The film has been received well by most major critics, even in Sweden, where the book was born about six years ago, with Swedish critics calling it an improvement on the acclaimed Swedish version. A Swedish publication even reportedly ended its review with the declaration, 'Hollywood wins'. In three days, the movie has grossed a robust $1 million in Sweden.
The $90 million film by seasoned Hollywood director David Fincher (The Social Network, Seven) grossed about $27 million in five days in North America. The film is going to be profitable, box office analysts say, but the industry had expected the film to gross over $35 million. It is slowly opening in major overseas territories and by January-end would be playing across much of the world.
The story of a deeply troubled computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), and anguished investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist (David Craig), who is investigating the case of a long-missing young woman from one of Sweden's wealthiest families, the film is cinematically engaging throughout.
The ending and other elements have been changed in the film.
Screenwriter Steven Zaillian has said in interviews of the changes, especially the ending: 'I wasn't trying to do something different or trying to fix something. I just thought it was a good idea. When I read the book (which has some 500 pages), I thought, 'Why are we going so far afield for this mystery to be resolved? Might it be a little more interesting if it's solved a little closer to home?' That's all there was to it. I kind of felt it was right for the character.'
Zaillian won an Oscar for his screenplay for Schindler's List (another adaptation from a novel) and he has been nominated for Awakenings and Gangs of New York. In his two decades of writing, he has adapted many books including the Afghan drama A Thousand Splendid Suns which is looking for a director and a cast.
But the change of the ending is not the only reason why Dragon Tattoo hasn't become a big hit.
Its dark atmosphere and violent images may be true to the book, but it is one thing to read violent passages in a book and a very different thing to see it on the screen.
The avenging Lisbeth is not protesting against male exploitation in her case alone; her outrage is at violence against all women and it is this passion that spurs her quest for truth. And revenge.
'[The violence] is hard to watch,' Zaillian has admitted. Though he has kept out many things from the book, the violent scenes had to be there. 'But if you want to see how this woman got to be how she is, you have to present it.'
He has suggested that Lisbeth Salander becomes an engaging person because of her weakness for violence. 'There must be some element of wish fulfillment... Everyone feels to some degree the desire to get even for things people do to you.'