REVIEW: The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)

The Millennium series was created by Steig Larsson, who wrote three books The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, which were published after he passed away. The series became a huge hit, gaining notoriety for its depiction of Swedish society, sexual violence and a fascinating anti-heroine Lisbeth Salander. A highly skilled hacker with a photographic memory, with a history of violence and abuse, wears all black clothing, dyed short black hair with several piercings and tattoos, who never forgives and always fights back.

The trilogy was adapted in Sweden starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth; the films were faithful to the books and Rapace’s performance is truly iconic. The first of the trilogy was remade in Hollywood two years later, directed by David Fincher with almost seven times the budget, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. I know lots of people prefer it to the original film, but for me it was just the same film again with too much stylization.

The book series has later been revived with author David Lagercrantz taking over with so far The Girl In The Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye. When Fincher’s remake failed to make as much money as expected, plans to remake the rest of the original trilogy were dropped and it was decided go for a soft reboot, adapting the fourth book with a new cast and crew.

Claire Foy takes over the role of Lisbeth, making her the third version of the character within a decade; she really has become the new James Bond or Batman. Not that I’m complaining too much, as Lisbeth is still a great character so I think there should be a version for everyone to enjoy.

While Noomi Rapace will always remain my Lisbeth Salander, I think Foy does a great job for the new era of the character. She’s able to add plenty of subtleties showing vulnerabilities under her badass persona and can even be funny at times. I enjoyed her even more than Rooney Mara; while Mara certainly played the role differently enough to Rapace she still essentially repeated the same role again while Foy gets something different to work with.

Lisbeth is older and has taken to using her skills to help other victims of abuse and take on high-risk jobs, which has pretty much turned her into an action hero. A great action hero though, she’s still human and relatable and doesn’t always make the right decision or doesn’t always get the upper hand.

I’m pretty disappointed with the depiction of Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who uncovers conspiracies; he was a great character in the originals who was just as much (maybe even more so) the main character as Lisbeth. He was like Superman to Lisbeth’s Batman and now he’s been downgraded to Robin; he’s just there to assist Lisbeth with no real objectives of his own.

Also Sverrir Gudnason is miscast, as Mikael is supposed to be much older than Lisbeth but he’s way too young here, which ruins the dynamic of their relationship. He also doesn’t have the same energy of either Michael Nyqvist or Daniel Craig.

Sylvia Hoeks is great with what she’s been given to work with as villainess Camilla, with a great appearance and wardrobe. Unfortunately she’s not been given enough to work with.

Fede Alvarez’s direction is beautiful, particularly in exterior shots with greyish filters to capture the cold feelings of Sweden. He handles the action pretty well, with Bourne-style shaky cam yet doesn’t go overboard with it, keeping intense and easy to follow.

Plot-wise this isn’t very interesting, it’s just a generic spy story, which is a far cry from the complex, gritty and disturbing crime thriller that was the original series. Also continuity wise it’s ill-fitting with the rest the series, as, besides the aged-down Mikael, I’m having trouble fitting Camilla into Lisbeth’s original backstory. Maybe she was mentioned in the books and I’ve forgotten but I still can’t connect the dots between the backstory in this film and the original.

This film works best as a standalone, which is a standard action film with beautiful cinematography and a great heroine. It’s worth seeing as popcorn entertainment but I highly recommend watching the Noomi Rapace films they are amazing.

Written by Jack Parish

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