The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a bland and uninspired reinvention for a franchise that deserved better. Claire Foy stars as Lisabeth Salander, bored and wishing she were making something better. This entry takes on the fourth book, with a kind of desperate necessity to spin the Millennium series into a newfound franchise. The original trilogy was nicely covered by the original Swedish entries with Noomi Rapace. Then David Fincher did a fantastic version with Rooney Mara, and while Claire Foy may be the same caliber of actor, she is given so little to do. The thing plods along with a diluted plot and complete abandon of style, washing right over the audience. It holds a simple pace, stringing along the usual series of Batman or Bond tropes, and never arrives anywhere worth going.
The film’s beholden to the most obvious vision of a hacker. It’s the kind of film where people are constantly trying to triangulate cellphone signals and getting tricked because their target is wiser than them. There are few moments of inspired intrigue and fewer of any notable tension. Claire Foy would seem to be the only saving grace, but then she is not interested enough or perhaps comes across as overqualified for her role. Did we not just see her giving a stunning, human performance in First Man? And what of her empowering work on The Crown (2016 – Present)? But this is a film where she wears a shirt that says “Give Me Head Till I’m Dead” and drives a Lamborghini Aventador because her young companion thinks it looks cool. It is not engineered for interesting performances.
Plot points breeze past with middling efficiency. There’s no real need to attach to anything. Ten minutes might pass with the question of whether anything of any significance has happened. It’s a mess of underdeveloped potential, as characters do not grow or change and the typified act structure – if charted out – resembles more a thin and unwavering line without any particularly notable spikes. The source material is still pretty good. Although the original trilogy’s author has long past, David Lagercrantz has already delivered a couple best-selling follow-ups. Perhaps there is a feeling of omission. The last film covered only the first book and now we’re already on the fourth. American audiences may have only seen that much of the story. Not that it has to be subtitled, A New Dragon Tattoo story, because we have not been given all the proper films for it to truly identify as a Millennium entry.
If we could have a course correction, we would want to give David Fincher another shot. Perhaps another takeaway is that his work on the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) is well worth revisiting. He created a literary and fluent adaptation that hit every mark, a finely pitched and perfectly suspenseful thriller worthy of its source. Everyone’s favorite proto-Goth hacker may have to wait for yet another evaluation. There are not many reasons to go see The Girl in the Spider’s Web, tangled as it is in its own desperate need to be made into a franchise.