The first Lisbeth Salander story not to be penned by acclaimed nordic noir writer Stieg Larsson sees the return of the infamous kick-ass vigilante hacker in a film that sadly fails to measure up to its predecessors on almost every front. Directed by Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) and adapted from David Lagercrantz’s 2015 novel of the same name, The Girl In The Spider’s Web stars Claire Foy (The Crown, First Man) in a role first made famous by Noomi Rapace, and later Rooney Mara.
Kicking off with a prologue that introduces us to a young Lisbeth, her sister and their father, we soon start to get a clearer picture of what made the young woman into a fierce and remorseless vigilante, dishing out punishment to every wife-beater and abuser in Stockholm.
When she is hired by Silicon Valley scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve a program he wrote capable of accessing the world’s nuclear codes, from fear that it might be misused, Lisbeth soon finds herself caught up in a web of lies and deceit between corrupt government officials and dangerous cybercrinimnals. With both Balder and his autistic son August (Christopher Convery) in immediate danger from both sides, Lisbeth has no other option but to enlist the help of her old friend journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) to get them out of a tight spot. Meanwhile, having travelled to Sweden to recover the program himself, NSA programmer Ed Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) is caught between his duty and doing what’s right when he and Salander agree to join forces for the greater good.
Fede Alvarez offers a deeply contrived narrative full of utterly ludicrous twist and turns held together by a disappointingly reductive and almost laughable plot. Seemingly oblivious to the impact left by the original source material, both Alvarez and his writing team have missed a huge chance to take the story somewhere interesting, instead they opted for a series of cliches and silly tropes which only serve to make the whole project seem cheap and underdeveloped. Tonally, The Girl In The Spider’s Web doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, and in the end winds up feeling like a bad imitation of its predecessors without all the things which made the original films so compelling in the first place.
Foy is sadly miscast in a role that lacks gravitas and believability, and despite bringing a huge deal of nuance to a decidedly weakly-written character, the actress fails to capture the essence and spiky attitude of the original Salander.
Elsewhere, perhaps Alvarez’s greatest mistake was to underplay the importance of both Gudnason and Stanfield, who find themselves underused and forever playing catch up throughout the film.
Tonally, The Girl In The Spider’s Web doesn’t seem to know if it wants to go full on B-movie or if it wants to capitalise on its lead’s new found status as one of the hardest working actresses in Hollywood right now. And while Alvarez’s inability to follow through thematically is a big problem for this franchise, he can rest assured that in the end the film is mostly let down by the material he’s been given to work with, which in the end fails to gel with the director’s cult sensibilities.