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23 December 2010 @ 08:11 pm
Millenium Trilogy + Swedish movie  
So I finally (after three months wait!) got all three books of the Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) from my library. It took a few days, but I read them all. I then went to Netflix to see if the Swedish films were available, and lo and behold!, the first two are available Watch Instantly, so I watched the first one.

I thought the books were very well-written for the most part (at least the English translation of the original Swedish text was very well-written). As a couple girl at heart, I was bummed by the Mikael/Lisbeth relationship and how it didn't play out in books two and three, and the fact that Mikael decided he was maybe in love with Monica in book three really annoyed me (cuz Lisbeth? WAY cooler than Monica). But the mysteries, the set-up, the follow-through, the climax, the reveals were all pretty dang awesome. The characters were all incredibly well conceived and written (except for Monica, who was, now that I think about it, kinda a Mary Sue). I could have done without the detailed background on EVERY. SINGLE. CHARACTER'S career history, but that's a small price to pay for such well-plotted, well-characterized books.

Now, I want to talk about the feminism in the books for a moment. I didn't read the Entertainment Weekly cover story on the trilogy when the books came out because I hadn't read the books yet. I pulled it out once I finished them, and found myself quite, quite annoyed with Missy Schwartz's feminist rant against Steig Larrson, the author. She accused him of making Mikael Blomvquist (the male hero), an every-man version of James Bond. Ridiculous! Yes, the guy was charming and quite good in bed, so, yes, women did fall for him and slept with him, and {gasp!} enjoyed the sex with him. And OHYMGOD!, Larsson even made Lisbeth fall in love with him too. How dare he!?! Give me a break. So what? The guy is smart, charming and good in bed. That doesn't make him a cliched, OTT James Bond-type of character. He was also moody, obsessive, loyal, a fantastic friend, a moral, good-hearted guy who didn't always stay on the right side of the law. In other words, he was an interesting, well-written character. Period.

As for her whole feminist rant about how Larsson glamorized rape and exploitation of women. That's utter bullshit! I'm sorry, but I'm that annoyed by her statement that, yeah, I'm bringing out profanity. The rapes in the books (there was one present day rape, and several rapes in the past that were alluded to) were NOT glorifed or presented in an even remotely sensationalistic manner. They were clinical, getting the facts across with a bit of insight into the character's mind while being raped, and her thoughts afterward. There was much more present-day violence inflicted upon men, and in more glorified (although, again, not in a sensationalistic way) detail. Frankly, Schwartz strikes me as the type of "feminist" who thinks that either (a) rape/violence against women should not be referred to at all, because any mention is glorifying it -- never mind that keeping it in the dark only helps to perpetuate such violence, and/or (b) only women should write about it.

The rapes were terrible, but they also provided insight into the terrible injustices that were inflicted upon these women, and there was double, triple, quadruple the amount of text denouncing and condemning such treatment, and all who did such heinous acts paid for their actions either physically, emotionally, loss of careers, livelihood, life, etc. It's a terrible thing, yes, but sometimes the point of storytelling is to uncover the evil that men do, bring it to light (without sensationalism) and show that there are ways of making those men pay for their crimes. And that is EXACTLY what Steig Larsson (a man -- now deceased, by the way -- who considered himself a feminist ... and rightfully so, Missy!) did.

As for the movie. It was okay. My biggest complaint was narrative jumps that wouldn't have made sense had I not read the books. On casting for the Swedish film, Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth) was excellent. I completely get her praise, however, she did not fit my idea (or the book's description) of Lisbeth at all. Lisbeth is a 24 year old who looks like she's in her mid-teens upon first glance. She's dinky, dinky, dinky, 4'11 dinky with a skinny (not slender, but skinny) frame. Whenever she kicked anyone's ass in the book, every single character who found out about it after the fact had major moments of WTF!?!?!??! HOW!??!?! Rapace is not particularly short, she's 5'5 and that shows. Lisbeth is DINKY AS SHIT! Rapace is not some big, beefy woman by a long shot, but she's not frail looking either. Lisbeth is. VERY, VERY frail, and it bugged me because one of the ultra-cool things about Lisbeth was how she used her intellect to strategically figure out how to physically fight back successfully despite her height/weight disadvantage. Mara Rooney, cast in the US version, is reportedly 5'3, which is better, and she looks frailer than Rapace, but one can't really know until we see some footage of her as Lisbeth in action.

Michael Nyqvist was good as Mikael, but he didn't have the charisma and charm I felt that should have been in place for the role, but he did have a nice chemistry with Rapace. The rest of the casting was okay, but nothing struck me as particularly AWESOME! But it was all very well-acted.

