A New Dragon Tattoo Story
Several years after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, hacker Lisbeth Salander [Foy] is hired by programmer Frans Balder [Merchant] to steal a program named Firefall, which has the ability to access all global nuclear codes and is currently possessed by the NSA. This hack prompts Agent Edwin Needham [Stanfield] to track the invasion and unofficially make his way to Sweden to retrieve it. Once Salander has the program, she is targeted by a group of mercenaries led by her estranged sister, Camilla Salander [Hoeks] and must again team up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist [Gudnason] to stop such a powerful weapon falling into a crime syndicate’s hands.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web is one of those unfortunate releases that has two extremely successful predecessors that were adapted from very simplistic source material. That isn’t a slight against the books, more an observation that the plotting and character designs are outwardly simplistic while being delivered in an extremely impressive manner. In lesser hands, we end up with a trite script, horrible editing, questionable direction and an overall watered down experience that lacks nuance, complexity and tension, saved largely by a reasonable central performance and solid cinematography. If this movie were released as a made for TV/streaming feature or bold pilot to a series, I would likely sing higher praises but as a feature length film it simply lacks all the requisite weight and presence one expects from a release of this potential scope and scale.
Despite being a soft reboot/sequel, this movie is pretty reliant on a fair amount of knowledge of the first. Granted, the story at no point demands you understand the details of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but to appreciate the motivations between Blomkvist and Salander, it certainly helps. When The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was first released, everyone sold it on the obtuse nature of Salander, its alleged central character. Her quirks and eccentricities were a mystery to be unravelled. When I watched the Swedish adaptation of the book, I was surprised to learn that the story is actually a thriller about a journalist and a family of Nazis, with Salander merely an interesting supporting role. While Salander remains elusive and unquantified, she retains her mystery but like all misguided franchise-prolonging ventures, a spotlight focus is placed on an interesting supporting character and the result is a distinct genre shift and an ultimately hollow release.
At the helm of the misguided decisions is the casting of Claire Foy. Most critics will agree that Foy performs commendably and she shines despite the terrible script and I would completely agree with that, however, as hard as she is trying, she comes off oddly too emotive and the calculating, reptilian nature of the character is lost. In other words, this otherworldly socially-inept individual is humanised and made relatable, whereas both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara’s versions were unpredictable and hard to read. Then we have the villainous role of Lisbeth’s sister Camilla. While I appreciate that the theatricality of Lisbeth’s persona is amped up, her unscrupulous opposite feels a little too cartoonish, veering into campy James Bond villain territory, inheriting with it the mixed message about whether Camilla wants Lisbeth dead or not before you realise that the motivation of the character plays second fiddle to the movie’s need to provide unusual visuals and setups.
As stated, the script is both predictable and bland with laughable developments and turns of coincidence that allow the plot to forward itself. Clichéd situations are presented with lazy and tired direction, peppered with bizarre quips and dialogues that make the whole film a very bizarre experience. One that really stood out to me was the claim that a device that can cause nuclear armageddon would be safer in Scandinavian hands, as Sweden never went to war. Which.. is just.. laughably inaccurate. We are also treated to a fight in a bathroom as gas is being pumped through piping in the walls but as the cast are all dressed in black with gas masks kitted-out with red lights, it’s frankly impossible to follow and feels more like an indecipherable conflict from a Transformers movie. And then we have the hideously hackneyed ending wherein Blomkvist puts his name on his latest article, like it’s his Primary School homework, before pressing backspace and slowly deleting the whole thing. It’s a moronic setup that I’ve seen in a handful of films (Daredevil ends in the exact same way) that I understand as a visual but as I doubt any writer has ever done that in practice, it’s a weird thing for a writer to put into a script.
Very early on it became apparent that The Girl In The Spider’s Web (which, now I think about it, is a bit of a misnomer as she’s never really caught in any web, she just does a job that someone else is also interested in) shares several traits with The Bourne Legacy. Both are adaptations of a deceased author’s work with vastly superior available alternatives. Admittedly both prove arguably serviceable but the story is so weak that it leaves the experience ultimately forgettable.
25th November 2018
The Scene To Look Out For:
Despite the abundance of unimpressive, shaky-cam, rapidly edited action sequences, the scene wherein Salander breaks Agent Needham out of Swedish security in Stockholm airport is handled rather decently. A level of skill and restraint are shown and we get a glimpse of what this film could have been before it sinks back into its mire of mediocrity.
It’s very difficult to comment on the supporting cast as they are, effectively, pretty useless. But the most unusual is Camila who, as I mentioned earlier, has a combination of bad Bond villain motivation and a backstory that, while heavily linked to the lead, never explains why their paths have yet to cross despite living in the same country, operating under their given names.
“The past can be like a black hole. You get too close and it will pull you in. You disappear”
In A Few Words:
“A weak attempt at a franchise relaunch that will likely fade into obscurity extremely quickly”