‘The Girl In The Spider’s Web’ Review: Lisbeth Returns

The full title of Sony’s newest Lisbeth Salander film is The Girl In The Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story. Why the studio feels compelled to explain that this is part of the “Dragon Tattoo” franchise, and not part of the Millennium Series, tells you all you need to know about how this series has been mishandled.

Director David Fincher made The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in 2011, which starred Daniel Craig as Mikael and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, and while the film did reasonably well with fans and critics, the franchise lay dormant for seven years. When Sony finally went ahead with a sequel, it jumped two books and went right to the last book, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, one not even written by the series creator, Stieg Larsson, and those missing chapters matter, as we find the character dealing with history that we didn’t see. In a sense, The Girl in the Spider’s Web feels like if you watched Star Wars: A New Hope followed by Return of the Jedi. In short: we missed a lot.

The Girl in the Spider's Web Review

The Girl in the Spider’s Web stars Claire Foy (The Crown, First Man) as Lisbeth, a hacker who focuses her time on righting wrongs against women. When she’s hired by Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), an ex NSA operative, to steal a creation of his called “Firewall” that could tip the balance of the world’s nuclear power, she finds herself embroiled in a James Bond-like race to save the entire world. The story gives Lisbeth a history, showing her as a child (Beau Gadsdon) with her sister, Camilla (Carlotta von Falkenhayn), and explaining why she hates men and fights for women.

What it skips over is her history with Mikael Blomkvist (now played by Sverrir Gudnason), the publisher of Millennium magazine. Things are hinted at, but Mikael plays a much lesser role in this film. LaKeith Stanfield (Get Out) also stars as a current NSA operative who flies to Europe to try and get back “Firewall” for the United States, and Sylvia Hoeks stars as the adult Camilla, the leader of a mysterious spy network called ” The Spiders.”

The Girl in the Spider's Web Review

The Girl in the Spider’s Web has a solid pace that keeps the action going at a decent clip. There’s a reason that I compare this film to a James Bond film, but even Bond films have those moments of levity for the characters to breathe, and this film really doesn’t. I’m okay with that, as the near two hour run time just rushes on full force taking the audience on a ride they won’t soon forget. Technology also plays a huge part, and at times, The Girl in the Spider’s Web resembles an extended episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, as Lisbeth is able to hack into things at will with a few simple button presses, and the audience is forced to just forget all they know about hacking and the internet to fully enjoy the story on screen.

The screenplay by Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez, and Steven Knight tells a decent story, but it is clearly evident that so much story has been skipped, not only from the two books between these films, but from the book from which the film is based. Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) serves as director, and his vision for Lisbeth and the series as a whole is decidedly a different direction from what Fincher did in 2011, and what Stieg Larsson wrote last decade before he passed. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you are a fan of the Millennium book series, you might end up disappointed.

The Girl in the Spider's Web Review

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a decent action/spy thriller that kept my heart pumping for two hours. Foy is solid as Lisbeth and I particularly enjoyed LaKeith Stanfield’s Edwin Needham. This is an interesting character that could easily be spun out into his own film franchise, and Stanfield delivered, especially in the third act. Even if Sony decides to continue Lisbeth’s story further, Stanfield should be back as an ally and would be welcome addition.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web takes liberties in the greater Lisbeth Salander mythos, and the end result is a fine action thriller that might upset fans of the character. If you know going in that the story jumps two full books, you will find plenty here to enjoy. The Swedish versions of the Millennium films are are closely tied to the books, and if its that important to get the book series story, I would suggest seeking those out. For now, Sony has Americanized Lisbeth, for good or bad, and in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, I say it’s good.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is rated R and is in theaters now.

The Girl in the Spider's Web Review
out of 5

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