A tan­gled web

Lis­beth Sa­lan­der re­turns in a so-so re­boot of her film se­ries.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - Re­view by TER­ENCE TOH en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

The Girl In The Spi­der’s Web Di­rec­tor: Fede Al­varez

Cast: Claire Foy, LaKeith Stan­field, Sver­rir Gud­na­son

ARACHNOPHOBES, there’s no need to worry. De­spite its ti­tle, there are very few ac­tual spi­ders in The Girl In The Spi­der’s Web (TGITSW), and the ones that ap­pear are reg­u­lar-sized and hardly dan­ger­ous. No one is ac­tu­ally trapped in any spi­der webs in this film. If you’re into that, watch the last The Lord Of The Rings film, or wait for the up­com­ing Spi­der-Man: Into The Spi­der-Verse.

So what do you get from this movie? Well, the re­turn of Lis­beth Sa­lan­der, the bad-a** hacker pro­tag­o­nist last seen in David Fincher’s Os­car-win­ning The Girl With The Dragon Tat­too. It’s been seven years since that film, and now she’s fi­nally re­turned. Watch­ing this rather aver­age out­ing how­ever, view­ers may won­der if it was worth the wait.

A lit­tle back­ground: Lis­beth is the pro­tag­o­nist of the Mil­len­nium tril­ogy nov­els by Swedish au­thor Stieg Lars­son, which com­prise The Girl With The Dragon Tat­too, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hor­net’s Nest.

The char­ac­ter’s kick-a** at­ti­tude, cou­pled with her com­plex back­ground in­volv­ing trauma and abuse, soon made the books very pop­u­lar, and all three were made into block­buster movies in Swe­den, with Noomi Ra­pace as Lis­beth. When Lars­son died in 2004, his work was con­tin­ued by David Lager­crantz, who wrote The Girl In The Spi­der’s Web.

Due to the pop­u­lar­ity of Lars­son’s books, Hollywood soon came call­ing, and The Girl With The Dragon Tat­too was re­made by Fincher in 2011, with Rooney Mara play­ing Lis­beth. De­spite the film be­ing crit­i­cally ac­claimed, Hollywood some­how de­cided to re­boot the se­ries, with Fede Al­varez di­rect­ing TGITSW and Claire Foy now play­ing the lead char­ac­ter.

(Hang on! What hap­pened to the other books? Why did they jump from Dragon Tat­too to Spi­der’s Web? Who knows? Now Amer­i­can au­di­ences may never see Lis­beth play with fire or kick a hor­net’s nest.)

So, any­way, TGITSW sees Lis­beth live dan­ger­ously in Stock­holm, prey­ing on pow­er­ful men who take ad­van­tage of women. She is ap­proached one day by Franz Balder (Stephen Mer­chant), an Amer­i­can agent who has in­vented a pro­gramme that can ma­nip­u­late nu­clear weapons world­wide. Feel­ing his pro­gramme is too dan­ger­ous for any­one, Franz hires Lis­beth to steal it back from the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency.

Com­pli­ca­tions soon arise, how­ever, and the pro­gramme soon finds it­self in the wrong hands.

Lis­beth now has to race against time to get it back, and pro­tect Au­gust (Christo­pher Con­very), Balder’s son who is the key to un­lock­ing Balder’s pro­gramme.

The two soon be­come in­volved with a deadly Rus­sian gang whose trade­mark is their spi­der­web tat­toos. Even worse, the per­son be­hind the at­tack turns out to have a very per­sonal con­nec­tion to Lis­beth.

Read­ing this synopsis, you’d think that TGITSW is an ac­tion thriller, and you would be right. Al­varez’s film is full of chases and ex­plo­sions, and at times, feels very much like a Ja­son Bourne film.

Which is odd, be­cause Lars­son’s books have usu­ally been slow-burn­ing mys­ter­ies, which may come as a dis­ap­point­ment to fans of the se­ries. And this change of tone might have been for­giv­able if the film didn’t feel so generic – apart from a raid on the vil­lain’s head­quar­ters to­wards the end, there is noth­ing we haven’t seen done bet­ter in other films.

Tech­ni­cally, TGITSW re­ally shines – scenes are heav­ily hued in dark blue and in grey, which re­ally adds to the gritty, noir feel of the film. Act­ing is pretty good too. It may have been a weird choice to cast Foy, most known for play­ing Queen El­iz­a­beth II in TV’s The Crown, as the un­der­cut-sport­ing, tat­tooed Lis­beth, but she does a great job, per­form­ing all her ac­tion scenes with gusto.

Sver­rir Gud­na­son plays Mikael Blomkvist, a jour­nal­ist who plays an im­por­tant role in The Girl With The Dragon Tat­too. Here, how­ever, his role is so mi­nor he could have been cut with lit­tle ef­fect.

Pro­vid­ing mild comic re­lief is LaKeith Stan­field, who plays Ed­win Need­ham, an Amer­i­can agent held up by Swedish bu­reau­cracy look­ing for Franz’s pro­gramme. Stan­field per­forms well, to the point that oc­ca­sion­ally, you wish the film was about him in­stead. Per­haps the only dis­ap­point­ment, how­ever, is the vil­lain, played by Sylvia Hoeks, who is too one-di­men­sional to be memorable. All in all, the film is pretty de­cently made, but ut­terly for­get­table, par­tic­u­larly with the vast variety of spy thrillers we watch nowa­days.

TGITSW has some com­pelling el­e­ments. For ex­am­ple, it would have been in­ter­est­ing, if the per­sonal con­nec­tion be­tween Lis­beth and the vic­tim had been ex­plored more in­stead of just one scene in the end. It would have been fas­ci­nat­ing if they had pur­sued the an­gle of Lis­beth fight­ing for op­pressed women.

Dis­ap­point­ingly, they’ve de­cided to go down the bor­ing, safe route.

Lis­beth de­serves more than this bland thriller treat­ment. They might want to think about re­boot­ing this re­boot.

— Sony Pic­tures

From the Queen of Eng­land to ice queen.

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