The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
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The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fifth film featuring the character of Lisbeth Salander, first realised in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by sadly deceased author, Stieg Larsson. That 2005 global bestselling novel was turned into a Scandi movie in 2009 starring Noomi Rapace. Two more decent if unremarkable sequels followed, based on the series of books – The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – and everyone agreed that was probably a good place to end it. Everyone, that is, except the Americans. In 2011 director David Fincher made a staggeringly unnecessary remake of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – because the only thing Americans fear more than decent healthcare are subtitles, apparently – with Rooney Mara in the lead role. The movie was… fine. Not as good as the Scandi version, but okay, and it performed adequately at the box office.
Now, in 2018, the sequel/soft reboot that no one was really asking for is here. This time starring a miscast Claire Foy as Lisbeth and featuring better-than-the-material director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, 2013’s Evil Dead), Girl in the Spider’s Web has the dubious distinction of being the worst version of the property so far. The story, based on the reportedly not-very-good novel (and not written by Larsson), is a marked change in tone and style for the worse. The original concept of Lisbeth Salander is that she goes after rich and powerful men who hurt women. This is a great point of difference for the character, and one that’s pretty bloody topical in 2018, so why then is this Girl saddled with a bargain basement Bourne rip-off about Russian spies and nuclear codes? Worse still, Alvarez’s direction – so alive and crackling with tension in Don’t Breathe – is bafflingly inert and lacking here. Scenes just sort of happen and then the next thing occurs and, eventually, mercifully, it’s all over and you’ll have likely forgotten the whole thing before the end credits are done.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web isn’t a bad film, it’s just relentlessly mediocre and involves people who can do much, much better. Claire Foy nails the accent, but has almost nothing to work with, and consequently just drifts through the thin story. Fede Alvarez brings nothing of note to the table, and should probably get back to directing his own material, or even an Evil Dead sequel, because this is some dry old toast. Filmed competently, scored adequately, Girl in the Spider’s Web is a beige experience, like waiting in an airport lounge. And, frankly, unless you’re stuck waiting for an international flight you’ve got better things to do.