The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)

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Critic Consensus: The Girl in the Spider's Web focuses on the action elements of its source material for a less complex -- and only sporadically effective -- franchise reboot.

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Movie Info

Lisbeth Salander, the cult figure and title character of the acclaimed Millennium book series created by Stieg Larsson, will return to the screen in The Girl in the Spider's Web, a first-time adaptation of the recent global bestseller.

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Critic Reviews for The Girl in the Spider's Web

All Critics (161) | Top Critics (35)

There's nothing about "The Girl in the Spider's Web" that feels pressing or timely, or like we need to be revisiting the Salander character.

Nov 9, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…

Lisbeth Salander has suffered a great deal. But turning her into a vehicle for overdetermined, conscienceless violence still hurts.

Nov 9, 2018 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

The sight of a person furiously pecking on a keyboard and gazing at a screen has never - and will never - raise anyone's heart rate.

Nov 9, 2018 | Full Review…

The Girl in the Spider's Web, Lisbeth Salander saves the day, and she looks cool doing it. But this is a story so slick that she'd be rolling her eyes if she watched it.

Nov 9, 2018 | Full Review…

Despite Lisbeth's makeover, there's still something cool, complicated and compelling about this "Girl."

Nov 9, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The lowest-rent iteration yet of Lisbeth and her never-merry band of Swedish friends and enemies.

Nov 9, 2018 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Girl in the Spider's Web

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an international best-selling trilogy that gave way to three hit Swedish movies, one Hollywood remake that netted a Best Actress nomination, and millions in worldwide revenue. The problem was that its author, Stieg Larsson, died of a heart attack in 2004, before the publication of any of the original novels. The property was too valuable to simply collect dust and thus a new author came aboard to tell further adventures of Lisbeth Salander, the pint-sized Gothic avenger. A new set of novels began being published in 2015, and after David Fincher's 2011 version underperformed at the box-office, it seemed expected to reboot the franchise with a new big screen story that had yet to be adapted. In steps a new director, a new dragon-tattooed lady for The Girl in the Spider's Web. Unfortunately, my fears have come true and the eventual reckoning has happened: they have made Lisbeth Salander boring. Lisbeth (Claire Foy) is thrown into another criminal conspiracy with shadowy forces at play. A network of high-powered assassins, known as "spiders," has stolen a dangerous technology that will allow the user control of nuclear arsenals. Lisbeth is hired to retrieve this tech, betrayed, and then on the run from Swedish authorities, professional killers, a dogged NSA operative (Laketih Stanfield), and the head of this cabal, Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks, Blade Runner 2049), her long lost sister Lisbeth left behind years ago. In her first 2010 outing, Salander was presented as a complex, emotionally withdrawn figure, eminently capable but flawed, hurt, and looking to punish others from her fraught history with terrible men. Strip away all the Gothic trinkets and camouflage, her assertions of identity, and she's still a deeply intriguing human being. However, even the latter Swedish films started veering in this more derivative direction. As I wrote presciently with the second Swedish Dragon Tattoo movie back in 2010: "We project the interest we felt for her from the first film to the Salander stand-in represented in the second film. She's still a resourceful, loyal, and cavalier presence, but the plot corners her into being a creature of action. She becomes the fantasy bisexual ass-kicking protagonist that was merely hinted at previously. That sounds like a good thing, but trust me, it does the audience a disservice to box in such a fascinating character." With Spider's Web, Lisbeth Salander has become a Gothic Jason Bourne spy figure, and as anyone who has seen the Bourne movies can attest, he's the most boring character in his own movies, which is why he needs to be kept constantly on the move and hunted. He's only interesting when he's getting out of jams, and Lisbeth is now sadly in that realm. Lisbeth has been reduced to her most essential, and most superficial, characteristics, which also go for the film as a whole. The Dragon Tattoo series began as a twisty investigative procedural with a litany of suspects and dark secrets worth killing over. From there, the Swedish films turned Lisbeth into an indestructible Terminator capable of getting the drop on anyone and axe-fighting oversized men. The Swedish series began more grounded as a mystery/thriller and suddenly, and regrettably, transformed into a preposterous Hollywood-style action-thriller, following the edict of bigger being better. That same mentality has carried over past Larsson's contributions, and now Lisbeth has become an action superhero and the series has become trashy fun, high-calorie junk food, a safe excursion to a seedy underbelly. The Girl in the Spider's Web still provides a consistent degree of entertainment, but it's not playing at a higher level, content to hand-wave away its story for cool chases and fights. It's the kind of movie where, to escape an encroaching fireball, Lisbeth dives into a bathtub of water. It makes for a visually interesting shot but it's pretty cliché 90s action movie stuff. Director Fede Alvarez has a slick handle with visuals and evidenced real talent at sustaining and developing tension with 2016's Don't Breathe. He has obvious visual talent. There are some engaging fights, like a close-quarter struggle in a bathroom, and some nifty chase scenes, like a motorcycle chase over a frozen lake. I would have liked even more action if Spider's Web was going to brush aside narrative and moral complexity for stylish set pieces. The story of The Girl in the Spider's Web feels like a lukewarm repackaging of spy clichés, and the film does little to make any of it feel important or relevant. There's a super powerful technology that everyone wants, which falls into the wrong hands, and now it's about retrieving this device and saving the world. That's like the plot of just about every James Bond movie. It's a formula, but where Spider's Web missteps are that it doesn't add anything else to this staid foundation. There are scenes but it's usually about this group going after this group, or this group now going after this group, and without wider relevance it becomes redundant plot placeholders, something meant to distract long enough to get our characters from Point A to Point B. With a mystery, there's a natural momentum that builds as the case builds coherency and the investigation focuses the direction. With action thriller mode, Spider's Web just has a bunch of guys that occasionally interact until the movie needs some of them dead. This model by itself can work but it requires concerted effort, and that just isn't present here. The most interesting aspect of Spider's Web is the further examination on Salander's troubled upbringing, this time introducing a sister that has been plotting vengeance. Salander is, first and foremost, the selling point of this franchise; she is, after all, the titular girl with that particular tattoo. She is what separates this from any other paperback thriller. The Swedish sequels opened up her past traumas with her Soviet-defected father. He was the Big Bad Man behind the scenes trying to institutionalize and neutralize her. While skirting into the above-stated dangerous territory, the Swedish sequels still knew that Lisbeth Salander's complicated history was the real mystery the audience craved, and it set up a series of antagonists ready to be foiled for years-in-the-making payback. I don't really know how the events of Spider's Web gibe with the overall series. I had to look up whether the evil father in the opening was the same evil father in the other films (both are listed as Alexander Zalachenko, so I think so). But the established history has Lisbeth committed after trying to set dear old dad on fire to save her abused mother. I don't see how any of that is likely if she escapes her father's clutches as a pre-teen and is supposedly on the run. The secret Salander sister revelation also impacts little. She was the one left behind, whose continued abuse and degradation are strongly referenced. It doesn't feel like Lisbeth harbors great guilt over leaving her sister behind. During their final face-to-face, Camilla actually poses a worthy question: "Why did the woman who hurts men who hurt women never come back and save her own abused sister?" Because this storyline is flagrantly underdeveloped, the evil sister angle is a cheap twist. There's nothing to the Camilla character, so she serves as a symbol of shame, and yet the movie doesn't seem to capitalize on this in the slightest, which is a puzzling disservice. Foy (Netflix's The Crown, First Man) is having a big year for herself but feels slightly miscast. She never really gets an opportunity to show off her range, which is a byproduct of the streamlined, reductionist screenplay emphasizing bare plot mechanics. She is missing the intensity or fire that we've seen in prior Salanders, breakout-star Noomi Rapace and the Oscar-nominated Rooney Mara. When Foy tries for glower you see the effort. She's more grumpy than tortured, like maybe she skipped a meal. Even with the requisite piercings, tattoos, and black leather wardrobe, Foy seems a bit too clean-cut for the part. Personal admission: Foy with her sharp bangs, saucer-eyes, facial shape, and Gothic accessories, looks remarkably like an ex-girlfriend of mine from the early 2000s. That was something that kept sneaking into my mind throughout the film, which made the experience a tad stranger as if I was imagining an ex engaged in action heroics. Even excusing that personal connection, Foy ranks a distant third place for the Girls With. The new Dragon Tattoo movie will likely also be its last. I can't imagine fans getting too much pleasure out of a streamlined, underdeveloped spy thriller that sands away the edge and complexity of its characters for rote action movie chases. It's not a bad movie and it does carry moments of excitement and entertainment, but it's also become a standard Hollywood thriller, no different than a dozen other high-tech, junky hacker thrillers. The Girl in the Spider's Web gets caught in its own formulaic web. If Lisbeth Salander has been transformed into a standard action hero, then we don't deserve more adventures. Nate's Grade: C

