We don’t know about you but to us it is still so very strange indeed that we didn’t get to see the two plotted sequels to David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the 2011 English-language remake of the 2009 original (which got its two sequels) based on the acclaimed books by author Stieg Larsson. First released in 2005, the books were something of a phenomenon so a step onto the big screen was inevitable, as was the remake which arrived two years later and while it was critically acclaimed, its hefty budget mixed with its disappointing box office returns very sadly killed the series in its tracks – until now, with the series rebooted/quasi-sequelled with The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
It is still such a travesty that director Fincher along with stars Daniel Craig (despite his lack of accent) and Rooney Mara didn’t get the chance to return to the characters they had brought so vividly to the screen seven years ago but flash forward to 2018 and we now have our follow-up with Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead helmer Fede Alvarez taking the reins for this new installment based off of the David Lagercrantz novel that followed Larson’s original trilogy. Years after their first meet-up, Lisbeth (Claire Foy) and Mikael Blomqvist (Sverrir Gudnason) have been out of touch ever since the events of the first film (it’s assumed, anyway, even if it isn’t really a sequel to the first film as Blomquist hasn’t seen her for years) until a rogue computer expert named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) enlists Lisbeth’s help and their worlds collide again.
There’s a real strange feeling watching The Girl in the Spider’s Web in that you are seeing characters that you know and are compelled by but they aren’t quite what you were hoping for, contorted somewhat to fit a different style that doesn’t quite work. Alvarez, whose previous films were brilliantly executed, takes a similarly fast-paced, energetic approach for this one but it feels out of sync with what makes these characters so intriguing. It’s trying hard to be a thrill ride reminiscent of Bond or any of the numerous comic-book adaptations out in the ether these days (which many others have commented similarly) but with such a rich, thought-provoking backbone as this it seems rather out of place. Indeed, it makes the film feel somewhat simplistic, lacking in any real depth and more interested in moving from one bombastic set-piece to the next.
It reminds somewhat of Batman Forever – not in terms of content, of course, but similarly to how that film came about after its predecessor, Batman Returns, had been perceived a certain way and needed to be retconned and changed a little. Here, almost all the intrigue is taken out almost out of fear that an audience wouldn’t truly respond to it unless it had explosions, car chases and the rest. That said, there’s definitely some sustenance to be had with the brunt of the film’s better work coming from Foy who is impressive as Lisbeth: stripping her royal shackles from playing The Queen, it’s her most provocative and thunderous performance and under the dark, mysterious guise of her character, she performs superbly. Is she better than the others? Well, like with the aforementioned Caped Crusader, Foy, Mara and Rapace are very different and all deserving of praise.
So was this new version of the Millennium series really a worthwhile exercise? Well, if you’re looking for a thriller that’s more lean and mean than complex and evocative then this is more than likely the film for you, led by Claire Foy’s brilliant central performance, but in terms of a worthwhile follow-on from Fincher’s masterful work it’s sadly lacking and may well turn out to be, sadly, the last we see of Lisbeth Salander.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=2]
Thriller | USA, 2018 | 15 | 21st November 2018 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir Fed Alvarez | Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, Vicky Krieps