[Blu-Ray Review] Stieg Larsson’s ‘Dragon Tattoo’ Trilogy: Extended Edition (Canadian Release)

The cinematic incarnation of late Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy has never been fully embraced as a whole. It’s hardly unwarranted considering the sequels are a notch below production (not surprising since they were intended for television) and story-wise compared to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The problem is that the film on its own feels complete despite hinting at its central character’s very dark backstory. Some things are best left a mystery to avoid shattering the very qualities that made the material so compelling to begin with. When I caught up with The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest during their theatrical run, my apprehension proved to be all too accurate. They are bound together by the pulpier, continuous storyline which makers each film unsatisfactory on their own.

Initially, I was dreading sitting through all nine hours of this extended edition since I didn’t think much of the latter two. Much to my surprise, the Dragon Tattoo trilogy in its television format totally works as a separate entity to its theatrical counterparts. The sequels especially, are better served when presented as a singular property. I wouldn’t dispose of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Blu Ray since its theatrical form is still a satisfying experience. This Extended Edition is an entirely different beast which should be solely looked upon in how it’s intended to be; Stieg Larsson’s Millennium. Dragon Tattoo Trilogy BlurayWithout revealing much, this captivating piece of pulp follows two characters, journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), who’s lives intersect when Mikael is hired to solve the mysterious disappearance of a young girl. Their investigation takes them into an increasingly disturbing, seedy world of cover-ups and unimaginable truths. The closer they get to a resolve, the higher the risk factor. It’s very easy for the series to be undone by its complex plotlines. The two protagonists’ unlikely relationship is the heart and soul of this piece. Lisbeth Salander is the most fascinating and original heroine to ever grace modern fiction. All too often especially during the course of multiple installments, do central characters lose their essence. While delving deeper into her past, Larsson never loses sight of Lisbeth’s appeal. Her development throughout this series is intelligently handled. When we reach the conclusion, that air of mystery and depth about her is still very much intact.

Twenty-eight minutes of new footage has been added to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The film is all the richer for it. There is a great subplot dealing with a mole in Mikael’s Millennium magazine but the biggest alteration is to Mikael himself. His less than frivolous relationship with his boss, which is only hinted upon in the theatrical cut, is full-on apparent here. It not only adds a layer to the chivalrous Blomkvist, it takes his relationship with Lisbeth to a trickier zone. It makes their separation in the next installments all the more potent.

The Girl Who Played With Fire sees a whopping 57 minutes of extra material. Scenes are cut differently as well as, been shuffled around. Its made-for-television roots are never more obvious than with the inclusion of cliffhanger endings at the end of each chapter. Despite being trashier than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I find now myself entertained by the film. For a three-hour plus thriller, it’s well-paced. The story and characterizations makes a hell of a lot more sense now.

Like the previous episode, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest is improved with 39 minutes of new additions, as well as, having sequences recut and rearranged. There is a tension to the material I feel is severely missing in the previous cut. There is a greater focus on the mounting threat towards the Millennium staff like the ominous emails Mikael’s boss is receiving. The stakes feel much higher which adds to a much more thrilling conclusion. Probably one of the most significant plotlines throughout these extended cuts is the inclusion of Lisbeth’s relationship with her first guardian. It pays off touchingly in the climax.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: 4.5/5 Skulls
The Girl Who Played With Fire: 4/5 Skulls
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: 4/5 Skulls

The A/V: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was shot on Super 35, where the sequels were on Super 16. The difference in quality is obvious in this Blu Ray’s MPEG-4 AVC transfer. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is presented here in 1.78.1, where the theatrical cut is 2.35:1. Since the Super 35 process utilizes the full aperture of the camera, you’re actually seeing more information at the 1.78.1 ratio. Also, it gives the entire series a more align presentation. The visuals are rich in detail and vibrancy. The sequels are step down but to no fault of the transfer, which is faithful to the source. Grain is fairly heavy and at times, especially in darker moments, comes dangerously close to looking more like digital noise.

Thankfully, these films finally receive DTS-HD Master Audio. It won’t turn any heads but they’re a solid improvement over the lossy mixes on the previous releases.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: 4/5 Skulls
The Girl Who Played With Fire: 3.5/5 Skulls
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest: 3.5/5 Skulls

The Special Features: The fourth disc is a DVD devoted to the supplements, which are all carried over from the previous discs. What we get is a decent collection of five interviews and a featurette. Unfortunately, the copy I’m reviewing is the Canadian release which doesn’t contain Millennium: The Story, the 49-minute doc on the novelist, Stieg Larsson. The 12-minute interview with producer, Soren Staermose is the only feature not found on the U.S. collection.

2.5/5 Skulls

Overall: If you’ve dropped hard-earned dough on previous editions of this trilogy, you’re probably wondering if this new set is worth the double-dip. It all depends on whether you enjoy this material enough to warrant spending an additional hundred and thirty-nine minutes in Larsson’s world. In my opinion, the new footage help create a sense of unity among these films that just wasn’t present in the theatrical cuts. By using the same opening and closing title sequences, splitting each film into two ninety-minute chapters and beginning each episode with a recap of the previous, only help to enforce that we’re experiencing one epic story. The plot grows more convoluted as it progresses but the strong performances keep the material at bay. This extended edition is the definitive adaptation of Larsson’s much-loved books. If anything, Hollywood’s task to remake this trilogy just got that much tougher to live up to.

4/5 Skulls