Arachnophobes, there’s no need to worry. Despite its title, there are very few actual spiders in The Girl In The Spider’s Web (TGITSW), and the ones that appear are regular-sized and hardly dangerous. No one is actually trapped in any spider webs in this film: if you’re into that, watch the last The Lord Of The Rings film, or wait for the upcoming Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.
So what do you get from this movie? Well, the return of Lisbeth Salander, the bad-ass hacker protagonist last seen in David Fincher’s Oscar-winning The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It’s been seven years since that film, and now she’s finally returned. Watching this rather average outing however, viewers may wonder if it was worth the wait.
A little background: Lisbeth Salander is the protagonist of the Millennium trilogy novels by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, which comprise The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. The character’s kickass attitude, coupled with her complex background involving trauma and abuse, soon made the books very popular, and all three were made into blockbuster movies in Sweden, with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. When Larsson died in 2004, his work was continued by David Lagercrantz, who wrote The Girl In The Spider’s Web.
Due to the popularity of Larsson’s books, Hollywood soon came calling, and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was remade by Fincher in 2011, with Rooney Mara playing Lisbeth. Despite the film being critically acclaimed, Hollywood somehow decided to reboot the series, with Fede Alvarez directing TGITSW and Claire Foy now playing the lead character.
(Hang on! What happened to the other books? Why did they jump from Dragon Tattoo to Spider’s Web? Who knows? Now American audiences may never see Lisbeth Salander play with fire or kick a hornet’s nest.)
So anyway. TGITSW sees Lisbeth live dangerously in Stockholm, preying on powerful men who take advantage of women. She is approached one day by Franz Balder (Stephen Merchant), an American agent who has invented a programme that can manipulate nuclear weapons worldwide. Feeling his programme is too dangerous for anyone, Franz hires Lisbeth to steal back from the National Security Agency.
Complications soon arise, however, and the programme soon finds itself in the wrong hands.
Lisbeth now has to race against time to get it back, and protect August (Christopher Convery), Balder’s son who is the key to unlocking Balder’s programme. The two soon become involved with a deadly Russian gang whose trademark is their spiderweb tattoos. Even worse, the person behind the attack turns out to have a very personal connection to Lisbeth.
Reading this synopsis, you’d think that TGITSW is an action thriller, and you would be right. Alvarez’s film is full of chases and explosions, and at times, feels very much like a Jason Bourne film. Which is odd, because Larsson’s books have usually been slow-burning mysteries, which may come as a disappointment to fans of the series. And this change of tone might have been forgivable if the film didn’t feel so generic – apart from a raid on the villain’s headquarters towards the end, there is nothing we haven’t seen done better in other films.
Technically, TGITSW really shines – scenes are heavily hued in dark blue and in grey, which really adds to the gritty, noir feel of the film.
Acting is pretty good too. It may have been a weird choice to cast Foy, most known for playing Queen Elizabeth II in TV’s The Crown, as the undercut-sporting, tattooed Lisbeth, but she does a great job, performing all her action scenes with gusto.
Sverrir Gudnason plays Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who plays an important role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo: here however, his role is so minor he could have been cut with little effect.
Providing mild comic relief is LaKeith Stanfield, who plays Edwin Needham, an American agent held up by Swedish bureaucracy looking for Franz’s programme. Stanfield performs well, to the point that occasionally, you wish the film was about him instead. Perhaps the only disappointment, however, is the villain, played by Sylvia Hoeks, who is too one-dimensional to be memorable.
All in all, the film is pretty decently made, but utterly forgettable, particularly with the vast variety of spy thrillers we watch nowadays.
TGITSW has some compelling elements. For example, it would have been interesting, if the personal connection between Lisbeth and the victim had been explored more instead of just one scene in the end. It would have been fascinating if they had pursued the angle of Lisbeth fighting for oppressed women; disappointingly, they’ve decided to go down the boring, safe route.
Lisbeth deserves more than this bland thriller treatment. They might want to think about rebooting this reboot.
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The Girl In The Spider’s Web
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Claire Foy, LaKeith Stanfield, Sverrir Gudnason