The highly anticipated English movie adaptation of the novel “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” opened in London last night, following a public controversy about a publishing embargo on the much-awaited first screenings.
The New York Film Critics Circle was allowed to view a screening early in order to include the film in its contenders for best-of-the-year awards, although the film does not open in theaters in the United States until Dec. 21. Although the invitation to the screening prohibited publication of a review until yesterday, New Yorker critic David Denby published his early, says Jen Chaney of Celebritology:
It’s an ironic behind-the-scenes plot twist for a film that is, in part, about accessing private information and holding up the standards of rule-breaking journalism.
“You’re going to break the review embargo on Dragon Tattoo? I’m stunned that you of all people would even entertain doing this,” (producer Scott) Rudin wrote in his first message to Denby. “It’s a very, very damaging move and a total contravention of what you agreed. You’re an honorable man.”
For those outside the journalism realm, the controversy may seem puzzling. But despite studios’ sometimes unnecessary embargos, Denby was wrong to have broken it, according to Chaney:
As silly as the embargo might be — especially given that it’s a movie based on a book that half the free world has read and was already made into a movie once before — that was the understanding Denby tacitly agreed to when he attended the screening. To use another example, when a journalist tells an interview subject he or she will keep something off the record, he or she has to uphold that agreement.
Denby did, however, give the film a positive review, as did John DeFore for The Washington Post. The film seemed a puzzling choice for director David Fincher, DeFore notes.
Movie companies tend to be meddlesome when it comes to such “franchise” properties, which have made mountains of money and are expected to make much more, and Fincher doesn’t respond well to meddling. When studio execs manhandled him on his high-stakes first movie (the third installment of the hit “Alien” franchise), the result was a failure both commercially and with critics.
However, Fincher was able to adapt it in his own way, reworking some of the physical violence into psychological attacks, fitting with Fincher’s goal of showing as little on-screen gore as possible, DeFore writes:
Where he thought Larsson’s book lacked this sensibility, he tinkered with the storyline: Lisbeth Salander is raped by an authority figure multiple times in the novel, but Fincher decided “the first assault needed to be much more about manipulation, coercion, not so much this blitzkrieg of sexual assault. We needed to be true to the misogyny, and misogyny is not always [about] getting jumped.” Fincher and screenwriter Steve Zaillian re-imagined the power play, making it more psychologically insidious and paving the way for Salander’s vengeance.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” will open in theaters Dec. 21.
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