Opting for style over substance, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB boasts enough inventive set pieces to keep you engaged but ultimately feels disconnected from the rest of the series
Considering its been seven years since David Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO hit UK cinema screens, you kind of wonder why Sony has even bothered reboot the Millennium series once again. Don’t get me wrong, Steig Larrson’s crime series is one of most riveting gems to come out of Sweden in the past decade but despite its success, the Americanized trilogy was never really fully realised… yet here we are again.
Based on the novel by David Lagercrantz, written 11 years after Larsson’s death, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is effectively a sequel to THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. It follows young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) who joins forces with computer scientist (Stephen Merchant) to try and stop nuclear codes from falling into the wrong hands, including an NSA employee Ed Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) and a crime syndicate called The Spiders led by Lisbeth’s estranged twin sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks).
Yet while Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO wholly embraced the unsettling and disturbing nature of its source material, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB takes a slightly different approach. It’s clear from the opening James Bond-esque credit sequence that this is a film that opts for style over substance. From elaborate action set pieces to the inventive car chases, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a full-on action-packed drama, with director Fede Alvarez almost moving away from the harsh character study (which is really what attracted people to the Salander stories in the first place) to a fast-moving thriller.
The biggest problem with THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is that its not really very clear why Salander does what she does in the movie. Gone is her pervasive drive for revenge, her curiosity and her self-preservation and what is left is a stone-faced female action hero who exhibits very little in the way of personality. Salander has effectively become a vigilante, turning to hyperbolic violence at a moment’s notice without any real drive or reason. Even when a bit of a backstory is introduced (the dynamic between Lisbeth and Camilla is particularly fascinating), it isn’t given enough development to be fully formed.
Thankfully, Claire Foy is convincingly raw as the tough-as-nails Salander, even if her persona has been reduced from wraithlike to grumpy. While Foy’s interpretation may not be as captivating as other versions (Noomi Rapace’s interpretation in the Swedish version is arguably still the best), she nevertheless commits herself to the role, handling the emotional and physical sides of the character with skill.
Shame then that many of the supporting actors are wasted in thankless roles. Key figures like Camilla, Balder and Needham are basically reduced to walking plot devices to help move the story along, while journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) contributes almost nothing to the story that Salander couldn’t figure out on her own.
That said, there are enough inventive set pieces, including an exhilarating motorcycle chase over a sheet of frozen ice and a climactic showdown in Salander’s childhood home, to keep you engaged and invested. Shame then that THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB feels so disconnected from the rest of the series. In fact, you kind of feel like THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is an unnecessary revisit to a franchise that died years ago.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is released in UK cinemas from 21 November 2018
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.