5 reasons why Stieg Larsson movies are better than the books

Last night I saw The Girl Who Played with Fire (or Flickan som lekte med elden, if you prefer) and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the film was better than the book.

Accepted wisdom says that it’s usually the other way around; the chief exception being movie tie-ins (for a sterling example, see the paperback adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Francis Ford Coppola film, a book-of-the-movie-of-the-book, or a thing that shouldn’t exist). But that just proves the rule of whichever came first is better.

Not in this case. Apart from it taking up much less of my life than the 600-odd page novel, I enjoyed the movie much more. Here are five legitimate reasons why you should too:

  1. In a movie, you’re generally not inside the characters’ heads, subjected to every little thought they have. In this case, that means you don’t have to hear about all their mental peccadilloes, like Blomkvist’s frustration that no one understands his multiple simultaneous love affairs, or Ronald Niedermann’s unfortunate fear of the dark, or Lisbeth Salander solving Fermat’s Last Theorem the proper way (oh yeah, spoiler alert).
  2. You also don’t have to worry about all the dead-end sub-plots that don’t fit into a 2 hour movie – like the inept police investigation, which follows every red herring in an effort to prove Stieg Larsson’s point that men who hate women are bad.
  3. By leaving out those sub-plots, you also don’t have to remember all kinds of near-identical Swedish names (don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely names – sorry, löveljë nämenens).
  4. Similarly, all the locations actually look like interesting places rather than just names from an Ikea catalogue, and all the people have real, distinct identities, instead of the generic Scandinavian faces of my imagination (okay, maybe that’s my lack of effort).
  5. You learn that Paolo Roberto is a real person.

6 thoughts on “5 reasons why Stieg Larsson movies are better than the books

  1. All excellent points. You didn’t mention that you can actually see a butt-plug rather than having to imagine one.

    Americans are remaking the film. If the first film was better than the book, should the second film be twice as good? And what if they novelize it?

    1. I think you’re on to something there. So the further we get from the original, the better it will be, eh?

      Well, after the Americanisation, there’s bound to be a spin-off TV series, called something like G.W.P.W.F.

      Followed by another spin-off of Salander as a young girl, The Girl Before She Played With Fire, where we find out she knew a young Blomkvist before he became famous. Then there’s the Masterchef-style The Girl Who Played With the Fryer, plus the ribald British comedy, The Girl Who Played With the Friar.

      Possibly a burlesque show, Girls! Playing with Fire!, followed by a community announcement, Girls! Don’t play with fire! By which time the concept will be totally exhausted and it’ll be time for the crappy telemovie, Fireplayer: The Lisbeth Salander Story.

      How does that sound?

  2. And now you’ve made me want to see the movie, which I didn’t actually want after reading the book. Hm.

    And Paolo Roberto’s a real person? Seriously? I really would not have picked that. Now I’m suspicious that Stieg Larsson was doing a bit of fan-boydom, where you write your favourite person into your fan fic in the hopes they’ll want to meet you. Normally that doesn’t work. Guess it didn’t really with him either…

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