To Get “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” Sony Must Dump David Fincher

Girl Who Played with Fire lead 2

by Gabriel Valdez

One of my favorite films in the last few years is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It’s one of director David Fincher’s most impressive works, a tone poem of oppression, obsession, and rejection.

Daniel Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist is an idealist who suffers at the hands of social manipulators – white collar criminals and sadistic serial killers alike – while Rooney Mara’s  Lisbeth Salander plays his cynical knight in punk-goth armor, a hacker whose only care is to aggressively deconstruct – the identities of others, the clues to a mystery, the life of her abuser, the power foundation of an international bank. She’s one of my favorite heroes on film…well, ever.

Mara recently told E! that she was very doubtful the planned sequel – The Girl Who Played With Fire – would ever come to fruition. “I’m sad never to do it again,” she told Marc Malkin, “but it just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards.”

Where the problem lies between Fincher and Sony is difficult to say. Much has been written about Fincher’s budget demands, but these may be red herrings or negotiation tactics. The impasse may rely as much on whether the last two films of the trilogy would be shot back to back, and on seemingly endless (and costly) rewrites of the screenplay. Obviously, Fincher’s the best choice to realize the sequel, but this doesn’t mean he’s the only choice.

Sony, who admittedly have created many of the problems they now face with Fincher, has got to deliver an ultimatum. If it isn’t met, they must move on. I want this movie. More importantly, I want it with this cast. I’d like to see Fincher at the helm – if you ask me, no director has changed the face of film more since the 1980s. Yet there are other choices. Here are five suggestions:

I’ve long said that if the pair can’t figure it out, Sony should give David Cronenberg a call. The franchise would exist both inside and outside of Cronenberg’s wheelhouse. He creates darkly horrific tales of mental, physical, and emotional frailty. That’s what this franchise is. Fire might creatively constrain him, though. Could he realize the thrill of discovery and risk that Fincher did? I don’t know.

Mary Harron deserves more work. She once knocked American Psycho out of the park and while she’s experienced at horror, she’s more experienced at exactingly taking the genre apart at its seams, which is the real strength Fincher brings to the table.

Could Steven Soderbergh be coaxed out of his not-really retirement? He’s a career chameleon with a rare ability to direct from the inside-out in any genre, although he can gloss a film over where Fincher is exactingly dispassionate. He’s directed Mara to stunning effect before in Side Effects.

What about Danny Boyle? It wouldn’t be the first time he took over for Fincher, as he’s doing now for the Aaron Sorkin-written Steve Jobs biopic. Boyle is a master of changing voice, pace, and style – 28 Days Later…, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours. He’s not a precise match for the tone Fincher set, but who is?

If you want an out-of-left-field suggestion: Tomas Alfredson, director of Let the Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Few are as good at setting mood. His films are paced glacially, but they always pay off. He’s also as good a director of actors as you can find, and he lends his movies that dispassionate, exacting quality I spoke of earlier while marrying them to a worldview more hauntingly sad.

These are the five who come off the top of my head right away. Obviously, Fincher is the best choice, but with the cast assembled – with core players like Mara and Craig who realized their roles so completely in the first movie…do you really want to lose those and be forced to start over? Do you think a reboot or, oh god no, a TV series (as Mara points out, Sony’s spent too much money on the rights to do nothing with them) would be better? Sony has to figure things out with Fincher. Or do the impossible, and be brave enough to dump and replace him. I don’t want to write this up one day in our Best Movies Never Made section.

Just make sure you keep Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the score, and bring Karen O in for another guest vocal. Because:

(Thanks to moviecritic92 for the heads up on Mara’s comments.)

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