FilmReview

Review: It’s Hard Not to Think about What Could Have Been in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”

Charlie McKenna ’22 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Claire Foy stars in what is essentially a reboot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo franchise. The Girl in the Spider’s Web still follows Lisbeth Salander, like the 2011 David Fincher film, but it is an entirely new story with a brand new cast. This is also the first Dragon Tattoo film not based on any of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy novels, as Spider’s Web is instead based on a novel of the same name by David Lagercrantz. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is directed by Fede Alvarez, who wrote the screenplay along with Jay Base and Steven Knight.

Comparisons to the original David Fincher/Rooney Mara film are inevitable, and Spider’s Web pales in comparison to the original. That being said, Spider’s Web is a perfectly serviceable espionage thriller. It’s an A+ cable movie that should enjoy a long life on HBO and Showtime.

Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

Alvarez has mostly directed horror films up to this point in his career (his most recent film is 2016’s Don’t Breathe) and it shows. Spider’s Web is far from scary, but there are legitimately suspenseful and thrilling moments throughout. Alvarez does an excellent job creating a strong sense of atmosphere throughout the film – this adds to the moments of legitimate tension in many moments.

Spider’s Web is much more an action movie than the dark thriller of its predecessor; this means that Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) acts far more like a superhero than the real human being she is in the 2011 film. This isn’t a negative per se, but it’s worth pointing out as it’s a stark departure from what the film is marketed as.

Claire Foy is excellent as Lisbeth in the film, crafting a very believable character who is, unfortunately, entirely surface level in the film. Foy does the best she can, but there is simply very little interesting about Lisbeth on the page, the film wants the viewer to think she’s interesting and mysterious but gives very little reason to do so. This is unfortunately true of many of the characters in the film as none of them are given much depth. The only character who gets some semblance of “backstory” is Lisbeth, and it doesn’t really work. In Fincher’s film, Daniel Craig‘s Mikael Blomkvist is essentially the co-lead of the film with Lisbeth, yet, in this version, Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) is barely in the film. It seems as though he’s only there because he’s a mainstay of the book series. His character is given so little to do and is so uninteresting that it feels as though he could be removed from the film entirely without consequence.  Gudnason’s performance does the character no favors.

Claire Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web also suffers from a wildly unclear story which in turn creates entirely unclear stakes throughout. The film’s villain doesn’t appear until the third act and her motivation is never revealed. She is literally just there to give Lisbeth a foil, but the film is unable to make her character remotely compelling. It’s a shame because there is a lot of potential there, but the film is unable to realize it.

Ultimately, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is just a fun cable watch with some fun action scenes and a compelling lead performance. It just tries so hard to fit into the mold of Fincher’s Dragon Tattoo rather than embrace the sheer popcorn movie it is. The film is honestly well directed by Alvarez, who crafts some legitimately interesting visuals and plenty of tension when necessary. Foy does the best she can with the material she’s given and proves that she has an excellent range between this and her performance as Jan Armstrong in First Man. It’s a real shame that Fincher never got the chance to make a sequel to his film. And It’s hard not to wish that Fincher directed this one.

Overall Grade: C

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