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Review: The Girl in the Spider's Web

The Girl in the Spider's Web
5 10

PLOT: Lisabeth Salander (Claire Foy) is hired by a computer programmer to steal a program he developed for the NSA, which would give the user access to the world’s nuclear arsenal. When the program is in turn stolen by a crime syndicate called “The Spiders”, Salander and her old friend Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) must recover it before its too late.

REVIEW: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is an understandable attempt by Sony to do a soft reboot of Stieg Larsson’s Lisabeth Salander character. No longer aiming at the prestige level targeted by David Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and recasting the role, despite Rooney Mara earning raves and an Academy Award nomination for the part, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB renders the Salander/Blomkvist duo almost unrecognizable.

Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that it’s based on the coolly received continuation of the franchise by David Lagercrantz, with Larsson having passed away shortly after completing the original trilogy. Having read the Larsson novels, it seems like the last two books are still considered canon here, with references made to a battle with Salander’s father, who was the baddie in those novels, but otherwise this is a stretch.

The biggest change is to Salander, as played here by Foy, who does a capable job stretching in a role that’s truthfully a somewhat awkward fit for her – not helped by the fact that she has to be compared to not only Mara, but the iconic Noomi Rapace. Her Salander doesn’t really resemble the other iterations, with the Asperger’s and social phobia toned down. Rather, she’s an all-out action hero, capable of taking on six men in a hand-to-hand scrap, wielding pistols, and motorcycling across a frozen lake. It feels like director Fede Álvarez is trying to give Sony a 007-style spinoff, complete with a stylized opening credit sequence, but it doesn’t work.

What made the Larsson books weren’t the stories. They were fairly generic, but the character work was top shelf. Salander, on the page and in the other films, is impressively enigmatic. Here, she’s just another tortured superhero. Meanwhile, Blomkvist is wholly extraneous to the plot, with Gudnason too fresh-faced and young for the part, playing him as a wide-eyed innocent while in the books and films he was cynical and smart (although his constant bed-hopping spoke a little unflatteringly to Larsson’s ego – with the character clearly his cipher). Given how he’s used here, his part could have been excised completely.

Instead, Salander’s partners are a comic relief hacker and LaKeith Stanfield’s gun-toting NSA agent. Stanfield is always interesting to watch and probably is the most memorable of the bunch, getting the one truly above-average set piece in the film, where he uses computerized thermal imagery in a sniper attack.

There's really nothing here that makes THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB anything other than run-of-the-mill. The plot involving Salander’s long-lost sister (Sylvia Hoeks) only picks up steam in the final act and is done away with very casually. Otherwise, any of the interesting character work of the series is ignored, rendering this a middling, pseudo-actioner, not all that different from last year’s misbegotten THE SNOWMAN (although to give credit where it’s due – Alverez’s film is far more competent).

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB winds up being a disappointing continuation of the series. While Foy does her best in a part that doesn’t really suit her, in an effort to make the character more mainstream they’ve erased everything about her that made Salander compelling. Chalk this one up as a bad call by the studio. Perhaps, after five films and five books it’s time to let the character go.

Source: JoBlo.com

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