Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Noomi Rapace, who reprises her role as Lisbeth Salander in this sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is far and away the strongest element of The Girl Who Played With Fire. While the first film in the so called Millennium Trilogy was a solid and gripping mystery, its successor is merely a pale reflection, resting entirely on the understated greatness of Rapace’s excellent performance.
There are some things here for fans of the first film or of the books each is based upon. The intrigue this time has more to do with Lisbeth’s past; those reoccurring flashbacks from the first film of a 12-year-old Salander lighting a man on fire are finally put into context and explained. Also, Lisbeth’s sadistic case worker, Bjurman, factors into the mysterious plot. This kind of continuity is comforting, and helps us to ignore the film's weaker direction and lazily uncreative photography. By picking up these threads from the previous film, the trilogy takes on the same familiar feeling of a serialized tv drama.
More on the lazy cinematography. Film blogger Todd Miro wrote an article at Into The Abyss about “one of the most insidious and heinous practices that has ever overwhelmed the industry.” - The orange and teal color palette. He explains how it came about:
You see, flesh tones exist mostly in the orange range and when you look to the opposite end of the color wheel from that, where does one land?  Why looky here, we have our old friend Mr. Teal.  And anyone who has ever taken color theory 101 knows that if you take two complementary colors and put them next to each other, they will "pop", and sometimes even vibrate.  So, since people (flesh-tones) exist in almost every frame of every movie ever made, what could be better than applying complementary color theory to make people seem to "pop" from the background.  I mean, people are really important, aren't they?
Now it seems this color theory has been exported to other countries, namely Sweden; The Girl Who Played With Fire suffers from this grading worse than any film I’ve seen, and makes the examples Miro highlights on his blog look subtle in comparison. In nearly every shot, the only two colors are orange and teal, regardless of location, mood, or what have you. Here are just a few examples from the film:

This really needs to stop; it is ugly and lazy and just plain weird. There are plenty of beautiful colors, why not photograph them? The world is full of contrast already. I’m not saying every film has to be as vibrant as the work of Pedro Almodovar, but at least throw more than two colors in there. Here is my plea to any filmmakers who might read this: please do not fall victim to the lazy and uncreative habit of smothering your frame in nothing but fugly orange and teal. Thank you.

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