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

½

In preparation for The Girl in the Spider's Web, I decided to do my homework for once and watch all of the previous Millennium film adaptations for point of reference. I can safely say in retrospect that the franchise isn't worth watching past the original Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I know many out there love to fawn over David Fincher's cold and calculated lesser works, but his manic-depressive, pixie nightmare girl version of Lisbeth Salander (played by Rooney Mara) paled in comparison to Noomi Rapace's Mary Sue Manson portrayal in Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 film. If I can say anything of Claire Foy donning the titular tat, it is that she actually seems like a female action hero who is fully capable of handling herself without worrying about romantic interests or brooding on self-doubt like some Hot Topic poseur who occasionally tasers men in the balls. For a surly, bisexual cyber-terrorist, the character of Lisbeth might be better served as a bastion of female empowerment outside of the hands of exclusively male writers and directors. Fede Alvarez has managed to almost completely gloss over the fact that she is a vigilante who hurts men that hurt women. In this movie, she does that to exactly ONE man who explicitly hurt a woman, so her sororal rivalry hinges on something we are only told she's well-known for. Of course, most folks going into the film should have enough background to know that that is *specifically* her modus operandi, but if you had no context for it one might just assume that she is a goth female James Bond. And most of the movie plays out as such in all of its schlocky glory. Speaking of Daniel Craig, here is another facet of improvement over the earlier Fincher film. Instead of this being a story about how a tough, attractive journalist gets to solve a mystery that occasionally happens to include the titular Girl, this Girl is actually the centerpiece of her own movie instead of a plot convenience for a failed attempt at dissociating Craig from Bond films. While it's by no means as competently directed as Fincher's prelude - and believe me there are so many dumb moments in this - it manages to stay stylish and action packed enough to keep you from yawning by the very fact that you will be scoffing constantly, a feat that the two Swedish sequels couldn't come close to accomplishing. And my ears will rest easy not having to suffer through another atrocious industrial Led Zeppelin cover.

K Nife Churchkey
K Nife Churchkey

Super Reviewer

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