Inside ‘Dragon Tattoo’s’ Title Sequence: ‘Like 007 by a Disturbed, 22-Year-Old Cutter’

Blur Studio used 3D captures of Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara to create the nightmare-like opening credits

“The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo” kicks off with a violent and sexually charged title sequence that would put a James Bond film to shame.

That’s just how director David Fincher wanted it when he tapped Blur Studio, a Venice, Calif., based animation and visual effects firm, to create the two-and-half minute credits for his adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s hit novel.

Blur Creative Director Tim Miller told TheWrap that Fincher instructed him to design an opening that would “look like James Bond if he was a 22-year old disturbed cutter.”

He got his wish. The oil-drenched opening contains shots of a man engulfed in flame, a woman spitting out a swarm of hornets, and, in a nod to the heroine Lisbeth Salander’s hacker talents, a veritable spider’s web of USB cables.

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The dizzying spectacle is set to Trent Reznor and Karen O’s howling rendition of “The Immigrant Song.”

“We wanted it to look like a nightmare — a bad dream that tells elements of Salander’s past,” Miller told TheWrap.

That meant culling together sequences from not only “Dragon Tattoo,” but also the other two books in the “The Millennium series,” “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

Consequently, the title sequence included shots of Salander lighting her father on fire and digging herself out of a grave that don’t appear until later in the series.

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“It was less about telling a linear story and more about the ideas behind the images,” Miller said. “That’s why you have the shot of Daniel Craig being strangled by the newspaper to show the effect of the libel case on [Blomkvist].”

In addition to the 007 films, Miller drew on such outre inspirations as a video of girls wrestling in oil, pictures of an artist who would paint himself black and stand in a gallery, and a series of images of women splattered with black paint.

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Getting the distinctive look right required the latest in computer technology. The effects in the credit sequence were achieved electronically using 3D scans of the film’s stars Daniel Craig (Mikael Blomkvist) and Rooney Mara (Salander).  These computer graphics were designed so that they could be viewed from multiple camera angles throughout the editing process.

The most challenging element, Miller said, was getting the black ooze that seeps throughout the title sequence to look realistic. To that end, Blur tapped fluid special effects specialists Spatial Harmonics and Fusion CIS to help execute the inky liquid.

In all, there are a total of 252 shots in the clip with each cut lasting for roughly 24 frames a second, giving the whole thing a hyper-adrenalized and spastic feeling that matches the troubled title character’s disturbed state of mind.

The process took Blur nearly four months to complete, with the company wrapping up work in November.

For Blur, a 100-person company that is best known its work creating the space sequences in “Avatar,” the film was a departure of sorts. Although Miller had worked with Fincher on “Zodiac” and on a shelved remake of “Heavy Metal,” Blur had never created a title sequence before.

Although the reaction among critics and bloggers has been enthusiastic, Miller said Blur has not received any new commissions for a feature film title sequence.

“I hope we get more of that kind of work,” Miller said. “The reaction has been great, but people expect greatness from David and they want to like it, so we get a little bit of the Fincher bump.”