Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Millennium Trilogy

Cover Art for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Source: Wikipedia
The Millennium Trilogy tells the story of Lisbeth Salander, a genius computer hacker declared incompetent by the state, and Mikael Blomkvist, a investigative journalist working for Millennium magazine. Written by Swedish journalist Stieg Larrson, the manuscript for his books were found on his computer after his death and released under permission from his father and brother.

I became interested in The Millennium Trilogy when I noticed that the Swedish film adaptation of first of the novels, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was listed on the Empire 5-star 500 list. The books have been heavily marketed in the United Kingdom so I picked myself up a copy of the trilogy and raced through them before I got to the film.

I know this blog tends to focus mostly on film, but I figured that I ought to say something about the books before moving onto the movies. I would thoroughly recommend them. At present, I don't have any of the books - they have all been leant to friends and colleagues. Obviously, I don't know how the words and phrases translate over from Swedish, but each book is an edge of your seat thriller you don't want to put down.

After reading the novels I set myself the challenge of watching the Swedish adaptation of the trilogy, along with the American take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I watched the Swedish films with my family, beginning with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo on a Thursday. The following Monday I was asked to show The Girl Who Played With Fire and we concluded the trilogy with The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest on the Tuesday. Over the weekend between the first two films, I watched the American adaptation with my girlfriend. Four films, six days.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of comparing films to books or vice versa for that matter. I feel that each medium should remain separate and tell the story in its own right. What I will say though, is that because of the in depth story, none of the films capture the book in its entirety.

The film that does come closest is actually the American version. Most of the characters are translated onto the big screen and the story is pretty accurate to the events in the book. Bizarrely though, the American version is the worst film. Turns out, trying to make a film to please fans of a book doesn't always work.

This takes me back to another film trilogy (although soon to be quadrilogy) based on a series of books - Robert Ludlum's Bourne. Having thoroughly enjoyed the books, I watched the films and thought they were all excellent too. Thing is, barring a few moments in the first story, the film and book series arc off at completely different tangents.

That's where the Swedish adaptations come in. All three films exceed two hours running time (the first and last even sneak an extra half an hour over, in fact) and they still don't have time to put all of Larsson's vision into moving pictures.

Where they do succeed is in making the best of what they have. The script follows the skeleton of Larsson's writing but changes vital points to make it work for the big screen. The actors, relatively unknown to the English-speaking world upon release, took the parts they were given and made them their own. Noomi Rapace has even gone on to forge a successful career in Hollywood working for Ridley Scott on Prometheus and starring in the Sherlock Holmes sequel.

On the other hand, although he was always guaranteed to sell DVDs, choosing the man who will go down in history as James Bond to play Mikael Blomkvist wasn't the wisest decision in Hollywood's casting department. Still, with two sequels on the card, Daniel Craig might be able to shake some of the suave 007 image and replace it with an investigative and horny European. No, not really much to change there, then.

It's a bit upsetting now, though. The last six weeks of my life have revolved around the literary genius of Stieg Larsson and this brief essay, bashed out in half an hour at 1am signals the end. I'll be sure to revisit it at some point, and with rumours of a fourth, unfinished manuscript on Larsson's hard drive, here's to hoping Salander can install Asphyxia2.0 and retrieve it for the world.


  1. I haven't read any of the books, or seen any of the movies, but after read this post, I see that changing sometime soon. I typically always try and read the book before seeing the movie, so I guess I'll start there. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

    1. Yes, definitely read the books first - they're excellent.