I usually don’t do book reviews for all the world to see or movie predictions, but I felt so compelled to make one after finishing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson, which is part one of three in his Millennium Trilogy. For the past year I’ve been thinking on and off on whether or not I want to commit myself to this book. I heard of it before hearing on the 2011 remake of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” staring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.
Finally I bought the book about two weeks ago and read through it. It took me a week to read 590-ish pages. The book itself is divided into four parts; part one: Incentive, part two: Consequence and Analysis, part three: Mergers, and part four: Hostile Takeover. Each part is themed to its given title section and more of the mystery unfolds. The mystery of the book is all about Swedish journalist Mikeal Blomkvist’s (Craig) journey after given the verdict of his being put on trial for libel. He was sought after and hired by industrialist and grand manipulator Herr Henrik Vanger. Exactly what was he hired for now that Blomkvist career is put on hold because of his “offenses?” To solve the murder of Herr Vanger’s niece’s death that happened in the 1960s, which happened forty years before and remains unsolved and open.
However before Blomkvist accepts the offer Vanger makes it clear that he is to live on Hedeby Island for a whole year. In fact, a contract is made just so Blomkvist is clear of the conditions of his future job post. If he quits the investigation at any point within the year his contract will be terminated and won’t receive a penny. Even if he doesn’t solve the crime Blomkvist will be paid millions for at least trying to solve it. So why wouldn’t he do it? He has nothing to do and the story of Vanger’s niece’s possible “murder” sounds interesting enough to keep him happily preoccupied.
The background story on Vanger’s niece disappearance, Harriet Vanger, is an interesting mystery that adds a nice texture to the book. On one summer day there was an accident on the only bridge leading to Hedeby Island and the entire Vanger family was there to deal with the mess. For a whole day the island was an isolation, not one person could get in or out until the accident on the bridge cleared. Harriet Vanger was on the island the day of the accident and wasn’t seen after it happened. No one knows what could have happened. They saw no body in the water, no body on the island, and no one knows how she could have escaped the island if there was no way out except for taking the bridge. And Henrik Vanger was convinced that someone murdered. But what he doesn’t know is why. I know what you’re thinking, “how could Mikeal Blomkvist, a journalist by the way, solve a forty year old crime?” This is what’s so great about the book, we’re dying to know why and how he’s going do it or even if he going to. Larsson succeeded in adding tension to the book with this intrigue.
Now I know you’re wondering of something else… where is “the girl” in this story? Well, Lisbeth Salander (Mara) is the one that helped Blomkvist get the job with Vanger. Although they never met she knows more about Blomkvist than any of his closest friends would ever know. She’s an experienced hacker at the age of 24 and obviously extremely troubled. She can find information on anyone she’s assigned to by Milton Security quicker than any of her experienced colleagues combined. She’s good at what she does, but she’s terribly troubled and ridiculously introverted. She keeps to herself and to others she comes off as incompetent and even handicapped, but she’s incredibly smart and quick. She is described as a small, skinny, teenage looking girl; covered in tattoo’s and piercings; raven-black hair and only wears black clothing. It’s safe to say that to the “ordinary person” she comes off as creepy and one of those pale vampire freaks that listen to dark music and studies witchcraft. She doesn’t care though, she has a “I don’t give a shit attitude” that instantly makes the reader like her. Who hasn’t felt like that though, someone who doesn’t give a shit? She’s likeable even if she is so misunderstood.
The main point of the story is that Blomkvist needs Salander to use her insane hacking skills to help him piece together the clues he has discovered in order to solve Harriet’s murder. Together they get along fine, about a twenty year age different between the two, and throughout their working together this is when we see Salander talk more than she ever has. Her natural hatred attitude towards humanity diminishes when working with Blomkvist. Without many words, they understand each other; they know what the other is thinking in a sense. Larsson developed a strange relationship between two characters, that aren’t at all alike in any way, that makes the reader reading through page by page to see how much farther they’ll get and how closer the pair will be to solving the crime. It’s just two forces you want to see carry on to the end.
