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Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018)

Directed by: Fede Alvarez

Premise: Based on the novel by David Lagercrantz. Swedish computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) steals a program from the United States’ National Security Agency. She is then the target of Russian assassins with ties to her past.

What Works: Claire Foy is a good pick for the role of Lisbeth Salander. Foy has the edge the part requires but she also allows Lisbeth moments of humanity. Many of the best scenes in The Girl in the Spider’s Web involve Lisbeth and a young boy (Christopher Convery) who falls under her charge. Pairing a hardened character with a child is nothing new but the movie avoids sentimentality or hokeyness and exposes a new side of Lisbeth’s character. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a more action-oriented picture than the other films in this series and it is well directed by Fede Alvarez. The filmmakers don’t fall prey to the overproduced style of a lot of Hollywood action pictures and the set pieces mostly remain grounded and tangible.

What Doesn’t: Lisbeth Salander originated in Steig Larson’s Millennium trilogy. Those novels were adapted into a television miniseries starring Noomi Rapace and the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was adapted into a 2011 feature film starring Rooney Mara. After Larson died, the storyline continued with the novel The Girl in the Spider’s Web written by David Lagercrantz. The film adaptation comes across as an imitation of Larson’s stories and a self-conscious attempt to catapult the character into a franchise. This doesn’t work out very well. As exemplified in the 2010 miniseries, Larson’s original story was about the relationship between power and sexuality. Although the scope of the story broadened over the course of the series, it remained tethered to that core idea as Lisbeth Salander exposed and punished abusers. While some of those themes are present in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they have none of the depth or resonance of the original trilogy. Instead, The Girl in the Spider’s Web plays like a James Bond film of the Daniel Craig variety. Lisbeth is pursued by the NSA after stealing a computer program while assassins with a link to her past also try to lay claim to the software. The espionage plot feels out of place for this character and it doesn’t fit at all with the backstory. This film is strained by two plotlines that just don’t fit together. That is evident in the villain’s lack of any motivation. The plotting of The Girl in the Spider’s Web is spotty and inconsistent. There are numerous leaps in logic and credibility. Lisbeth allows herself to be tracked too easily and characters figure out things they couldn’t possibly know or show up in places for no reason or are otherwise saved by coincidence. Central to the other Millennium stories was the relationship between the heroine and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who was the Lois Lane to Lisbeth Salander’s Superman. The filmmakers have no idea what to do with this character. Played here by Sverrir Gudnason, the journalist is rendered mostly useless and their relationship is extraneous to the story.

Bottom Line: The Girl in the Spider’s Web is an inferior follow up to either the 2009 miniseries or the 2011 feature film. The movie is competently directed and well-acted but the story is a mess and that misses what distinguished the original trilogy. 

Episode: #726 (November 18, 2018)