The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a movie that came out in 2011 and was relatively well-regarded (to some, beloved) because it was a straightforward mystery directed for the screen by David Fincher, who everyone loves regardless of what he does (with reason).
Sony has had the intellectual property for the “Millennium” series by late Swedish author Stieg Larsson but has been frustrated in its effort to bring back Fincher and original stars Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig back for its sequels, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The first story in the series is pretty straightforward. The sequels suck. Spider’s Web was a book published posthumously (the first of three) and it also totally sucks but less so than the actual sequels written by Larsson because the man was actually an investigative journalist whose interests were less in character and story than in conspiracy and exposition. So what we’re dealing with, walking into this year’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web, is a sequel to a film based on a sequel book that was no good, starring a B-side cast because the A-listers all found better things to do, and directed by Fede Álvarez (Don’t Breathe), but beholden in every way to Fincher (who is not easy to imitate while retaining much honesty of your own).
That is to say, it’s not very good.
It’s not even quite the level of dogshit that I enjoy watching because, let’s face it, I enjoy dogshit. It’s the kind of dogshit that causes strangers to pass me in the hallway back from the bathroom and say “Wow, that’s terrible.” That’s not happened to me before.
Claire Foy plays Lisbeth Salander this time, the titular “girl” in these series: hacker and abuse survivor, by night a superhero of sorts who punishes abusive men. Foy is fine. She’s given such a thankless script and photographed to look so goddamn small that it’s a little odd at times. Small but fierce, maybe? But she’s never really given the opportunity to be “fierce” here because the script is so, so inept. Oddly it opens with her on a mission to punish a bad guy but it quickly turns into a “stop nuclear armageddon caused by my long-thought-dead super-villain albino sister.”
I don’t know who thought this was even an interesting movie to make.
In Mitch Ringenberg’s review of The Equalizer 2, he complained that the film wasted its basic premise by giving the hero a story beyond his “Uber driver who fights bad guys for the downtrodden.” I disagree with his review of Equalizer 2, but his complaint applies here. Nothing in Spider’s Web ever earns its confounding and stupid global plot. Nothing. We benefit, lightly, from the inclusion of Lakeith Stanfield as an American agent hunting the same nuclear program that Salander is chasing. Stanfield swaggers through his idiot character with so much gusto that he’s practically saying “Cast me as the villain in a Marvel franchise.” At least, I hope that’s what he’s saying.
Technically these “Millennium” stories are two-handers between Salander and Mikael Blomkvist (played here by Sverrir Gudnason instead of Craig). Blomkvist is an investigative reporter who … blah blah blah, he has nothing to fucking investigate here and Gudnason’s a physically gorgeous black hole of charisma. Can’t blame him. There isn’t much to investigate when the film contains no mysteries and the villain’s plot is as straightforward as “Steal nuclear codes, blow up the world.” Vicky Krieps plays his mistress for some reason. What a waste of her magnificence.
Álvarez was handed a bad deal here: — shitty source material, lousy script, a studio desperate to use a property it owned but not desperate enough to make a good version. The fault doesn’t belong to him or his cast, but nonetheless, Spider’s Web isn’t even bad enough to be this year’s The Snowman, which is what I was hoping for.