By JD Phillips
David Fincher’s adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was one of the best (and underappreciated) films of 2011. I have been eagerly awaiting a sequel for years but the seven-year delayed sort of sequel, sort of reboot was not what I was hoping for. This take on the iconic Swedish hacker sanitizes down the character for a cliched action thriller that’s equal parts Bourne, Batman, and Boring.
The opening few minutes of the film are admittedly exciting, but that energy doesn’t keep going. The scenes on Lisbeth’s family origins, the continuation of Fincher’s cyberpunk Bond opening titles, and the trademark Salander feminist vengeance scene are all marvelous parts of a much different, much better movie. The film pretty much immediately ditches all of that style and character development potential for an over the top plot about a program that can hack all the world’s nuclear codes.
The movie then becomes all about fight scenes, car chases, and increasingly convoluted conspiracies. If that sounds a lot like a Bourne movie, it’s because it’s basically a Bourne movie. Not “Bourne Identity” mind you but more “Jason Bourne”. Forgettable action, forgettable plot, and no character development. All the interesting and timely themes of female vengeance are apparently too much for Hollywood now. Watching Lisbeth Salander try to save the world is eerily reminiscent of how weird it was to watch Jessica Jones fight ninjas in “The Defenders”.
That’s not to say the film is all bad. Claire Foy brings the intensity and vulnerability that is needed for Lisbeth. Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t do much to help her performance become as memorable as the two actresses before her. The design teams for the other two Lisbeths helped make Noomi Rapace an instantly iconic punk rock badass and Rooney Mara an infinitely fascinating alien.
Foy’s Lisbeth, by contrast, looks like any lady you might see pouring coffee at a Starbucks. The designers were obviously looking for something that would be less off-putting for mass audiences. Instead, they end up taking away a lot of what made her interesting to mass audiences in the first place.
While Foy does her best to fill Mara’s shoes, newcomer Sverrir Gudnason fails entirely to bring the same level of charm to Mikael Blomkvist as Daniel Craig did. Trying to out charm James Bond is a nigh impossible task, but this version of Blomkvist doesn’t even bother attempting. The film doesn’t seem much more interested in him than the actor is as well. This is particularly strange considering that he is arguably the protagonist of the first one. This time around he contributes absolutely nothing to the plot. He could be removed entirely and the movie would play out the same exact way.
Blomkvist is not the biggest missed opportunity in play here. Sylvia Hoeks’ Camilla Salander had the potential to be just as interesting as her sister. Unfortunately, she barely has more screen time than she did in the trailers. She’s standard creepy Bond villain fare. What could’ve been a fascinating cat and mouse between the two Salander sisters turns out to be just another bad guy plot.
Lakeith Stanfield is pretty great in his thankless NSA fixer role, but he’s not given enough to save the movie.
In the end, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” is a massive disappointment to both fans of the franchise and potential newcomers. If you’re thinking of watching this, do yourself a favor and check out the original American or Swedish films instead. It completely fails to be as provocative, original, or as exciting as the franchise demands.
Fun story: My friend and I watched the original Swedish “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” knowing absolutely nothing about it. We thought it was some sort of superhero movie on Netflix. When the movie started taking its graphic turns, we were very surprised high school freshmen. Still less disturbing than watching Lisbeth Salander be a makeshift Batman.