Disappointingly Average: A review of “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”

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Rating: ★★ 1/2

I love The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. The Swedish films are excellent and David Fincher’s US adaptation was a decent watch too. Lisbeth Salander is such an iconic and well-written character, so her return to the big screen was met with much anticipation. With a new cast and new story I was looking forward to seeing it, catching a Limitless preview screening a few days before its general UK release. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my relatively high expectations.

The biggest insult to this film is its trailer. It gives away EVERYTHING so if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve basically seen the entire film condensed down into a few minutes. All the best scenes and key moments have been awkwardly crammed into its promotion, to the point where I was able to predict exactly what was going to happen. I felt very let down by this and it seriously ruined my ability to enjoy the film properly. It deserved a much more ambiguous trailer, letting the mystery be revealed throughout the full narrative instead.

The film is redeemed somewhat by the performances. Claire Foy is a fantastic Lisbeth Salander, putting her all into this performance and fully embodying the badass, bisexual cyber-hacker that we all know and love. She is slick, smart and sexually charged, and is a worthy successor to both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara. If anything, Foy deserved a better film because this story really didn’t do her much justice and that’s not her fault.

It was also interesting to see British comedian Stephen Merchant in a much more serious role, proving that he is able to step out of his comfort zone.  His character, Frans Balder, is a complex one despite his lack of screen time, and I was convinced by his take on the character. Despite his relatively small role, I found him more interesting than some of the main characters.

Security expert Edwin Needham is utterly forgettable, and his character wasn’t strong enough to get much interest from me. In a similar vein, Millenium journalist Mikael Blomkvist barely even made an appearance and considering he’s been a key character in the novels and in Lisbeth’s life, this was disappointing for me. I haven’t read the novel yet so I’m unsure if this is true to the original story, but it was a shame he didn’t feature more.

Because this film focuses primarily on Salander and twin sister, Camilla, I was relieved that I at least enjoyed scenes featuring the two of them. Sylvia Hoeks is a terrifying and powerful on-screen presence, from her mannerisms to her costume design. The fractured relationship between the two sisters is fascinating and runs deep, but seems to be glossed over at times. Foy and Hoeks did their best with the script they had, but I still found the narrative jumbled and rushed in places, favouring drawn-out action over scenes with any real substance.

Sure, the action sequences are well-shot and full of adrenaline but when they replace actual narrative coherence, we have a problem. There’s too much going on, there’s plot holes, and filler scenes that really didn’t need to be there. I know two hours isn’t really a lot of screen time to play with, but it could’ve been so much better than this.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web is nothing like the complex thriller I was expecting it to be, cramming far too much into its runtime and leaving me feeling dissatisfied. It’s entertaining in its own way and if you’re mainly looking looking for chase sequences, fast cars and action, then you’ll probably have a good time. There are some great scenes and  lines of dialogue, but not enough to fully redeem itself. I don’t necessarily regret watching it, but I won’t be watching again. It’s a forgettable action film.

If you want to see Lisbeth Salander and co. at their best, catch the Swedish films instead.

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