tonal and visual style shift but also a different and less interesting storyline following our now beloved leads characters, and I found this one to be disappointing after the stellar first instalment although it maintains the structure of a mystery film. I found my completist nature being the driving force to get me to get out to see The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes, which nicely completes the trilogy and I'll be transparent and say that my low expectations after The Girl Who Played with Fire / Flickan som lekte med elden played quite a part in my enjoyment of this final instalment.

I found was quite a sense of relief to see the remaining chips fall in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest / Luftslottet som sprängdes, although I think the literal translation of The Air Castle That Exploded is more fitting for this final chapter. It's certainly a film I would only recommend to people who have seen and intrigued by the first two in the trilogy, and although I found it to be a successful completion of the set I was surprized that the mystery arc structure of the first two films was not only missing, but I missed not seeing a mystery itself. Here they go for a thriller tone at times to ramp up the excitement level, but it's really a drama that looks to closing ties and loose ends. I appreciate the closure as the journey for these characters has been a hard one, going through trying times and many difficulties. But the nature of that closure makes it in essence less dynamic that the other films, which sounds like a criticism although I'm not sure I would criticize the film for that - I think it's a brave and unconventional choice.

That being said, Lisabeth and Mikeal don't have a terrible lot to 'do' in the film, which feels so strange given how much happens in the first two films, especially The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo / Män som hatar kvinnor. But it's not all about what they 'do', as one of the treasures of the film is that by this time we've been Lisabeth and Mikeal for so long and through so much that just a look, a moment, or a hint of a smile can say much more than grander actions. It's a more subtle film that I thought would have diminishing returns but in fact has has a longer lasting impression than I had initially anticipated. Although the first in the series burns the brightest, it's well worth seeing the trilogy through to it's end.

Warnings: sexual violence, violence, harsh content

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it people who have started the Millennium Trilogy journey

Bonus Disc DVD Extras

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Extras:
  • Interview with Actress Noomi Rapace (12 minutes) on the character of Lisbeth Salander, and how she came to the role, the transformation & preparation for the role, her process as an actor, the effects being with a character for so long, translating the role from page to screen, the challenge & reactions to the film and the role, on working on three films together and working with Niels Arden Oplev.
  • Interview with Producer Soren Staermose (11 minutes) on the challenges of the book to film adaptation of highly successful books, on casting the character of Lisbeth, on the selection of director Niels Arden Oplev, on the importance of it being a Sweden film to keep true to the characters and the books, reactions to the film, the themes that translate from the books to the films and shooting the films so close together.
  • Photo Gallery (1 minute) series of images from the film set to music
  • The Vanger Family Tree
  • Theatrical Trailer

The Girl Who Played with Fire Extras:
  • Cast & Crew Interviews (14 minutes) interview with actors Mikael Spreitz (who plays Ronald Nidermann), on the fight scenes, or working in film and character types and playing the bad guy, on his character, Paolo Roberto (who plays Paolo Roberto) on being part of the not only the film but also the books as well, and the stangenes of playing a character who was actually written as him, on the fight sequences and working with Mikael Spreitz and working in film; Pelle Bolander & Thomas Lindblad (who play bikers Sonny & Magge) on the fight scenes, Georgi Staykov (who plays Zalachanko) on his acting background,on his ideal role, on playing villains; plus several quick interview with members of the crew including plus special makeup effects artist Love Larsson, first assistant director Kerstin Sundberg, stedicam operator Knut K Pedersen, second assistant camera David Gylje, stand-by props Peder Svensk, assistant costume designer Anja Davidson, assistant make up artist Anna Carin Lock on the tasks of their different position (with English subtitles).
  • Neidermann vs Roberto: Behind the Fight Scene (9 minutes) on set before the scenes, preparation for and behind the scenes through filming the fight scene, plus the actual finished scenes.
  • Theatrical Trailer
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Extras:
  • Interview with Actress Noomi Rapace (19 minutes) on her character, physical preparation & training to play the character, the physical demands of the character, the characters complex relationship with her body, the description of the character in the book and dealing with the expectations of the audience, on working on a project for such a long period of time, of the draw to complex characters, on the relationship between Lisbeth and Micke over the films and working with director Daniel Alfredson (with English subtitles).
  • Interview with Actor Michael Nyqvist (13 minutes) on being cast in the film and on the effect of working on such a high profile film, on being with the character over so many films, on his connection & draw to the character, on characters he'd be interested in playing and if certain characters can have lasting effects, plus working with director Daniel Alfredson again as well as on the character of Lisbeth and how Lisbeth & Mikael work together (with English subtitles).
  • Theatrical Trailer
Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy is available on DVD and BluRay as of May 10, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca (DVD and Blu-ray) & Amazon.com (DVD and Blu-ray)

If' you can't get enough of the series you'll be happy to hear that there is an English film adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in the works and set to release in December 2011. It's a US/UK/German/Swedish co-production and starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig & directed by David Fincher.

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011 - 2011
Films originally reviewed for Theatrical Release: April 23, 2011, July 12, 2011 and November 7, 2011

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The packaging for the Trilogy set is really quite gorgeous, I do love the styling given to each film is unique but still holds strong as a complete package.

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