The Girl in the Spider’s Web: Film Review

The Girl in the Spider’s Web had an uphill battle to impress me from the beginning because I’ve always really wanted more instalments from the Rooney Mara-David Fincher team rather than what is essentially a reboot with a new director and actress. I also wasn’t convinced about the casting of Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander, and while she may have changed my mind a little bit, the film itself just felt unnecessary and substandard compared to the others.

Foy is Salander, a wizard computer hacker whose hobbies include punishing men who treat women badly. She is asked by former NSA staffer Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to steal his program Firefall, which has lethal world-ending applications, from the NSA so he can destroy it. However, before Lisbeth can give Balder is program back, it is stolen from her by a member of the dangerous Spiders gang, and she must do what she can to get it back.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an amazing novel and film (both English language, with Mara, and Swedish, starring Noomi Rapace) and The Girl in the Spider’s Web doesn’t even come close in terms of story. It is nowhere near exciting, gripping or complex enough. The film isn’t completely to blame because the novel, written by David Lagercrantz after the original Millennium series writer Stieg Larsson passed away, is the weakest one. However, the film’s story has been changed pretty radically from the novel – I didn’t recognise most plot points.

I am a huge fan of Foy so I tried to be open-minded about her casting and wanted to be proved wrong. She was probably the best thing about the film and did convince as Salander, even though I kept thinking: ‘This should still be Rooney Mara’. I’m still gutted about her not doing the two other films! Foy was strong, powerful and brought the emotion when required (not often). Her Swedish accent convinced me (although she rarely spoke) and her look certainly helped me buy her transformation from regal queen in The Crown to punky hacker. It’s just a shame that Salander has become this superspy type character, pulling off all kinds of ridiculous stunts, fights and chases, when she was just a fearless hacker who could handle herself before. She was never THAT physically capable.

The co-lead in these films is journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverir Gudnasson), but he gets hardly anything to do here at all. He doesn’t actively do much himself – he simply works off Lisbeth’s instructions. Most supporting characters are underused, from Vicky Krieps‘ barely there appearance as Mikael’s lover and editor Erika Berger, Lakeith Stanfield as NSA whizz Ed Needham and Merchant as Balder. They really don’t have much going on. At least they tried to go for some emotional depth with villain Camille (Sylvia Hoeks), who has a personal connection to Lisbeth. She has good motivations and a striking look, though I hope Hoeks doesn’t get typecast as these cold killers after this and Blade Runner 2049.

It does have a lot to enjoy – it is dark, bloody and violent, with a few wince-inducing moments, there is decent action and it looked great but it wasn’t enough to convince me of its necessity. I imagine people who haven’t seen the other films or read the novels will enjoy this or at least be satisfied because they aren’t aware of how good the others were. It just pales in comparison. I get that filmmaker Fede Alvarez wanted to do something different – the tone is definitely less gritty and complex and more action-based – and I’m glad he didn’t redo Dragon Tattoo again, but it still felt too soon after the others and not needed. There had to be a longer gap so people like me could forget how good the other one was.

Bring back Mara and Fincher.

In cinemas Friday 23rd November 

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