Remake a tangled Web of cliches
This is the sort of film in which people run into a burnt-out building and then immediately find exactly the charred-but-legible news clipping they needed to move on to the next plot point.
(R16, 117 mins) Directed by Fede Alvarez
Reviewed by Graeme Tuckett
It’s not often I think an Englishlanguage remake of a decent non-English film is better than the original, or even necessary at all.
But I reckon David Fincher’s 2011 version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo raised the bar on the 2009 Swedish original in a couple of undeniable ways. Firstly, Fincher had Rooney Mara available to play the lead, who promptly turned in a rendition of Lisbeth Salander’s avenging angel of such bat-poo dementedness she made Noomi Rapace’s original look like your nana knitting a scarf by comparison.
Also, Fincher is as terrific a visual and sonic engineer as Hollywood has. His Dragon was a feast of razor-sharp framing and scoring. As soon as the first chords of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song rang out over the impossibly stylish opening credits, it was clear we were in for a ferociously good time.
So I didn’t walk into The Girl in the Spider’s Web biased against the idea of the American take-over of the franchise. But I did walk out two hours later muttering that maybe some things should just be left alone.
Spider’s Web is an adaptation of David Lagercrantz’s novel. Lagercrantz took up writing duties after the original trilogy’s author Stieg Larsson died in 2004. Lagercrantz writes in his native Swedish, but the books are now published simultaneously in English. This is the first adaptation to be filmed in English first. The novel has been well received by critics and the public. Watching this filmed version, it’s difficult to understand why.
Director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe) doesn’t exactly drop the ball, but neither does he do anything to distinguish this film from any generic action-thriller.
The backgrounds are a slurry of muted greys, the interiors are all improbably, but conveniently, labyrinthine and the action and fight scenes swing from uninventive to utterly impossible, but never quite find that sweet spot at which we will suspend disbelief because we are having too much fun to care.
The plotting is absolute boiler-plate thriller, complete with a computer-based McGuffin that must be recovered for the safety of the world. This is the sort of film in which people run into a burnt-out building and then immediately find exactly the charred-but-legible news clipping they needed to move on to the next plot point. As Salander, Claire Foy is good, and does more than enough to suggest that given a sharper script and direction, she could have been extraordinary.
Foy is also hampered by a dull support cast. A newly invented American male colleague and saviour feels like a calculated insult to Larsson’s original invention, and the introduction of Salander’s sister – never mentioned in the films before – is pure desperation by the writer, still trying to mine the past for plot twists when that story is completely played out.
The spikier, tougher and more disarming elements of Salander’s personality are scrubbed away. The film mostly whitewashes Salander’s sexuality and does nothing much to expand on her mythology. This simplified and mostly generic version of the character plays more like a decent stab at Batgirl.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web steers a once often excellent series away from the grit of the original source material. I honestly believe The Girl and the Flogged Horse would have been a more appropriate title.
The spikier, tougher and more disarming elements of Lisbeth Salander’s personality are scrubbed away in