The Girl in the Spider's Web
Lisbeth Salander is one of the few modern-day realist superheroes. The literary character, created by the late Stieg Larsson, has become a beacon for both female empowerment, as well as a voice and rage for introverts. American studios, in this particular moment of franchise congestion, must have heard Salander compared to a superhero at one point, and came to a conclusion that a reboot and rebranding of the character was in order. Anything for a few extra bucks.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is loosely based on the fourth and last Millenium novel. Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy), is a vigilante of sorts in modern day Stockholm. She hacks into domestic abusers’ personal files and wreaks justice (at least by her terms). However, Lisbeth seems to meddle in something too big, when an ex-NSA contractor (Stephen Merchant) asks her to steal a missile weapons control program. Soon our protagonist becomes embroiled between the NSA, Swedish authorities, and the Russian mafia.
Producers chose to skip the two continuations to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that Larsson had written. Instead, Sony chose the one book in the series not written by the original author. The Girl in the Spider’s Webwas written after Larsson’s death by David Lagercrantz and was only based on notes Larsson had left behind. For many fans the book seemed more like fan-fiction than a true continuation, and the film feels the same way.
The main problem with the film is not only the tweaking of Salander’s character into a more James Bond type, but the necessity to Americanize the story. The result is more chase and fight sequences and blowing up the stakes of the film to that of a world cataclysm (in comparison with the more patient murder investigation from the first book and films). The villain in The Girl in the Spider’s Web is played by Sylvia Hoeks and is meant to be a very personal and conflicting foe for Salander, but Hoek’s character turns out to be a shallow and clichéd moustache-twirling baddie (I keep her identity secret in respect to spoilers).
That’s not to say that the film falters too much. While it will disappoint fans of Millenium, the choice of book adaptation should have warned them. If one looks past that, you have a film that is smarter than most American thrillers, and the guiding hand of director Fede Alvarez gives the film a unique sense of style. There is truly beautiful imagery throughout, and the music by Roque Baños shivers between haunting and beautiful.
Claire Foy was also given the task to follow up on the titanic portrayals of Salander by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish versions and Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s 2011 film. Foy brings a certain hybridity between Rapace’s anger and Mara’s reclusiveness; she certainly honors the character’s history, while giving her a personal twist.
The film will seem better to many American audiences accustomed to the more mainstream fare. But for those familiar with non-American thrillers, which can be much more subtle and infused with realism, this adaptation will feel too watered down in order to appeal to a general audience.