This mys­tery se­quel is full of holes

The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web is more en­joy­able if the viewer doesn’t think about it too much

The Province - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com twit­ter.com/chrisknight­film

I left the mys­tery-thriller The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web feel­ing equal parts happy and puz­zled. And then I made the mis­take of think­ing about it, and my in­creas­ing baf­fle­ment crowded out more and more of my plea­sure.

I re­al­ized that di­rec­tor and co-writer Fede Al­varez doesn’t un­der­stand com­puter hack­ing. In the early go­ing, Goth hacker Lis­beth Sa­lan­der (Claire Foy, miles away from her role as ’Lis­beth II in The Crown), is ap­proached by a bril­liant pro­gram­mer (Stephen Mer­chant), to steal some­thing called Fire­Fall, which will let its user con­trol all nu­clear mis­siles every­where. He cre­ated it, gave it to the U.S. and then had sec­ond thoughts, which if you’ve seen Mer­chant’s comedic roles seems like the sort of thing he’d do.

Fire­Fall is al­ready a bit of a stretch, but as the film pro­gresses we learn that Lis­beth can also use her tech savvy to con­trol air­port se­cu­rity de­vices, open locked doors, look (and shoot), through walls, and even take con­trol of an­other car dur­ing a high­speed chase, mostly from her iPhone and once while still woozy from a hypo full of tran­quil­lizer. And is it even pos­si­ble to knock peo­ple out with their car’s airbags?

I’m not claim­ing to be an ex­pert in any of th­ese fields, but you don’t have to be a chef to know when the food is over­cooked. And I do know a lit­tle about screen­plays; this one is so heavy on ex­po­si­tion it may ac­tu­ally have more words than the novel on which it’s (loosely), based. Peo­ple con­stantly re­fer to each other by their full names and even job ti­tles, lest you for­get that Lakeith Stan­field plays NSA agent Ed­win Need­ham, or that Sver­rir Gud­na­son is jour­nal­ist Mikael Blomkvist, the Wat­son to Lis­beth’s prob­lem-solv­ing Holmes.

But the more peo­ple talk, the more chance they’ll say some­thing wrong, or at least in­ex­pli­ca­ble. Why, for in­stance, does a heav­ily scarred bad guy named Mi­los spill the beans on his ne­far­i­ous em­ployer when Mikael merely ap­proaches him out of the blue with ques­tions?

There are other plot holes that would re­veal too much if raised here, but in the end the big­gest tear in the Spi­der’s Web is that Lis­beth has been re­duced (if that’s the right word), to a kind of James Bond fig­ure, right­ing geopo­lit­i­cal wrongs.

When she first showed up in The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too (Swedish ver­sion, 2009; Amer­i­can re­make by David Fincher, 2011), she was known as the woman who hurt men who hurt women, which seems pretty pre­scient al­most a decade later, well into the #TimesUp move­ment.

But while Spi­der’s Web opens with a scene that re­veals Lis­beth’s fa­ther to have been a sex­ual preda­tor from whom she fled as a girl, fol­lowed by a bit from the trailer with the grown-up Lis­beth aveng­ing an abused wife, it never lets her get back to that kind of work again.

This movie is tech­ni­cally the se­quel to Fincher’s Dragon Tat­too, though none of its cast or crew is the same, and for its source it skips to the fourth Lis­beth Sa­lan­der novel, and the first writ­ten by David Lager­crantz, tak­ing over from the late Steig Lars­son. If that’s too con­fus­ing a prove­nance, it only stresses the no­tion that Spi­der’s Web is best en­joyed by not think­ing about it too much.

—COLUMBIAPICTURES

Claire Foy stars in The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web, repris­ing the role of Lis­beth Sa­lan­der, who now plays out more like a James Bond type than a punk aveng­ing an­gel.

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