By Ryan Keating-Lambert
A very mediocre attempt at reigniting the Millennium franchise, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is void of passion, meaning and suspense. A dull and almost lifeless action movie that is a tremendous waste of talent. As a standalone film it’s bad, but as a follow-up to a David Fincher movie, it’s a disaster.
Directed by Fede Alvarez, The Girl in the Spider’s Web brings a new crime thriller to the big screen, set several years after the events of David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, when goth hacker Lisbeth Salander and journalist Mikael Blomkvist find themselves caught up in international terrorism when missile firing codes are stolen by the underground crime group known as ‘the spiders’.
Claire Foy is one of the most critically acclaimed actresses in the world right now, from playing her majesty the Queen in Netflix series The Crown to Jan Armstrong in Damien Chazelle’s recent moon outing First Man, she’s proved herself to be a versatile and outstanding performer, so it’s no surprise that she was picked for the role of the iconic Lisbeth Salander, the character created by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson, the character that cemented Swedish actress Noomi Rapace a place among the greats in Hollywood, and the character that earned Rooney Mara an Oscar nomination.
Unfortunately, Foy has absolutely nothing to deliver in this film. Rather than the nuanced and complicated cats of the previous films, she’s simply a plot device here, a cheap superhero. There’s virtually no way to tell what she wants or what she feels, admittedly she has been hard to read in the past, but she’s never been robotic like she is here.
As the investigation begins to point back to Salander’s family, she’s forced to cooperate with minor characters that also have a phenomenal lack of depth, including a younger looking Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) void of emotion, and dialogue for that matter, especially when compared to the previous 2011 film in which the character was played by a much older Daniel Craig who was a womaniser of sorts, but not without charm and wit. Those looking forward to seeing these two major characters pair up again will be thoroughly let down. There is SOME reference to their past relationship but nothing substantial.
Lakeith Stanfield, who’s become a staple in American indie films of late, plays Edward Needham, an ex-computer hacker and a rather lousy IT security officer for the American missile programme. Clearly, this was a paycheck for Stanfield and not much else. He looks bored, very bored. As does the criminally wasted Claus Bang, who shone in last year’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner The Square. In Spider’s Web, Bang is reduced to a Disney-like henchman with a hideous bleach job.
Sharing the bad hair is Lisbeth’s long lost sister Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks) who is equally forgettable and poorly written, despite her best attempts at building a history and relationship with Salander, there’s just nothing to work with. There are some twists and turns here, but nothing that really takes you aback, unlike Fincher’s superior predecessor.
What on earth went wrong here? It’s hard to believe that Fede Alvarez, the director of the very intense home invasion thriller Don’t Breathe and the over-the-top gory Evil Dead remake, has made such a banal and lifeless trip into Jason Bourne / James Bond territory. Salander was never spy movie material, and that’s why we liked her.
Perhaps it comes down to Sony and their incompetence with this franchise. It was almost 8 years ago that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hit cinemas. Despite Rooney Mara’s Oscar nomination, the film wasn’t as successful financially. However, cast and crew were up for making the remaining two stories in Larsson’s trilogy and Mara even kept her piercings to reprise the role, but Sony wasn’t having it.
So, how to get that audience back for a quick buck? Take David Lagercrantz’ new novel in the franchise, give the story a half-assed Hollywood makeover with new faces and new direction, and give it a ‘Dragon Tattoo Story’ tagline that feels more like a ‘Remember Lisbeth? We know it’s been a while but come and see this’ tagline.
There’s one thing The Girl in the Spider’s Web does well though. It makes David Fincher’s first instalment even better – what a fantastic film that was and it should have been given the sequel treatment that it deserved. Maybe Sony will come to their senses and bring back Fincher, Mara and Craig for the missing two. Fingers crossed.