There were some changes in the film from book that were made that I liked, but many more that I didn't like and I don't understand why they made them. It was frustrating. I really hope that director and writer of the US version -- David Fincher and Steven Zaillian (LOVE HIM! Schindler's List and writer/director of one of the best films of all time, Searching for Bobby Fischer) do a more faithful, albeit, less confusing adaptation of the novel.

The changes I did like --

- Cutting out the numerous women Mikael sleeps with. I can't help it, I'm a traditionalist-romantic, and I didn't like Mikael's relationship with Erica Berger (my least favorite regular, non-villainous character in the book -- I liked her, but that was because Larsson is such a good writer in creating a real person, but there were major issues I had with her). Nor, did I like him jumping back and forth between Erica, then to Cecilia, then to Lisbeth, oh and then back to Erica. So, I was glad that the sleeping with Cecilia and Erica stuff was dropped. Although, I expect that the Erica stuff WILL be revisited in the second and third film because of their first scene, and (sigh), it is a significant relationship in the books.

- I REALLY liked how the film actually strengthened Mikael and Lisbeth's relationship. I bought genuine feelings on both sides in the film, whereas in the books, while I bought Lisbeth's, Mikael truly just seemed like someone who was definitely her friend, but also someone who had just fucked her because you know she was there and up for it. I much, much preferred their final scene in the movie, as opposed to the book where my heart broke for Lisbeth.

- The first flashback of young Lisbeth setting her dad on fire was cool. Note, I said "the first."

- Not so much that I liked it, but I understand why they changed these bits out ...

1) Anita Vanger being alive, Lisbeth and Mikael visiting her, setting up the phone tap and that being what led Mikael to Australia to find Harriet. By having her dead, and Lisbeth just putting that info out there for Mikael, it cut two or three scenes that weren't necessary for narrative flow. That worked.

2) Cutting out the whole 'writing the Vanger family expose' angle, as well as Mikael going to prison after the whole Harriet plot was exposed, and Lisbeth figuring out the numbers as opposed to Mikael's daughter. The second one specifically worked very well I thought in the context of cutting stuff down.

The changes I didn't like --

- Why did they take out the red patch on Martin's sweater being the reveal for Mikael? It would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE (as it did in the book!). Going to Harald, and then Martin showing up, and it was just confusing, and unnecessary. Just go with the discovery of Martin's red-patched sweater found in another photograph. It was cleaner, less confusing.

- Martin NOT deliberately driving into the big truck. That was so perfectly fitting with Martin's character, that he would choose that exit out of his situation.

- Furthermore, having Lisbeth choose to let him die, flashing back to her burning her dad (with more detail) so not cool, in my opinion. Lisbeth is a gray enough character, having her deliberately choose to let someone die as she did is not something that Lisbeth ever did in the books. The closest was in the third book when she called the Hell's Angels dudes to go after Ronald, but even then, she called the police soon after, so there was the chance that he wouldn't have been murdered. But to watch as Martin died, be able to help him, choose not to, AND connect it to her father did not work for me. What she did to him robbed Lisbeth of some of the white in her gray shading, and lessened the power of the actions she took against her father. That was a very specific, personal thing, and not about the cruelty of men against women in general.

- Lisbeth NOT visiting her mother regularly, and her mother remembering Lisbeth. The first flashback to the fire was enough to wet appetites. This is not a little-known story. These books are a publishing phenomenon. This is not a case of throwing a little, unexplained thing in with the worry that the filmmakers wouldn't have the chance to explain it. Come on. Give your viewers a little more credit. We didn't need Lisbeth's mother to not be brain-damaged (as she is in the books) -- takes away a degree of the understanding of why Lisbeth did what she did when she was 12. We didn't need Lisbeth as a bad daughter by not visiting. That took away one of the biggest lighter shades of Lisbeth's gray character. So I did not like that bit at all!

- A small thing, but why show her computer getting trashed by a bunch of lame assholes as opposed to being run over by a car? That scene actually was one of the key things that bugged me about Lisbeth's film appearance. She wasn't that much smaller than the guys so when they went after her, and she got some good kicks and punches in, it was good that she was able to fight back, but didn't have the 'OMYGOD!Lisbeth is so awesome and can kick ass of anyone despite her dinky stature' factor.

So, yeah, I was a bit disappointed with the film, but not enough to not watch the other films in the Swedish version of the trilogy. And I'm quite interested to see what Fincher/Zaillian come up with.
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Alisha: Dollhouse (Adelle/Topher) Betweenkalishaka on December 24th, 2010 02:38 am (UTC)
I actually really enjoyed these books and I was quite surprised to read the feminist rant as well. I actually thought these books were a strong force in just how wrong it is for women to be abused and for that to be ignored or brushed over. And I was never bothered by Mikael being a bit of a womanizer, because it was never just for his ability to do it. It tended to actually develop something amidst the sex...granted boy had it with everyone but all the same. And I was deeply in love with his relationship with Lisbeth and I'm so sad something more didn't come of it, especially with the introduction of Monica. Blegh.

