‘Girl in Spi­der’s Web’ tan­gled in tropes

Merced Sun-Star - - Arts - BY KATIE WALSH

What can’t Claire Foy do? She’s the Queen of Eng­land (on Net­flix’s “The Crown”), Mrs. Neil Arm­strong (in “First Man”) and for her next trick, she’s slipped into the cy­ber-goth trap­pings and jet black bowl cut of the girl with the dragon tat­too, Lis­beth Sa­lan­der, in “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web: A New Dragon Tat­too Story.”

Her Lis­beth doesn’t have the fierce fragility of Rooney Mara in David Fincher’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tat­too,” or the Nordic flinti­ness of Noomi Ra­pace, who played the char­ac­ter in the Swedish film tril­ogy.

Foy’s Lis­beth is pas­sion­ate and com­pas­sion­ate, de­spite her se­vere styling and frosty de­meanor. Early on, her famed dragon tat­too is sliced open in an at­tack, and for the rest of the film, de­spite su­per­glue and sta­ples, it seeps blood. It’s the per­fect en­cap­su­la­tion of this Lis­beth Sa­lan­der, a bleed­ing heart whose wounds have never closed.

The plot is a clas­sic “thinga­ma­jig” story, which be­dev­ils the “Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble” films and most su­per­hero movies, so it’s some­what ap­pro­pri­ate a soft re­boot/se­quel to a film about a dis­tinc­tive crusader would fall prey to this sce­nario. Lis­beth has to keep a (insert worldend­ing de­vice here) out of the hands of (insert ne­far­i­ous crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion here). It’s a tale as old as cin­e­matic time, edgedup with fa­cial pierc­ings, un­for­tu­nate bangs and light les­bian ac­tion.

The twist is the ne­far­i­ous crim­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tion has a deeply per­sonal con­nec­tion to Lis­beth’s past, and her quest rips open deep, old emo­tional wounds. Lis­beth’s sta­tus as a sur­vivor of sex­ual as­sault has al­ways been a huge part of her story, and in “Spi­der’s Web,” that is brought to the fore­front, as­sert­ing that rape is what makes women bit­ter and vi­o­lent.

For all of the film’s short­com­ings, which in­clude an overly com­pli­cated, un­in­ter­est­ing plot and baf­fling fight scenes shot from com­pletely in­sane an­gles, Foy is truly do­ing the work. She is both metic­u­lous and earnest as Lis­beth.

Lis­beth loves women, reveres wom­an­hood and tor­tures men who hurt women. She’s the kind of hero we need right now, and her re­turn to the screen is wel­come. It’s a shame this story sends her skit­ter­ing off chas­ing en­crypted lap­tops and not true bad guys. Maybe next time.

REINER BAJO Sony Pic­tures

Claire Foy por­trays Lis­beth Sa­lan­der in “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web.”

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