You would think, given the number of times that I’ve traveled in the last three years, that I would have eventually given in and read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. After all the book is a mainstay in airport bookstores, available in at least one if not more editions at any of the 17 stores between security and gate H17 at O’Hare. But despite the repetitive exposure either on stands or as glimpsed in the hands of any number of people in the airport or even on my daily commute I’ve yet to pick it up. I’ve even yet to watch the original Swedish film despite it being available streaming on Netflix as we speak. It’s just not something I’ve yet gotten around to.
But all that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the new American remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Based, as I mentioned, on a Swedish novel and the first story in a trilogy this version is directed by David Fincher, with Roomey Mara starring as the enigmatic Lisbth Salander. In the story Salander must work with Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig), a journalist who’s had his reputation damaged recently. She has a connection to Blomkvist, having previously investigated him for a third party previously. Now the two must work together to solve a decades-old murder, dealing with a family that has invested a lot of years in keeping many secrets among themselves.
The first poster was a tad bit NSFW and I’m amazed this was released as an official one-sheet. The image has Mara standing in front of Craig, his arm draped around her. But she’s completely naked, and while the image starts to fade out below her waist and one nipple is covered by Craig’s elbow, the other one – while obscured by the title – is still clearly visible. So the studio is clearly selling the sexualized version of the character and making it clear, much as they will with the first official trailer, that there’s nothing taken down a notch for this adaptation of the film. An international version of the same image would move the title treatment completely so you could more clearly see nips.
A second poster was a bit more traditional. It shows Mara’s head with Craig’s image within that and some floral patterns surrounding him, a icy looking setting in the background. There are two bits of copy – “What is hidden in snow, comes forth in the thaw” that tie in to some online viral action that’s outlined below. The monochromatic nature of the poster makes it all the more striking and indeed this does look like a high-end piece of art photography. It’s very cool.
The first trailer starts off down a long snowy road and then just gets montagey. We see all sorts of things – people being shot at, people coughing, people running down streets, people getting out of cars – all no more than a second in length, always coming back to that long road a car is driving down as it moves toward a house and all backed by an industrial rock remix of a Led Zeppelin song. It’s funky, it’s frantic and it works to tell audiences that this is likely not a watered down American version of the original film.
The next trailer slowed things down a bit and actually went into the story. We see Salandar delivering her report on Blomkvist and his personal life. He is summoned to do his own investigation into the murder of someone’s wife. We see him doing that while we also see some of the emotional and physical damage that’s done to Salandar. The two are eventually paired together to investigate that murder, an investigation that takes all sorts of twists and turns as they’re obstructed at every end and each one continues to deal with their own issues.
It’s not worth commenting on too much since it is, quite frankly, enormously effective. At least it is to the uninitiated. How well it plays to the super-excited fan base I’m not sure but I’m guessing it’s just as intriguing and attractive.
Just a couple weeks out from release an eight-minute trailer was released that had previously been seen as part of the promotions for the film’s soundtrack. The long-form nature of this spot obviously allows for more of the story to be shown and more depth to be offered but we still get many of the same beats and scenes that have been shown in the previous videos. More footage seems to come particularly from the second half of the movie, which has not been a focus of the earlier spots.
If you do nothing after the official website loads you’ll be treated to a slide show of a dozen or more images from the movie rotating around. All are beautiful and are therefore worth watching.
After you do that a bit you can click the Menu and dive in to the site’s content, the first of which is “Characters,” where you can learn more about the people in the film and then the actors who portray them. Those cast bios are also available in the “About” section along with Filmmaker information and a Story synopsis that’s alright for those who aren’t already familiar with the material.
“Photos” has some very mysterious looking pictures, not simply the promotional stills that these sections usually contain. “Videos” then has the teaser and theatrical trailers.
There’s also a section on the “Trilogy History” that takes you into the background of the novels published by Stieg Larsson, who finished all three books but then passed away before the first one was ultimately published.
There was also a website and Twitter account setup called Mouth Taped Shut that featured set photos (professionally taken and uploaded, not discreetly shot and posted) that showed various promotional imagery and which you’d have to be naive wasn’t official either from the studio or from Fincher himself.
That Tumblr blog led to the discovery of another site, Comesforthinthethaw.com, that eventually featured some new images and other material. There was also Whatishiddeninthesnow.com, which seemed to play a part in a much larger effort that involved sending real packages to people to help the unlock various online clues.
Close to release a video was added to the MTS site that was a recreation of a “Hard Copy” style TV news magazine show episode devoted to the murder/disappearance that forms the mystery at the core of the story.
Eventually the “viral” campaign would end by leading people to early screenings of the movie designed to spark some pre-release word-of-mouth. Wired has a good recap of the ARG campaign.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
In what many saw as an extremely odd promotion, retailer H&M created a line of clothing designed to help you achieve the look Lisbeth Salandar sports in the movie. So there’s lots of leather and an overall sense of wanting to look like an emotionally damaged extra from a Poison music video. If that’s the kind of look you’ve been waiting to achieve this will be right up your alley.
TV spots were also created and run that introduced us to the characters and some of their motivations, showing lots of action and drama unfolding without (naturally) going in to all the different levels of deception and psychosis that are in play here since that’s barely contained in the full trailers. Some of these spots ran up to a minute in length and played like mini-trailers that showed quite a bit more story than is usual.
Media and Publicity
Some of the first publicity for the movie came in the form of a profile of Mara in particular and the movie in general (W, February 2011) that featured some of the first looks at the actress in character in a variety of provocative shots.
After a bit of a break then things really heated up around the first of June when a European trailer was “leaked” and started everyone’s tongue a-wagging (Los Angeles Times, 6/1/11). The trailer featured lots of violence and a brief bit of nudity, something that earned it a red-band designation. The inclusion of that American rating on a European trailer caused more than a few people to question whether or not this was an orchestrated leak (Hollywood Reporter, 6/1/11), with most people being in the “of course it was” camp not only because of that but because the camera work wasn’t all that shaky and the sound was almost perfect. At the same time there was a
Regardless of the legitimacy of that “leak” it absolutely accomplished the goal of getting people talking and excited about this remake just before the official U.S. trailer was released to the internet. Sony of course denied any conspiracy theories (New York Times, 6/1/11) but that was to be expected.
A feature interview (Esquire, 7/6/11) with Craig gave some insights into the actor’s approach to violence, what sort of things he does in his down time and what he thought of the movie’s themes and such. Craig continued to weigh in on the subject of the film’s violence as well as the controversial poster featuring a topless Mara.
The focus would later turn back to Fincher with stories about his career to date (Wired, 12/11) and more. And then Craig went out to talk about how this character was such a “normal guy” (LAT, 12/16/11) and how he had to work to make Blomvkist appear to be someone who actually is frightened in frightening situations.
There’s a lot of good stuff and some very engaging content in this campaign, but my concern is that it’s speaking almost exclusively to two audiences: First, existing fans of the book and the original film (admittedly a sizable group) and Two, fans of David Fincher.
The campaign does, though, make it clear what audiences can expect should they make the decision to head to the theater for this movie: A highly stylized murder mystery with strong messages about class and sexual politics. That won’t be surprising to anyone familiar with the book or the original movie, of course, but I suspect the same can’t be said of the general public who, like me, has resisted the siren calls of both previous incarnations of the story.