Fede Alvarez (director)
1h 57mins (length)
08 November 2018 (released)
14 November 2018
The Girl in the Spider’s Web was announced as a brand new start for Lisbeth Salander, as opposed to a direct sequel to 2011’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
If you are able to make this distinction – or better yet, haven’t seen David Fincher’s acclaimed masterpiece at all – Spider’s Web is another run-of-the-mill action flick. But for anyone that holds The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo dear, the differences between the two are too stark to ignore.
Claire Foy has taken over from Rooney Mara and her Lisbeth Salander is a very different breed. She still has the hair, the motorbike and the tattoo, obviously, but Mara’s vulnerability has all but disappeared. Foy’s Lisbeth Salander is cold, confident and virtually indestructible. She has remarkable physicality and can take on multiple brutish blokes all at once in a fist fight. Her computer hacking skills show no bounds and poaching software from America’s National Security Agency really is like stealing candy from a baby.
We’re reintroduced to her approximately three years after the events of Dragon Tattoo, and as well as playing 'Supergirl' and saving women from the actions of despicable men, she’s also working with computer scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) – a former employee of the NSA who has created a dangerous nuclear programme called Firewall, and now he’s scared by its power and wants it back.
NSA security expert Edwin Neeham (Lakeith Stanfield) is on the first flight to Stockholm to catch Lisbeth after she steals Firewall from him, but by the time he arrives, she's already lost it to a ruthless criminal Russian organisation who mark themselves with spider tattoos. So, Lisbeth turns to journalist and former lover Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason replaces Daniel Craig in the role) to help her retrieve Firewall before it’s too late. Who’d have thought the girl wearing a ‘Give Me Head Until I’m Dead’ slogan T-shirt would be charged with the task of saving the world from nuclear holocaust?
As a self-contained film, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is fine. It’s watchable enough that you won’t be counting down the minutes until the end, but ultimately it’s not a satisfying experience.
In spite of the fact that Lisbeth has a very personal connection to the spider gang, the story is predictable with no meaningful character development. An exploration of the dynamics between Lisbeth and the group’s leader (Sylvia Hoeks) could have added some interesting emotional depth to the piece, but instead their entire relationship is crammed into one underwhelming snowy scene.
Foy, who also follows Noomi Rapace's 2009 portrayal of Lisbeth from Niels Arden Oplev's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, does a good job at making the character her own. However, she shares absolutely no chemistry with Borg/McEnroe star Gudnason, who shows none of the charisma Daniel Craig oozed as Mikael, and is underused on this occasion. Hoeks, Stanfield and Merchant are adequate, but constrained by their material. While Dragon Tattoo felt dark, edgy and vicious thanks to Fincher’s direction and a brilliant soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Spider’s Web has followed the blueprint for every action movie ever made in every possible way. The direction and music are equally basic and the script is frankly embarrassing in parts.
It's standard popcorn fare, but for anybody hoping for something of similar quality to the film’s predecessor, don’t waste your time.