From the official continuation of the late Stieg Larson’s Millenium trilogy, itself previously adapted to film in both Sweden and America, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” serves as a pseudo-sequel/soft reboot of the previous American adaptation of Lisbeth Salander’s adventures in 2011’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
Having settled into something of a vigilante role for those finding themselves abused by the powers that be, Salander (portrayed this time by Claire Foy) this time finds herself embroiled in a conspiracy to that could threaten world security after a cyber security suite developed by America that’s capable of hacking the world’s nuclear arms, is illegally obtained by Swedish spies, forcing her to reluctantly work with an NSA hacker, played by LaKeith Stanfield, to confront her uncomfortable past, as her childhood sister is revealed to have conspired the entire web of deception to confront her estranged sibling over perceived past transgressions.
If all that sounds like a ludicrous leap in storytelling logic for a Nordic noir franchise that's gotten by up to this point on bleak and moody atmosphere, hard hitting social themes about the corruption and hypocrisy of human nature despite the apparent achievement of liberal utopia, and intricate tightly plotted character play serving as a fascinating study of victimization and a mildly exploitative but equally cathartic fantasy for those deeply wronged by systems that protect their abusers, give yourself a pat on the back for maintaining your own sanity.
Make no mistake; “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” may be a thoroughly mediocre film despite its slick sense of style and direction but it doesn’t come anywhere near the levels of badness protruding from last year’s “The Snowman.” Despite that however, there’s a part of me that holds a little more admiration for that film after sitting through this one.
“The Snowman” may have been an aborted abomination but at least it was an abomination of clashing creative views and production desperation born from some sense of evident care about the final product on some substantial level. Conversely, despite director Fede Alvarez holding down a solid looking and decently paced production, it doesn’t take long to realize the stock action movie playing out wasn’t inspired by the Nordic noir crime thriller it shares its namesake and franchise with but bland generic, hacker-centric action flick wearing the skin of something stylish it shares almost no common ground with.
The removal of the story’s characteristic teeth becomes evident right from the jump, as an awkward prologue featuring a flashback to Salander’s childhood that receives no sort of significant follow up until the third act, transitions into an opening sequence of the titular hero on the job and trying way too hard to sell her as a European hacktivist Batman, with a graphic credit sequence that probably would have been astonishing had some sort of powerful musical piece been playing over it, something even David Fincher knew to do 7 years ago.
What subsequently plays out is a production of narrative, dramatic, and atmospheric contradictions that’s too slick and stylized to be believable, too dreary and lifeless to be fun or trashy, and too thin on story to do something unique with its subject matter or explore the traditional themes of its genre meaningfully. That's a shame too because the movie is with merits beyond the money and production values put into it.
Claire Foy throws herself into the role almost effortlessly and is continuing to make a great showcase for her acting range this year, along with an effortless and casual display of bisexuality in media that should be highlighted as a definitive way to portray these things.
Additionally, LaKeith Stanfield is beginning to show himself to be an outright treasure, taking a role painfully throwaway and putting more into it than the screenwriters were willing to give him to the point where you can almost see him struggling not to drown with what nonexistent lifelines he’s been thrown.
Sadly, whatever worth the film’s leads and director were able to bring to the table are drowned out by a production so laughably calculated by the studio towards establishing a “James Bond-esque” spy franchise in a mold where these antics are woefully out of place that all I could leave thinking about was how smashed I could get making a drinking game out the piled on plot contrivances and how hilarious it's in a darkly ironic way that a studio like Sony would release a film so obviously ignorant of how hacking works.
The search for potentially strong ongoing Nordic noir cinema continues because “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” shows Miss Salander may not be the savior this genre was hoping for.
2 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.