The theatrical run of Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy is a lot like The Matrix trilogy. How, you may ask? The first film is a brilliantly crafted piece of work that can easily stand on its own, whereas the sequels that follow take the story in a somewhat different direction – albeit with the same beloved characters – that never seems to recapture the magic of the original. Now, for the first time in North America, viewers will be able to witness the trilogy exactly as it was originally released in Sweden thanks to these “extended editions.” And the extra two hours of feature content split up between the three films can only make them stronger as a whole, correct? Well, yes and no.
I won’t go into much detail about the films here, as they’ve all been covered in the past on Inside Pulse Movies, so we’ll focus more on what these editions have to offer and how much they affect the overall films. The first thing many will notice when they insert the disc into their Blu-ray player is that there are two parts to the film. That’s because these extended editions were originally released in Sweden as televised films and were broken up into six parts, two per film. Each part actually has intro credits, and the second part on each disc begins with a “Previously on…” type recap of the first half of the film. This may bother some, however, it’s actually not as distracting as one may think. The breaks will help make viewing these rather long films (each running at just over three hours in length) a lot easier to some, while those who choose to watch the entire movie in one sitting can easily skip through the recap without being taken out of the overall experience.
As mentioned above, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the most critically acclaimed and easily the strongest of the three films, so it may be surprising to some to learn that over 30 minutes of content has been added to this masterpiece of a mystery. A quick summary of the plot: Disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), is hired by Henrik Vanger, a wealthy former CEO of his family run company to look into the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, who went missing 40 years prior. Soon Blomkvist finds himself in the middle of a big mystery, and enlists the help of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) to help him unravel it.
One of the additions to the story is a subplot involving a traitor in the ranks of Millennium magazine, the usual workplace of Blomkvist. There’s also a deeper look into the souls of Lisbeth Salander and Blomkvist, no doubt two of the more interesting characters to grace film in recent years as well as minor scenes that help propel the fascinating plot forward and never dull or slow it down for even an instant.
As I mentioned in my original review of The Girl Who Played with Fire, it has the hard job of being the film to follow the highly praised original, while also needing to set up the blocks for the final installment to come in and knock down in climactic fashion, all while needing to find a way to be entertaining in its own right. This time out a new director and writer lead the pack and the tonal change in the film is instantly noticeable. Gone is the slower paced mystery setting of Dragon Tattoo, and in is the a more fast-paced revenge thriller that may catch some off-guard if they were expecting more of the same. This time out it’s Salander who needs Blomkvist’s help after she finds herself framed for murder with nowhere to run.
The one thing that will stand out to everyone who watches this film is the grainy nature of a great deal of scenes throughout. While it never ruined the movie, it definitely became distracting at times when a shot would go from a clear HD quality image to a darker image that looked as though it was pulled off a TV with bad reception. Luckily this is only a problem with this disc, as the third installment fixes whatever the problem may have been, albeit still with a few noticeable exceptions.
Of course, this alone isn’t reason to stay away from this set, as almost an hour of extra footage and the reorganization of scenes help make The Girl Who Played with Fire a more complete film this time around over its theatrical counterpart. One of the biggest problems I originally had with the film was the lack of interaction between Lisbeth and Blomkvist after the spark between the two helped make the first film shine so bright. This time around, however, I actually didn’t mind it as much. The separate storylines that intertwine throughout are actually quite interesting, and the fact that before his untimely death in 2004, Larsson said he wanted to make this a 10 book series helps us realize that he was likely slowly building the characters on their own with no real reason to rush them together all the time.
Whether or not that’s true, the additional scenes given to the police investigation as well as a better told narrative helps make the extended edition of The Girl Who Played with Fire a lot more interesting to watch. That being said, nothing will change my mind when it comes to the absurdity of a certain scene midway through the third act that is so groan inducing that I honestly can’t see anyone watching it and not rolling their eyes.
Finally, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest picks up exactly where The Girl Who Played with Fire leaves off. The breaking down of each film into two parts really helps the final two installments in this series become stronger than they were when originally released in theaters. Not having to wait months between viewings really helps the pacing of the finale of the second film blend into the opening of the third. It’s also nice to keep the flow going as if anyone thought either of the first two films were confusing, the third one will blow their minds.
The third film focuses on the blooming conspiracy that began to take shape in the second film and cranks the dial up to 11. There are so many names being thrown around and so many people involved from all angles that it almost seems ludicrous. This is where the deep, dramatic, complex mystery of the first film seems like a distant memory, and the larger than life 24-esque storyline takes center stage.