I still haven't watched the movies, I haven't had time but it is definitely on my to do list.
Arabian: dollhouse01arabian on December 24th, 2010 02:52 am (UTC)
these books were a strong force in just how wrong it is for women to be abused and for that to be ignored or brushed over.

Exactly. It is so clear that that was his intention. Twit.

And I was deeply in love with his relationship with Lisbeth and I'm so sad something more didn't come of it, especially with the introduction of Monica. Blegh.

Monica sucked. Especially the late-in-the-novel reveal that Mikael thought he was in love with her too. BLECH!

If you get the chance, the Lisbeth/Mikael in the Swedish movie is MUCH stronger than in the book. Their final scene is AWESOME! (I'll probably watch the 2nd one in the next few days.)

hiddeneloisehiddeneloise on December 24th, 2010 05:24 am (UTC)
I liked the first book, I haven't read the following ones yet. And yeah, the article is bullshit. The book isn't glamorizing rape. At all. I get the knee-jerk reaction, because it's a terrible issue that is near impossible to look at dispassionately. But I think the author missed the entire point of what victims like Lisbeth and Harriet stand for. They are about taking back control, about fighting back, about not letting this horrible thing end them. Rape in the book is anything but glamorized. It's exposed for the ugly, often ignored, terribly corrosive, crying out for punishment act it is.
Arabian: Logan_Hiarabian on December 24th, 2010 05:41 am (UTC)
I think the author missed the entire point of what victims like Lisbeth and Harriet stand for. They are about taking back control, about fighting back, about not letting this horrible thing end them. Rape in the book is anything but glamorized. It's exposed for the ugly, often ignored, terribly corrosive, crying out for punishment act it is.

Yes, this, this, this. You got across so succinctly exactly what I was railing against.
redbrunja: tscc | determinatorredbrunja on December 24th, 2010 07:27 am (UTC)
I totally agree with you and find the Millenium trilogy RIDICULOUSLY feminist. The whole theme of the books are 'mistreating women is bad and something evil people do and it happens all the time and that needs to stop' and 'oh by the way, women? totally badass.'

Cutting out the numerous women Mikael sleeps with. I can't help it, I'm a traditionalist-romantic,

I agree. As much as I enjoyed the sex-positivity of the books and how ethical everyone was being with their needs and desires, I'm a monogamist at heart and I totally wanted Lisbeth and Mikhail to (exclusively) hook up.

Furthermore, having Lisbeth choose to let him die, flashing back to her burning her dad (with more detail) so not cool, in my opinion.

Oh, I loved that. I thought it gave her more agency in the finale and I loved the poetic justice of this sadistic murderer begging for mercy and having it denied.
Arabian: Rose_Thinkingarabian on December 24th, 2010 02:40 pm (UTC)
I totally agree with you and find the Millenium trilogy RIDICULOUSLY feminist. The whole theme of the books are 'mistreating women is bad and something evil people do and it happens all the time and that needs to stop' and 'oh by the way, women? totally badass.'

Yeah, Missy Schwartz is an idiot. I'm sorry, but she is. I wish I had read the article when it was published so that I could have responded, although, I don't doubt that there were many letters from others. The thing that bugs me the most is I feel like she was impugning upon a dead man who could not defend himself against her ridiculous accusations.

As much as I enjoyed the sex-positivity of the books and how ethical everyone was being with their needs and desires, I'm a monogamist at heart and I totally wanted Lisbeth and Mikhail to (exclusively) hook up.

Yup, this.

Hmm, you liked that change? Like I said I just felt it detracted a bit from both Martin's character -- I loved that it so fit with his character that he'd choose such a cowardly death -- and especially Lisbeth's. Interesting the different things people take from stuffies. :)
redbrunja: stock | bloodstains & corditeredbrunja on December 26th, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
The thing that bugs me the most is I feel like she was impugning upon a dead man who could not defend himself against her ridiculous accusations.

Yeah, Larsson's death is recent enough that it has that extra sting.

Hmm, you liked that change?

Loved it. I felt it was both really in character for Lisbeth AND I was thrilled she made that choice given that often in fiction, someone like the villain is in peril and suddenly the hero(ine) saves him/her because that Is The Right Thing To Do and that never fails to DRIVE ME UP THE WALL.
Arabian: Booksarabian on December 26th, 2010 05:01 pm (UTC)
I felt it was both really in character for Lisbeth AND I was thrilled she made that choice given that often in fiction, someone like the villain is in peril and suddenly the hero(ine) saves him/her because that Is The Right Thing To Do and that never fails to DRIVE ME UP THE WALL.

:Nods: I;ll give you that; that's an excellent point.