Reviews

The Girl in the Spider’s Web

Are you not Lisbeth Salander, the righter of wrongs? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? The girl who hurts men who hurt women?

Those who love the grungy, leather-clad Lisbeth Salander from the well-known novels or the previous films will be sadly disappointed in the new reboot, which no one asked for nor needs. No matter how much Claire Foy and director Fede Alvarez try their best to make this work, The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story is undoubtedly the worst in the Dragon Tattoo franchise.

For someone who is a fan of the novels and has seen the English and Swedish film versions, I was certainly invested and even optimistic about this new iteration. However, as much as I love Foy and think she does a really great job with what she is given, the film is a meandering mess. The story is from the fourth novel of the Dragon Tattoo series. The plot involves the intelligent computer hacker Salander (Foy) trying to prevent the bad guys—known as The Spiders—from getting hold of a computer program that can access codes for nuclear weapons worldwide after Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) hires her to steal the program from the National Security Agency. Clearly this goes for the safer option, with the story being a common trope of spy action thrillers.

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Foy and Christopher Convery in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Sadly this still feels like it is the same yet weaker reiteration of the previous films.  Alvarez does try to create something new by bringing in his own style, and although there are some nice stylistic touches—slick motorcycle sequences, symbolic shots with spiders, and falls—it still feels bland. Suffering from serious editing issues, the film moves strangely from scene to scene with no real meaning. The main problem is that Lisbeth is part of a dark, dirty and grimy world where abuse and corruption reign, and yet this is completely sanitized and removed from the Rated R elements to render it more palatable for a mainstream audience.

The film falls into cliché tropes where it wants to be a basic action flick instead of the gritty psychological drama it should be. Everything interesting and unique about Lisbeth is removed to make Foy’s Lisbeth into a typical action hero who simply defeats the bad guys. It would rather have its heroine seem more like a Bond figure than actually portray the depth of her character: fraught with flaws, an inner darkness and damaged vulnerability.

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Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

However, not all of this is bad. There is some good among the bad and for casual film-goers and those who are not familiar with the character and story this might be more enjoyable. The locations really helped this feel more authentic, with gorgeous shots of Sweden in bleak winter. Pretty much every scene has a stunning shot of a Swedish building or snow-covered exteriors. Salander’s apartment at the beginning of the story is a beautifully stylized grungy warehouse, which in a lot of ways seems almost too pretty and stylized for her character.

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Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Foy is the best thing about this, portraying Lisbeth’s humanity as she is wrecked by her traumatic past. However, the backstory is thinly written and conveyed through brief flashback scenes. The film vaguely hints at her troubled past of abuse at the hands of men yet shies away from actually committing to it. It doesn’t seem as though the writers knew what they were doing with Lisbeth’s character, and so Foy is left to create her own interpretation and it mostly works. I would have loved to have seen even more of her character, including her past and how it has affected her. However, with all the effort and commitment Foy puts into her character, the film still falls to a terrible new low for the franchise. If you’re looking for an authentic story of Lisbeth Salander, do yourself a favour and watch the Swedish versions—even David Fincher’s masterpiece—instead!

★★½

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