The Girl in the Spider's Web Movie Review
A generic action-thriller that would have been better served as a standalone than a sequel to the four critically acclaimed Lisbeth Salander films already in existence, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a drab, largely unremarkable affair that wastes an immersive Claire Foy performance and, more importantly, one of the most interesting fictional characters to grace the page/screen in decades.
In 2011, David Fincher made the criminally overlooked The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, a slick, mesmerizing, and complicated drama-thriller that stands as one of the century’s best movies and a personal favorite. It unfortunately came after three well-reviewed Swedish TV movies that had already established Noomi Rapace as the face of Lisbeth Salander and seemingly satisfied book fans.
In spite of a production that was better in any way—as good as Rapace was, Rooney Mara’s turn as Lisbeth was a vast improvement—the film’s financial misses means that, eight years later and long after anyone gives a damn about the girl with the dragon tattoo, we get this massive downgrade, which introduces a new director and cast to middling results.
Fede Alvarez, who has a good pedigree in the horror genre (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead), has made another nice-looking film, but a) he’s no David Fincher; and b) the franchise isn’t meant to be an action series, yet he treats it as such. With a different cast and a plot and villain more attuned to a James Bond movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web simply feels different, even out of place.
Which brings me back to the opening sentence of this review.
The villain, played by a stylized Sylvia Hoeks who dresses all in red for reasons never explained, is as cheesy and silly as they come, despite a personal connection to Lisbeth. But aside from Hoeks’ colorful turn, the entire production has a blasé generic action-thriller feel to it, with each plot turn winding toward the inevitable conclusion that the marketing team, in its desperation to generate some kind of advanced buzz, revealed in the trailers (along with practically every other twist or reveal). Combined with an all-new and largely B-grade cast—Golden Globe-winner Foy is up to the challenge, but the flat material keeps her from touching Mara’s portrayal, while Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist can’t help but come off as the direct-to-video version of Daniel Craig (or Michael Nyqvist for that matter)—The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels like a generic, subpar entry.
That’s because it is.
Had it been its own thing—scrap the title, change a few attributes of Lisbeth’s character, and disassociate itself with the other movies—expectations may have allowed it to work a little more freely. It may not have been able to escape its generic attributes, but there is enough here to tolerate if you weren’t always comparing it to other movies.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web isn’t awful by any means, but it’s an unnecessary cash grab that isn’t very good, either.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.