Still, the set-up done by The Girl Who Played with Fire pays off here as the story never really lets up over its three-hour duration, and as things get more and more over the top and complicated, one can’t help but be excited to see how it all comes together in the end. However, once again Blomkvist and Lisbeth are separated for almost the entire film. While there’s actually good reason why they’re separated this time around, it would have been nice to have seen the two of them work together, side by side once again before all was said and done.
The additional half an hour placed in the third installment actually adds more to the already mind-blowing conspiracy that haunts Lisbeth, both in past and present. There are a few additional scenes added to the end of the film (though nothing monumental) as well as a subplot involving Blomkvist’s editor Erika Berger (Lena Endre), and another that helps tie together the conspiracy and the help Blomkvist seeks from Lisbeth’s former security employer.
If you’re looking for the definitive version of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy than look no further. Much like the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, The Dragon Tattoo Extended Edition Trilogy is the only way to watch this series. From the wonderful idea to break up the films into their original six-part mini-series state, to the hearty addition of extra footage added to each, this is a set that’s highly recommended to those on the fence, and worth the double-dip from those who already own the theatrical releases.
The audio found here is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The options are the original Swedish language, as well as dubbed English or French versions. I HIGHLY recommend watching the film with subtitles and keeping the native Swedish language. I tested out a scene with the English dubbing and it’s incredibly bland acting, which causes the film to lose all emotion.
The video is a 1080p HD 16×9 1.78:1 transfer. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not only the best overall film in the series, but also the best looking. The Girl Who Played with Fire suffers from some brutal grainy moments that may distract some more than others, while The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest finds a worthy balance between the two that leans more towards the cleaner look and is much less distracting.
The special features are included on a fourth DVD disc. They’re broken down into the three films, so I’ll list them below as they’re found on the disc.
Interview with Noomi Rapace – This is a 12 minute 30 second sit-down interview with Rapace that formally delves into the types of questions you’d find asked in a magazine interview. It’s a solid watch, but not as in-depth as the interview found under the third film’s special features.
Interview with Producer Soren Staermose – Over the course of this roughly 12 minute sit-down interview, Staermose talks about how the books weren’t that popular and how they bought the rights when the books hadn’t even all been published. And how they invested quite a lot into the film and extended shooting in order to do the film justice. It’s another interesting watch, especially since there are no in-depth commentaries to be found anywhere.
The Vanger Family Tree – This is simply a graphic that lays out the Vanger family tree. It’s not that interesting and will likely only be glanced upon momentarily while searching through the special features menu.
There’s also a Theatrical Trailer and Photo Gallery for those interested.
Cast & Crew Interviews – This is a 14-minute featurette where a cameraman goes around the set and talks to various actors from the film. The actors interviewed are the supporting characters, so it’s interesting to see what some of them had to say about their experience working on the films. Most notable are the interviews with Micke Spreitz (who plays the unstoppable giant Niedermann) and boxer Paolo Roberto, who actually plays himself in the film. Interestingly enough, Roberto doesn’t know why Larsson chose to include him in his novels as the two had never even met.
Niedermann Vs Roberto: Behind the Fight Scene– This featurette runs at just under 10 minutes and is an on-set shoot of the actual preparation for the scene, the marks, the practicing of the fight. It’s quite interesting to see how many people are involved and how much goes on for a scene like this.
Interview with Actress Noomi Rapace – This is a hefty twenty-minute interview with Rapace on set during the third film. She covers a few of the same things touched upon in the first interview, however, this time it’s a lot deeper with more inside information. It’s a much less formal invterview, which is very nice.
Interview with Actor Michael Nyqvist – Here’s another on-set interview while make-up is being prepped, this time with the actor who played Blomkvist. It runs at roughly 13 minutes in length and is also quite a personal, informal interview. Nyqvist seems like a very down to earth person, who is very soft spoken and friendly.
If you’re looking to get into this series, or know someone who loves them, then The Extended Edition Dragon Tattoo trilogy is the way to go. It’s the perfect gift for fans of foreign films or fantastic cinema in general. While not perfect, this is an incredibly memorable trilogy filled with some of the most intriguing characters in recent years. Highly recommended.
Alliance Films Presents The Dragon Tattoo Trilogy. Based on the Novels by: Stieg Larsson. Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Lena Endre. Running time: 9 hours. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: December 6, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.