I give this book four and a half stars out of five. Character development from beginning to end was phenomenal that I definitely MUST read the next book in the trilogy, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” just so I find out what happens to these characters- you will find yourself becoming attached to them. The storyline was a bit jumpy with flash backs and switching from Blomkvist’s story to Salander’s, but once the two were working together the story was spectacular and easier to follow. Dialog, and I don’t know about you but I’m a dialog kind of reader- if it’s in the book it has to work or the story will fall apart, it was so natural and realistic to me. It really invited me in the the story of the characters and I could even imagine myself there, talking to these people. Description was vital in this book and Larsson didn’t leave a single detail out. He described the setting of where everyone was that I actually thought I was in Sweden for a minute. It was the description of characters and place and help set the mood and overall tone of the book. It began with a haze and carried on with an obsessive gloom to a point of actual fear and worry. You wanted to know what happened once you reach a certain point in the book. Needless to say, this book made the hairs on my neck shoot straight up and my back to stiffen. Highly recommend, especially if you’re into thrillers and mystery type of novel. Definitely under those detective novel categories. Larsson did a magnificent job. I couldn’t praise his writing any more than I just have.
The book you’ll have to read before watching the movie. But watching the trailer before reading the book definitely helped when it came to picturing the characters (I find it easier when I see which actor will play which character). As I said before Daniel Craig plays Blomkvist and in the book he’s only briefly described as a kind of good looking, ladies man who has a serious look to him. I thought the casting for him was perfect. I immediately saw Craig’s face when Blomkvist was physically introduced in the book. As for Salander’s casting of Rooney Mara- couldn’t have picked a person myself. She’s small, the right age, and fits the physical description to a T. Although Noomi Rapace played Salander in the 2009 Swedish version, I felt she was too old to be Lisbeth and too “womanly” to look like her. Her features were too bold and just not right in my eyes. Once I saw Mara, I just knew it was right. It felt right and I can’t wait to hear how she’ll talk. Will she be as cold as she’s described in the book? That’s what makes you wonder about book-movies… will the actors perfectly portray their literature characters? Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. But I have extreme faith that both of these actors will.
As for the displaying the heart of the story it seems that the story line from what I saw in the minute and thirty second long trailer is that they’re sticking pretty close to the book. Not only are the characters coming to life but the other characters in the story are shown in the movie as well, such as Henrik Vanger, Erika Berger, and Martin Vanger– all of whom you’ll meet when you read the book. The whole feel of the trailer just strums a chord with me. It irks me to the point that I literally paused the trailer in between sections to observe the setting and literally discern what’s going on in a particular scene. And from what I’ve gathered, this is going to be a long movie. At least two hours and thirty minutes. A lot of the book is information of feeling and description of location, which is luckily compacted in the actor’s facial expressions and cinematography of the entire essence of each take. So it’s all there in this movie. It’s the right about detail that is needed for such a complex book that freaked me out with its words alone. Makes me wonder how much of an effect the actual images will have on me once I see certain scenes.
I think this will be one of the best movies of the year. The drama of it is clearly shown in the trailer and it’s serious and has something for plenty of movie lovers to enjoy. My main concern is us book lovers. We are so critical when it comes to book-movies. We’re afraid the director didn’t capture the heart of the story and failed to include certain parts of the book in the movie. And here’s what I suggest: keep an open mind about the movie. A lot of the book is information of feeling and setting, the movie will surely get that. What we need to look for is if they get certain tenses right. Will they get the dialog right? Yes, maybe, they’ll alter in a way but probably be pretty close to what they say in the book. Will it look right? I think so, I mean from what I’ve gathered from the one trailer (I hope they release another soon) is that we will see the brutal moments that were in the book. I don’t think they’re going to hold back in this movie. It is more than likely to be an R-rated film for certain content. We’ll see the agony and fury of Salander and the barbaric actions of the enemy of the book. I’m looking for to it. I think it’s going to be intense and one of the movies you may need t see more than once to truly understand what happened. I found myself going back on a few pages in the book once or twice when I reached a particular moment in the book… just to be sure what happened, happened. There’s going to be IN YOUR FACE moments where you’ll definitely go back to reread what just took place. The main question I have is will they make a trilogy and do all three books? I know it’s already been done (the Swedish versions are all from 2009-2010 and are available on dvd) but will they do it? They mention trilogy in the trailer, so maybe they’ll do it? But what I highly suggest for any one who’s interested in seeing this movie- read the book. You won’t regret it. Don’t get intimidated by the context or the length of it, it’ll catch your attention from the start and you’ll start to think like Blomkvist and Salander. You’ll be solving the crime with them from start to finish. Therefore leaving you no other choice but to finish the book. You have to be able to commit to it. It is definitely a tough read, but one well worth it. It’s powerful and I can’t say any more good things about it. But please, read the book and see the movie when it’s released in theaters in December. Perfect Christmas present.
Happy readings to all and hope you enjoy it and become obsessed with the trilogy like I have.
“Of course my actions aren’t socially acceptable, but my crime is first and foremost a crime against the conventions of society.” – Character is unrevealed until you read it.
[All images are stills from the trailer]