By now everyone has at least heard of, if not seen, David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, a film that many are calling one of the best of the year. Personally, I wasn’t all that bowled over by the film. I felt that, as with the 2009 Swedish film, the main plot was excruciatingly dull, and the characters had to rely way too much on enhancing photos and making spreadsheets to move the story along. In both cases, I would’ve liked for the dynamic between the characters – investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk/goth hacker badass Lisbeth Salander – to be front and center rather than the presumed murder mystery, which I didn’t think was interesting at all.
It was the relationship between the two central characters which I found most intriguing, and throughout the film the same hallow, geeky reason for this interest kept popping into my head. Fincher’s film is the greatest telling of a gritty, adult Batman and Robin story that anyone could make. Similar to my feeling that Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass is probably the best film adaptation Spider-Man that we’ll ever get, Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo is probably the finest telling of The Dark Knight Returns on film that anyone will ever pull off, and is probably how I think Christopher Nolan should have ended his Dark Knight trilogy.
Now, I realize that The Dark Knight Rises deserves a fair chance to close out the series in its own way, and I should withhold judgment until I see the final product, but I have to say, what I’ve seen so far isn’t that impressive. And I’m a Nolan fan. But CGI exploding football fields and that dull prologue set on a plane and Anne Hathaway as Catwoman (who could wind up being the revelation that Heath Ledger was as Joker for all I know, but right now I just couldn’t be less excited to see that character in a movie) all kind of have me worried for how it’s going to turn out. I think the story that I was kind of hoping for was some kind of mix between Batman: Dark Victory (with the idea that Batman Begins is a sort of rough adaptation of Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight was very loosely based on Batman: The Long Halloween) and Frank Miller’s classic, The Dark Knight Returns.
So the two things that I thought of when Nolan said he was going to close out the series was an older Batman (perhaps not as old as he was in DKR, but definitely older) and a Robin origin story. This would pretty much complete the arc of how Batman became the superhero we now know him to be. Now, granted, Nolan said he’d never use Robin, presumably because Robin is too silly for the gritty “Nolanverse”, but Lisbeth Salander shows how Robin could have worked. Salander is, if I can say this without insulting the character or her fans, a bit of a superhero already. She has a good heart but the brutality of the world has caused her to hide it behind a veritable mask of piercings, tattoos, black clothes and cigarettes. She’s very gifted as a spy and a hacker, and doesn’t need a Batman figure to help her escape from whatever traps she finds herself in. All these things make her an ideal Robin. When we meet her she’s already completely self-sufficient and not looking to be anyone’s sidekick, but she’s kind of a feral animal and she needs guidance, which is where Blomkvist/Batman comes in.
When we first meet Blomkvist, he’s just been smacked with a huge libel conviction and is preparing to leave his magazine and the field of journalism altogether (which is a similar situation to the one that we leave Batman in at the end of The Dark Knight). It’s then that he is hired to carry out one final investigation, a private one, which eventually causes him to cross paths with Salander. While being polar opposites, the two detectives complement each other in their thinking and their methods, similar to how Robin proved his usefulness in Dark Victory by offering a fresh perspective to clues that Batman couldn’t seem to piece together. Eventually Blomkvist finds himself in hot water, and Salander is there to pull him out in a kind of role-reversal of the typical damsel in distress/trapped sidekick scenario.
I think it’s important for this mock adaptation that Robin is a female because it not only ties into DKR and goes against tradition, it makes for a more interesting character. She is a victim of a misogynist society and she has to work twice as hard to be respected as a hero and a protagonist. It’s also worth mentioning that no superhero costumes are really necessary for this sort of Robin story to work. You don’t need to waste time explaining what the colors mean or what the R-symbol means or whatever. Heck, Dragon Tattoo works well as a loose DKR adaptation even without a Bat-suit.
As I said, I’m not discounting the possibility for Dark Knight Rises to be a great film and end out Nolan’s work with Batman on a high note. However, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo hits all the right notes for what I’m looking for in a finale for the trilogy. It shows us what could have happened if Nolan had opted to go the other way, to ground the characters even further into reality instead of trying to smash expectations with even bigger explosions and even more bad guys and guest stars. I could be wrong, and Nolan’s decision to make the series about the rise and fall of Gotham could be the right way to take it. But as long as something like Dragon Tattoo is out there, I’m always going to wonder if he missed an opportunity for a truly great Batman and Robin story.