Let's cut to the crucial question: How is the new girl in David Fincher's version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"? She's fine, thank you very much. That is to say, Rooney Mara looks just as bizarre as Noomi Rapace did in the role of Lisbeth Salander, the poster girl for punk and spunk in the Swedish-language trilogy. And she cuts just as striking a figure riding a motorcycle, surfing the web or taking and giving terrible punishment. But there's a crucial difference. Lisbeth 1 was black-light incandescence, burning with focused anger. Lisbeth 2 is recessive, haunted, sometimes bummed and occasionally blank but clearly alienated from the vile world in which Lisbeth 1 fiercely claimed her place.
- Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
Truth. This is conveyed visually (look at the structures of their faces, look at the directions they're looking (one usually straight out, one usually down), look at their eyes, look at their hair, look at their clothing). It is conveyed in the dialogue - or the lack thereof, or the way it is delivered.
At one point in the film, Mara's Lisbeth asks Blomkvist, "May I kill him?" This is not a question that Rapace's Lisbeth, I think, would have asked. At the least, it's not a question that I remember her asking.
The difference is conveyed in the films' respective endings. This was what struck me the most, watching Fincher's version (or Mara's, if you wish to keep the focus on the actress) - there's a series of scenes, right at the end of the American version of the film, that emphasize Mara's attachment to Daniel Craig's Blomkvist. I don't recall these scenes being in the Swedish version - and they wouldn't fit Rapace's Lisbeth as I remember her.
Yes, this is scattered. I'm trying to think this through as I write it.
From The Tattooed Girl (a site I've looked up while writing this post) -
I can say Rooney did an excellent job—very different from Noomi, but excellent.
However, I think Fincher and his team made a couple of serious, even unforgiveable stumbles, in the characterization of Lisbeth and in the overall cosmology of the film. The key moment for me came in the final, climatic act, when Lisbeth had just beaten back Martin Vanger by whacking him with a golf club, thereby saving Mikael Blomkvist’s tenuous life. “May I kill him?” I recall Lisbeth asking Mikael, referring to Martin.
Not! Lisbeth would never ask for permission for anything, let alone permission to respond to an attacker. The soul of this character is that Lisbeth lives by her own code. She never asks for permission. She does what she believes needs to be done in the moment.