In 2011, the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was released. The movie showed that there was plenty of potential for the franchise to bring something unique to the crime thriller genre. Since the release of that movie, we haven’t heard much about the franchise until now. The Girl in the Spider’s Web looks completely different from the previous film. The entire team behind it has changed, including Claire Foy stepping in to take on the role of Lisbeth Salander. The results are disappointing, as The Girl in the Spider’s Web fails to distinguish itself from every other action thriller out there.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web follows computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. She accepts a job to steal a top secret computer program with the ability to access every nuclear weapon around the world. Once she successfully obtains the program, her life is turned upside down as she’s hunted by a secret criminal organization and a top NSA agent. Now she has to stop the program from falling into the wrong hands while confronting ghosts from her past.
There are so many elements in this story that feel completely unnecessary. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is nothing more than a generic thriller with some convoluted plot elements sprinkled in. Two of the main characters in the movie were thrown in there just to add some fake tension. The villain forces Lisbeth to confront some childhood trauma, but there’s really no focus on it until the latter half of the third act. It creates a complete disconnect in the story because, for the majority of the movie, there’s no emotional weight to anything happening on the screen.
The other character is the NSA agent who travels to Sweden to find Lisbeth. When he’s first introduced, they give the impression that he’s going to play a big role in the film, but he actually has very little impact on the story at all. He only gets a handful of brief scenes, and they only serve to show how he gets from place to place. He travels to Sweden, gets off the plane, goes the wrong way, gets arrested, meets up with Lisbeth, and shoots people. That is a complete list of the scenes he’s in which he’s involved.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is at its best when it forgets that those two characters exist and the focus is entirely on Lisbeth being a hacker. She’s an extremely resourceful person that protects herself using her hacking abilities. Even when people are chasing her, she’s usually one step ahead of them and leads them in the wrong direction. I really love that the writers don’t try to make her superhuman. While her hacking skills give her an edge over others, once you get through that she’s a normal woman. Yes, she’s competent with a gun, but she’s shown to be outclassed by the people who are after her. That sense of vulnerability is missing in a lot of action movies.
Lisbeth herself was easily my favorite part of The Girl in the Spider’s Web, and that’s in large part because of Claire Foy’s portrayal. The other actors are pretty good, despite some of the material they’re given. Lakeith Stanfield plays the NSA agent, and he feels completely wasted. Stanfield is an insanely talented actor that barely gets any lines. But the weakest performance easily comes from Silvia Hoeks, who plays the main villain. Everything she says is delivered awkwardly. It doesn’t help that her lines aren’t very good to begin with.
I’m very disappointed with the direction in which Fede Alvarez decided to take this movie. After watching Don’t Breathe, I thought he had a good grip on this genre. Everything about this script and the way the movie is shot is by the numbers. Alvarez wasn’t able to find an artistic voice to help make The Girl in the Spider’s Web work. The third act is when a lot of the interesting things start happening, but it’s bogged down by a villain I wasn’t invested in and a badly shot action sequence involving gas masks.
He also had a hand in the lackluster screenplay. The villain’s motivations are so cliche that it takes away from the family trauma that is supposed to be the film’s core. Some lines hit really hard, but a lot of times the script is robotic and uninspired. The villain spouts off evil one-liners that reminded me of an old cartoon. There’s also this attempt to get the audience to sympathize with the villain, but that also falls flat. If her motivations lack any nuance, then it’s pretty hard for me to see the situation from her side.
The lackluster direction hurts the pacing as well. For long stretches at a time, it feels as if nothing is really happening on screen. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of the people in my theater started yawning midway through The Girl in the Spider’s Web. It doesn’t help that there are continuous jumps between several different stories that make everything feel stagnant. By the time the movie got to the third act and the intensity picked up, I was already almost completely dialed out.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a missed opportunity to capitalize on a franchise that had a lot of potential. Claire Foy tries her very best to carry a film that lacks creativity and imagination. Everything was phoned in, as if they were just checking things off a list that they felt needed to be in a thriller movie. We’ve seen movies like this play out a million times before, and a lot of the times they’ve been done better. Despite everything I didn’t like, though, they still managed to do Lisbeth Salander justice. She remains a great character that never loses her mystique. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is far from the worst movie of 2018, but I think it’s easily the most disappointing. I didn’t completely hate it, but I can’t recommend anyone waste their time watching it.