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die hard is a xmas movie | by maryann johanson

The Girl in the Spider’s Web movie review: an itsy-bitsy reboot

The Girl in the Spider’s Web red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

A rote crime action thriller — very car chase! such gunshots! — that drains its protagonist of much of the raw power that has made her so fascinating in the past.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love Claire Foy
I’m “biast” (con): not sure this needed to be rebooted
I have not read the source material
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

Punk hacker Lisbeth Salander is back. But I’m not really sure why, and I don’t think The Girl in the Spider’s Web does either. Based on a novel that was not written by Dragon Tattoo author Stieg Larsson, this is a rote crime action thriller — very car chase! such gunshots! — that drains its protagonist of much of the raw power that has made her so fascinating in the past even as it thinks it is enlightening us as to how she became the fiercely driven vigilante that she is.

Any mild interest this small and inconsequential movie engenders is solely down to Claire Foy (First Man, Unsane), taking over as “the girl” (she’s 34 years old), though she isn’t given much opportunity to do more than stalk around and look lost. (Lost is the last thing Salander has ever been or ever should be.) Perhaps she’s mystified that director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) decided it would be a good idea to include both a “Salander showering” and “Salander bathing” scene within the first 30 minutes of the film? It takes a special kind of Hollywood tone-deafness to tell a tale that makes sure to underscore that it is about a woman who gets revenge on men who hurt women, and then objectify that same woman anyway.

I really was expecting -- hoping, even -- for much more of this...

I really was expecting — hoping, even — for much more of this…

Ironically, the macguffin-driven plot here has nothing to do with hurting men who hurt women, and everything to do with running around after a computer program that Salander hacked from the NSA and then was incredibly lax about keeping safe — she had the only copy until some bad guys stole it from her — even though it’s basically the digital key for setting off nukes wherever you want. A lot of ridiculous coincidence is deployed in order to tie this in with an exploration of Salander’s childhood and her formative traumas and ensure that both threads conclude neatly and simultaneously.

Other plot-based bafflement arises when it makes no sense that the guy who wrote that nuke-launching program (Stephen Merchant: Sherlock Gnomes, Logan) would be skulking around trying to get his work back from the NSA — he hired Salander for the job — with his young son (Christopher Convery) in tow, a second macguffin ready to be kidnapped and used as a pawn. I think we’re meant to think that Salander feels some sort of affinity with the kid, but I deduce this only circumstantially: the movie spends almost no time developing relationships between any of the characters.

“Guys, I’ma hack in and boost our Rotten Tomatoes score like Ferris Bueller did with his grades. Don’t tell anyone.”

“Guys, I’ma hack in and boost our Rotten Tomatoes score like Ferris Bueller did with his grades. Don’t tell anyone.”

Bonus mysteries: Why would Alvarez cast the tremendous Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out, Snowden) — as an NSA guy who travels to Stockholm to hunt down the missing program — if the director wasn’t going to utilize his awesomeness? Ditto Vicky Krieps (3 Days in Quiberon), who owned Phantom Thread, appearing here as a woman who is maybe supposed to be jealous that her boyfriend (husband?), journalist Mikael Blomkvist, is back in touch with Salander, and yet she barely appears at all? Also, why is it that Blomkvist, who was originally a full generation older than Salander, suddenly has only a few years on her, as portrayed by 40-year-old Sverrir Gudnason (Borg vs McEnroe)? (There’s almost no reason for Blomkvist to be present in the story at all, in fact.)

It’s all quite bewildering, which is the biggest emotion The Girl in the Spider’s Web evokes, other than boredom. Hacking is sorcery here — it can pull off whatever impossible trick the plot requires — but that’s the only magic to be found.


see also:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Man som hatar kvinnor) (review)
The Girl Who Played With Fire (Flickan som lekte med elden) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Luftslottet som sprängdes) (review)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (review)


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.


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red light 2 stars

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) | directed by Fede Alvarez
US/Can release: Nov 09 2018
UK/Ire release: Nov 21 2018

MPAA: rated R for violence, language and some sexual content/nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, injury detail, language, sex)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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