Co.Design

Fincher's Demand For "Dragon Tattoo" Opener: Make It Better Than "Se7en"

David Fincher demanded that Blur Studio top the legendary opening of Se7ven. We think they just might have.

Director David Fincher is a Hollywood designer-auteur, and his films’ title sequences bear the stamp of his uncompromising, meticulous eye. One of the most famous ones comes from his blackhearted thriller Se7en, in which designer Kyle Cooper fused nightmarish atmosphere with actual character development into a short few minutes. That sequence quickly became legendary. Which meant that when Fincher asked Blur Studio to top it for the title sequence of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, he was asking a hell of a lot. Did they succeed? You be the judge:

Like the Se7en opener, Fincher told Blur he wanted the Dragon Tattoo credits sequence to contain references to the story about to unfold. The narrative references in Blur’s work are much more oblique than Cooper’s—Se7en’s title sequence brought viewers inside the mental abattoir of one vividly drawn character, whereas Dragon Tattoo's challenge was to integrate plot points from three novels and multiple characters. But there’s no arguing that the Dragon Tattoo sequence comes on like a freight train from hell all the same.

Few films these days even have title sequences, many of them opting for a cold-open style. The ones that do tend to offer digitally sexed-up, weightlessly flashy CGI wankfests. The Tattoo sequence is completely digital, but it doesn’t feel that way. The gurgling black oil that surges throughout the sequence feels thick, suffocating, anything but a CGI fiction. Intercut with shock cuts of Rooney Mara’s character convulsing (ecstasy or death throes?) and weeds quivering with insectoid malice—with Trent Reznor’s demonic cover of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song pulsing underneath—the effect is genuinely unsettling. Even the film’s iconic title is only onscreen for an instant before being strangulated by the inky nightmare sap (Tim Miller, the sequence’s creative director, prefers "primordial dream ooze").

What Se7en and Tattoo's title sequence share most as pieces of expert design is their success at "training" the viewer for what comes next. Se7en just kept getting worse and worse, so much that when the final head-in-box moment comes, you feel just as blindsided and numb as Brad Pitt does. He gets no reprieve, and neither do we. Similarly, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was advertised at "the feel-bad movie of the holiday season." Just in case you laughed that off as an ironic quip, remember that Fincher isn’t messing around. The first few minutes of the film smother you with menace— sticky, horrifying befoulment that you can’t scrape off, can’t escape, and will only get thicker, blacker, worse.

[via io9]

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17 Comments

  • Grant

    I think it has become increasingly difficult to 1 up. Seven came at a time where desktop motion design was in its infancy and really become a posterchild for it and CGI was in the realm of high high end applications only. The ideas and treatment of Seven were born from the essence of the film and handled in a way that they are part of the film. I haven't seen Dragon Tattoo yet and I work in CGI. It is sublime eye candy executed with technical mastery but it kinda feels like it is technique driven and so abstract that it became a bit of a style piece. The difficulty now is we are saturated with so much sophisticated CGI it is becoming increasingly difficult to do something revolutionary. Hence the importance of the idea and narrative, which does feel thin on Dragon. That said, still looks amazing.

  • Andrew K Kirk

    The title sequence for Dragon Tattoo with it's music was amazing, especially in the theater. It brings you immediately into the mindset of what's about to unfold. It was awesome! 

  • Jim

    As a standalone sequence, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' titles are very nice, but as others have said, but they jar with the tone of the film and would more at home on a James Bond movie.

    Seven is far better.

  • Alienlickwid

    I like it a lot, but I don't agree with the writer that its "better than Se7en". It almost felt "Bondish", not because of Daniel Craig, but because I've seen the use of liquid and oil-like substances flowing over naked bodies in their opening sequences. This open didn't have half the menace or atmosphere of Kyle Coopers "masterpiece". Part of that is the music, Reznor grabbed you with a sense of doom and twitching terror. (I know cos I just listened to that mix the other day). The visuals though, are just too clean and CG sterile to really give you the feeling of being smothered with blackness and dirt. You could almost smell the title sequence of Se7en and I distinctly remember dreading what was coming next. This is really well executed, but its not on Se7en's level.

  • Lee

    I personally think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo titles are a pretty awful CGI overload, they're not a patch on the Se7en intro. It's interesting to note that Kyls Cooper filmed the Se7en sequence in his bathroom, and it probably cost a fraction of the CGI used in the GWTDT.

  • soundornotsound

    One big difference is the sound track. They just play a song, like in a music video. The sound track at SE7EN consists not only of music, but sound design and voices and noises etc. as well, AND placed synchronically with visual events. This is what makes the difference!

  • Dan

    It was a good, dark opening sequence (TGWTDT), kind of twisted, but I also immediately thought to myself, "Bond", when I first saw it. The opening sequence for SE7EN, is one of my all time favorites and is a hard one to beat, which, unfortunately, as much as I liked TGWDT's, SE7EN's is better. 

    Adding to what Kirk said: I would say, both opening sequences would work really well to promote a Trent Reznor soundtrack; both opening sequences use songs written by Trent Reznor!

  • Kirk

    I agree Stef, very Bondosian. I'm sure this would work equally well to promote a Trent Reznor soundtrack, but not really fitting the movie as well.

  • Thrillpill

    If it is indeed true that Fincher requested (the man looks like he demands, doesn't he?) a sequence better than the SE7EN title sequence maybe he should have asked back the person who made the iconic sequence.

    I thought the Dragon Tattoo title sequence did a decent job of getting me in the mood for the film but it was totally divorced from the style/execution of the film. The SE7EN title sequence on the other hand served almost like a prequel to the action that unfolded. 

    So, there is no question, the SE7EN title sequence endures, and it will continue to remain the high water mark for excellence in opening title design.

  • Ian Walker

    btw: Salander -> Salamander;
    This Salemandre berithe wulle, of which is made cloth and gyrdles that may not brenne in the fyre

    and

    Elemental - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    and

    Medieval Bestiary - Salamander

    and 

    Salamander

    finally

    The salamander is a symbol of enduring faith, or courage, that cannot be destroyed.

    'nuf said rly...

    cheers

  • Ian Walker

    hmmm, I wanted Emma Watson as Lisbeth (its the reason for the pixie do sweetie, and the Brown education)... 

    picture Emma channeling Bobbi Starr, another fluffy creation...

     :^)or should that be Chanel'ing...

  • Stef Marcinkowski

    Shaken, but not stirred: the Dragon sequence looks and feels only slightly ahead of where 007 film openers we be in another 5 years from now. Daniel Craig 2.0

  • Roberto

    true, seven opening titles felt like a part of the movie, they enhanced it, dragon's are totally disconnected.