Review: Dragon Tattoo Trilogy on Music Box Films Blu-ray

The “Millennium” completist doesn’t need to be told to pick this up.

It may be based on the grown-up publishing phenomenon of the era, surely the biggest thing to come out of Sweden since Britt Ekland shook her tail feather in The Wicker Man, but the 2009 film adaptations of the late Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” were made with a level of pedestrian competence—or, sometimes, something less than competence—that borders on the obscene. Directors Niels Arden Oplev and Daniel Alfredson—who directed the first and second two parts, respectively—seemed to have been engaged in a contest to take Larsson’s “edgy,” hothouse investigative thrillers (anal rape! Nazis! Family secrets! Murder!) and deplete them of anything pulpy, fun, or even remotely suspenseful, while Jacob Groth’s operatic score ends up doing the melodramatic heavy lifting, creating a dissonance of effect usually reserved for ironic, YouTube mash-ups. The result is a strange collusion between Sweden’s tourism ministry and a particularly boorish airport novel, filled with nasty business but dull as dishwater all the same.

What helps to brand the trilogy, of course, is the heroine, the troubled, goth, bisexual, tattooed, pierced, leather-clad Lisbeth Salander, as recognizable a protagonist as Harry Potter, with his Lennon glasses, tousled hair, and the lightning bolt scar on his forehead. That Salander is a “punk savant” with a photographic memory and a superhuman knack for investigative research was more than enough to power readers through Larsson’s books, but in the films, despite Noomi Rapace’s natural charisma, whole conversations and scenes go by while the viewer dwells in a daze of uninvolved patience, thinking of other things: groceries, laundry, and unanswered emails.


In the interest of transforming a trilogy of already long-ish films into an even longer, miniseries-like epic (think of the Godfather trilogy super-edit Francis Coppola released in 1992), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been formatted down from 2.35:1 to fit your 16:9 HD television (the second two films were already formatted to 1.85:1), while enough deleted scenes have been added to each of the three films to pad them out to a solid three hours each. Furthermore, each movie is divided into two, 90-minute halves, complete with animated title cards and a what-happened-in-the-last-episode pre-title montage. In other words, this Blu-ray set breaks the trilogy into six episodes. Confused? That’s understandable: The expansion/remodeling may seem quite removed from what comes to mind when you think of the words “inexplicable, Special Edition cash-in timed for the American remake.” It is, in fact, the TV version of the trilogy that aired in Sweden in 2010 while the 2009 trilogy was being released abroad, one movie at a time. It’s only the set’s packaging (“9 Hours. Uncut. Unrated.”) that would lead you to suspect that Music Box’s set is anything other than a TV miniseries expansion of what audiences saw in theaters.

The visual presentation follows suit. Despite its deceptive sharpness, the act of blowing up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to 16:9, which required the trimming down of the left and right edges, resulted in a slight increase in digital noise, and the consequential need for modest but noticeable edge enhancement. In some shots, skin tones seem unnatural and doll-like. Contrast is high throughout (inky blacks dominate, with blinding whites are a close second), but this seems correct, given the original materials. All technical snafus (focus-pulling failures, ill-advised color correction, etc.) seem to be the result of poor craftsmanship in the original production, not the Blu-ray reproduction.

The set offers an inexplicable, anemic Dolby English dub track; you will want to stick with the original Swedish, which is far more robust and well-rounded, whether presenting music, sound, or vocal information.


If you have what it takes to get through all nine hours of this inexplicably distended version of the trilogy, you’ll have sufficient momentum to bask in the supplements, which are contained on the fourth disc. If not, you’ll just as soon skip them. Little more than a glorified press kit, the usual suspects are all here: documentary, interviews, deleted scenes.


The “Millennium” completist doesn’t need to be told to pick this up, but would be well advised to understand that the set contains the TV version of the trilogy. It’s not a question of abridgment or censorship: Quite the opposite, all three films are expanded, but subdivided into six 90-minute episodes.

 Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Peter Andersson, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Annika Hallin, Sofia Ledarp  Director: Niels Arden Oplev, Daniel Alfredson  Screenwriter: Nikolaj Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg, Jonas Frykberg, Ulf Ryberg  Distributor: Music Box Films  Running Time: 540 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2009  Release Date: December 6, 2011  Buy: Video

Jaime N. Christley

Jaime N. Christley's writing has also appeared in the Village Voice.

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