As audiences around the world patiently wait for Sony to deliver to them a new James Bond movie—it’s coming, promise, probably—they’ll be able to make do with the newest Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web. The film’s heroine, previously portrayed on the screen and in the novels as an antisocial loner with questionable morals, has become something of a moral do-gooder action hero who has gadgets, sidekicks, hand-to-hand combat skills, and needs to stop a plot from unfolding that could blow up the world.
We’ve come a long way from solving the disappearance of a missing girl, haven’t we?
Anyway, she’s Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy takes over the role), and she’s ostensibly a computer hacker who is tasked with stealing a program that allows its user to take control of every online nuclear weapon in the world. No, really. She does so, the program then gets stolen from her, so she has to team up with her kinda-friend Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), a literal child (Christopher Convery), and an American NSA agent (LaKeith Stanfield) in order to get it back, all while overcoming her past demons, this time manifesting in the form of her thought-to-be-dead sister (Sylvia Hoeks).
If that all sounds silly and not at all what you’d expect from a Dragon Tattoo movie, well, you’re not alone. It’s silly, it feels surprisingly generic, and it doesn’t do anything for its various characters. We learn nothing of significance about Lisbeth or Mikael—not even the whole “sister” angle actually matters a whole lot—and it feels like they’ve been made to fit simpler archetypes that are more easily accepted by the general audience.
What made the series fascinating—the Swedish trilogy especially, but the first American adaptation issolid in its own right—was not just the story, which was engaging and well-told, but the characters involved in it. Lisbeth might not have been especially likable but she was endlessly fascinating and complex. This iteration isn’t much of anything—a hollow imitation. Claire Foy is good as the Lisbeth cosplayer we see, but any depth that was in the character has been removed in this version.
This all might be okay if The Girl in the Spider’s Web had a story that was interesting, or if the action was any good, but neither of those is the case. The story is basic and feels like a dozen other films, and the action is choppy and even less creative. There are some interesting shots and early on, before the plot kicks in, there’s some sustained atmosphere building, but that goodwill gets pushed aside quickly enough in order to make a Generic Hollywood Movie.
I have a theory that this was done in an attempt by Sony to make the franchise more profitable by making it more appealing to the general audience. The first American adaptation wasn’t even a box office disaster, but it underperformed and the studio canned the sequels. Now we have this largely unrelated movie—it’s “technically” a sequel, but for all intents and purposes is a new canon—with a new (read: cheaper) cast and crew, and it feels sanitized and bland. It’s disappointingly uninspired, lacks meat and bite, and comes across as nothing more than the emo-punk cyberhacker retelling of a Bond plot. Or, if you want a more damning comparison: Blackhat.
I’ll leave that comparison to hang.
Conclusion: The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a bland, drab techno-thriller that feels more like a lesser Bond flick than anything recognizable from the Millennium series.
Recommendation: Please watch the original trilogy or Fincher‘s movie instead of this.