December’s “Dragon” remake aims to please U.S. audiences


“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” stars Daniel Craig (left) and Rooney Mara, and is scheduled for release on Dec. 21. Photo courtesy of MGM Pictures.

Cassiel Chadwick, Staff Writer

Pounding rhythms, screeching voices, grim ambience and an A-list cast. That’s what we get from the first trailer to David Fincher’s “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo,” slated for a Dec. 21 release.

It fits the mold for action thrillers: bold, brash, ripe with intrigue. It shares the name and plot of Steig Larsson’s bestselling crime novel – trailed by its worldwide fan base. Most call it an adaptation. Others call it a remake.

A remake, no less, of a film from 2009. Niels Arden Oplev directed his critically acclaimed adaptation of Larsson’s book only three years ago, but another studio is already taking a shot at it.

The reason why is simple enough. Opley’s version is in Swedish. And foreign films rarely make it in the box office.

A few examples: “In Bruges,” Martin McDonagh’s Polish crime comedy, had a domestic opening of $500,000. Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, a film from a similar genre, opened with $9.3 million. Andrew Davies’s “Bridget Jones’s Diary” opened with $10.7 million, whereas Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie opened with $136,500. “City of Angels”, Brad Silberling’s Nicholas Cage remake of Wim Wenders’s German “Wings of Desire”, opened with $15 million. The original film opened with $17,301.

The pattern holds across the board. Why?

“Well,” says Louise Newlin (’13), “I think obviously there’s the answer that people don’t like reading subtitles, and that’s actually a really good deterrent – and it shouldn’t be, especially since dubs are horrible.”

Unlike animated films, says Zoe Rosenfeld (’12), “we associate the voice with the face” in live action films. Replacing foreign voices with an English-speaking actor (dubbing) is “intrusive” to the experience of watching a movie.

Duncan Magidson (’12) said he likes “to hear how the original actors spoke the lines. It’s like a book. There’s a certain rhythm to it. With dubs, you lose that rhythm.”

While the subtitle/dub problem has something to do with foreign films’ trouble in the United States, American films get one-third of their profits overseas. If it’s subtitles that sink foreign films, why should there be an import/export disparity?

“Foreign films have such a different sensibility than American films,” says Newlin, “and not every genre will work for people.”

Hollywood studios tailor movies to appeal to international audiences. As Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office division of, said, “Studios want to make movies that integrate international flavor and in genres that transcend cultures and language.”

Ultimately though, American audiences take priority. In the case of Fincher’s film, producers have said that “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” is an attempt to create a lasting franchise for adults. Larsson’s book is the first in a trilogy. It’s a dark story, packed with violence, but rich in narrative and character development.

“A lot of people say that they (Larsson’s books) are Harry Potter for adults,” Newlin says. “And I agree. The whole setting is very rich and the characters are really driven.

“You can see that they come from literature when you watch the movies, and it makes them a little more clever than your average action film. The source material must be really great to work from.”

Whether Fincher’s film lives up to fan expectations, it will still embody a quiet mystery of the movie industry: What is our problem with foreign films? And will it ever change?