Hacker hero­ine gets new per­spec­tive

Woonsocket Call - - FILM - By MICHAEL O’SUL­LI­VAN Two and one-half stars. Rated R. Con­tains vi­o­lence, strong lan­guage, some sex­u­al­ity and nu­dity. 117 min­utes.

Some­thing’s dif­fer­ent about Lis­beth Sa­lan­der. Could it be the hair?

To be sure, the tit­u­lar pro­tag­o­nist of “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web: A New Dragon Tat­too Story” has changed her look dra­mat­i­cally since 2011’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tat­too.” There, she sported an asym­met­ri­cal, home­made-look­ing punk-rock mop and sev­eral scary fa­cial pierc­ings. Here, she looks like a me­dieval monk who time-trav­eled to the West Vil­lage: hip, but just this side of se­vere.

One other thing: The char­ac­ter in the new film is played by Claire Foy. The other one was played by Rooney Mara.

And yet there are more changes than meet the eye in this sec­ond Amer­i­can film based on the en­dear­ingly dam­aged, aveng­ing-com­puter-hacker char­ac­ter cre­ated by the late Swedish writer Stieg Lars­son. Skip­ping books 2 and 3 of Lars­son’s best-sell­ing tril­ogy, which have not yet been made into Hol­ly­wood films, and pos­si­bly never will be, “Spi­der’s Web” has jumped ahead, tak­ing its in­spi­ra­tion from a fourth Lis­beth Sa­lan­der novel that was writ­ten by David Lager­crantz af­ter Lars­son’s death. (Lars­son’s do­mes­tic part­ner, Eva Gabriels­son, has bit­terly crit­i­cized Lager­crantz’s book as “grave rob­bing.”)

Judg­ing only by these two films, the Lis­beth of “Tat­too” – at once feral, bril­liant, an­gry, eth­i­cally chal­lenged and, in all like­li­hood, some­where on the spec­trum – has mor­phed into a kind of elite ninja war­rior and in­ter­na­tional cy­ber­crim­i­nal: an emo­tion­ally dis­tant Jane Bond with a bad at­ti­tude and a black belt in Krav Maga.

In some re­spects, this Lis­beth doesn’t feel like the same per­son, even tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion her char­ac­ter’s evo­lu­tion in the in­ter­ven­ing books (which did get made into Swedish movies star­ring Noomi Ra­pace). The Lis­beth of “Spi­der’s Web” is still, as she is var­i­ously de­scribed in the new movie, a “hacker with a his­tory of ag­gra­vated as­sault,” “the girl who rights wrongs,” “the girl who hurts men who hurts women” and a “freak.” But there’s a level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pol­ish to what she does that is slightly off-putting.

Foy makes for a mag­netic, if poker-faced, hero­ine, even if her part­ner, jour­nal­ist Mikael Blomqvist, is a washout this time. Re­plac­ing “Tat­too’s” Daniel Craig, Swedish ac­tor Sver­rir Gud­na­son has a much smaller role here as Lis­beth’s side­kick – and a much more for­get­table screen pres­ence.

“Spi­der’s Web” may have its flaws, in­clud­ing a bit of vil­lain­ous mo­ti­va­tion so over­sim­pli­fied it makes Dr. Evil’s thought pro­cesses look like Ein­stein’s. And yet de­spite Lis­beth’s makeover, there’s still some­thing cool, com­pli­cated and com­pelling about this “Girl.” Lis­beth may be stuck in a silly movie, but she’s no­body’s vic­tim.

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