Re­make a tan­gled Web of cliches

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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

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