Audience members at the advance screenings of Straw Dogs were lucky enough to see a special sneak peek of Columbia’s upcoming film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Roaring applause afterwards suggests they might be on to something great come this December.

Just over three months ago, Columbia presented a teaser trailer loaded with flashes of imagery from the film, and Trent Reznor’s energetic score made it one of the more memorable trailers so far this year. The eight exclusive minutes shown to select audiences showcased more of the exciting music that resembles the pulsating score from The Social Network. Reznor and director David Fincher seem to have a great collaborative vision.

Before we get into what actually happened in the eight minutes shown, it should be noted that the cinematography looks stunning. While some still have reservations about digital cinematography, Fincher’s newfound love for the RED camera makes the most of digital technology. Each clip had a crisp look that was only enhanced by excellent composition from the cinematographer.

But you are probably more interested in what was shown, rather than how it looked – while we can’t vouch for the final product, the selected footage was obviously impressive – that’s why they showed it. The look of this adaptation has improved upon the already striking cinematography of the original, but it is loyal to the actual story on screen. It looks quite similar to the original films, even if the actors have changed. In some ways, it looks almost identical.

More importantly, the compelling plot that captivated audiences in three Swedish films is essentially the same – or at least the major plot points. We got a glimpse of all the key moments without spoiling the movie – the suspicious characters, the basics of the crime and the controversy that is Lisbeth Salander.

Most of the footage was conversational, exploring the events that occurred decades prior and instigated the investigation the film follows. Christopher Plummer demands your attention with his authoritative presence as Henrik Vanger in a role that requires a top-tier performance. He delivers as a legendary actor in the extended teaser shown.

The most memorable moments of the footage are a pair of more light-hearted scenes. In one, Salander reviews Mikael Blomkvist’s personality by revealing his “performance” with his wife. Let’s just say her details are quite personal. Another scene shows Blomkvist intruding upon Salander’s apartment, in which she has a naked female in her bed. Blomkvist hardly flinches, telling her to leave with him as if his presence was not nearly as surprising as it appears to be.

Overall, the footage seems loyal to the writing and maintains a level of continuity with the already established Swedish renditions, but it does showcase an improvement in both visuals and music. Moreover, the editing style of both the teaser and this extended footage is most impressive. It warrants a mention that the film will likely be a dialogue-driven crime thriller with less of the frenetic pace seen in the trailers. That is a huge assumption, but considering the origin, one can expect it to be more plot-driven.

If one thing was engraved in the collective conscious of audiences who saw this footage, it is that fans of the stylized filmmaking featured in The Social Network will likely enjoy David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The more important question is whether or not fans of the Millennium trilogy source material will approve of Fincher’s adaptation.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hits theaters on December 21st, 2011.