Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Book With the Clutter Removed

This week's question: What's your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?

My answer: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Readers are often dissatisfied with the movie versions of books they've loved. When you try to pack 400-plus pages into a 90-minute movie, or even into 120 minutes, you just can't get all the details and character development in. To truly build the suspense and develop the suspects so the reader cares about them like they do when they're reading a novel, I think the miniseries is almost always the best format. I love episodic mysteries like Wallander (based on the books of Henning Mankell), where one novel is spread over an entire season of episodes. I generally stay away from movies based on crime novels—I just don't get into them enough to care.

But after reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was intrigued when I heard that a movie was coming out. I enjoyed both Salander and Blomkvist as individuals, and I loved the unique dynamic between them. The plot was original and hooked me from the beginning. But the book had a bulky, incoherent middle, tons of name confusion (honestly, there was a Berger and a Birger, two distinct characters!), and lots of what I felt were extraneous details that muddied my reading experience rather than intrigue me as red herrings. In short, I felt like this was a good novel that would have been a great novel if only Stieg Larsson had lived long enough for the book to go through an edit round or three.

The movie (both the Swedish and the American versions, incidentally) delivered just what I was hoping for. They captured what was unique about each character, got the dynamic between them down brilliantly, and tightened the plot so the story was much clearer—which heightened my engagement a hundred fold.


Paul D. Marks said...

Great example, Robin!

Art Taylor said...

I couldn't agree more about the difference between translating a movie into a feature film versus translating it into a episodic series. The latter is clearly more novelesque (is that a word? spellcheck tagged).

Meredith Cole said...

I completely agree with you about GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO. Great hook, but it really dragged... Now you make me want to see the movie!

RJ Harlick said...

I loved the movie too, Robin.