The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in the Millennium book series, which follows the adventures of anti-social computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and writer Mikael Blomqvist. The first three books were written by Stieg Larsson and then taken over by David Lagercrantz, who wrote Spider’s Web.
However, in American cinema, it is only the second film of this series, following David Fincher’s grungy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo back in 2011. It was only a matter of time before they continued the series, and they decided to reintroduce us to Lisbeth and Mikael seven years after the last film and by adapting the fourth book. Not the second or third, the fourth, and you can tell it is the fourth book, which isn’t good a thing.
The last time we saw Lisbeth Salander (played in 2011 by Rooney Mara, in an extraordinary performance), she helped Mikael Blomqvist (played then by Daniel Craig) solve a 40-year-old murder mystery. During their investigation, Lisbeth and Mikael became lovers, though when Lisbeth begins to get to close, she finds Mikael has gotten back with a former fling and goes back to her stand-offish ways.
Now, Lisbeth (played this time by Claire Foy) is a recluse who is hired by tech wizard Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), who desperately needs a file stashed at the N.S.A. Lisbeth hacks the N.S.A. to get the file, which triggers N.S.A. special agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) to go after Lisbeth and retrieve the file. Lisbeth also encounters another group of people who want the file called the Spider Society, who attempt to kill Lisbeth by blowing up her apartment. With the help of Mikael (Sverrir Gudnason), they uncover who is running the Spider Society, which brings up ghosts from Lisbeth’s past.
The biggest problem with this film is that there is zero connection to Dragon Tattoo. I have seen nothing that the two films are not connected, so as far as I am concerned, they are in the same series. When the film starts, you feel like you’ve shown up an hour late. Salander is a completely different person than when we last saw her. She went from cold, isolated, crass hacker-for-hire who used her skills to blackmail others to a vigilante hacker who uses her skills to help abused and troubled women. Her relationship with Mikael is confusing as well. We are told he wrote a story about her, but we don’t really know the specifics of the story or when it happened. There is a weird sexual tension between the two as well, but nothing is ever explored or talked about. And then there is the stuff with her past. We see young Lisbeth escape from her abusive foster home and then we’re in present day.
My question is, when did all of this occur? When did Lisbeth become this vigilante? What exactly is the relationship between Lisbeth and Mickael? How did Lisbeth grow up? All we see is her run away, but never see the rest of her foster life and find out why she is the way that she is. I imagine movie versions of the second and third book, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, we would have gotten more in-depth in Lisbeth and Mikael as characters and their relationship. The ill-advised move to go right to the fourth book is wildly confusing.
Rooney Mara’s performance as Lisbeth is one of the best performances of this decade, so it’s hard to follow a performance that great. Claire Foy is a great actress and should be nominated for an Oscar this year for her work in First Man, but her performance here is really rough. Foy always looks like she’s in pain, and not in a way that adds to the character, but pain of the lines she is saying and pain of being on set. Where as Mara’s Lisbeth was very metal, with the giant mohawk, lack of eyebrows, and numerous piercings, Foy’s Lisbeth feels like the adult version, with only a few piercings and only rocking a small mohawk at the end. Was this due to the character change? Again, we don’t know. I did enjoy Lakeith Stanfield, because I enjoy him in any movie. He made the most out of a thankless character and is the reason for the extra half-star.
The ultimate affect of The Girl in the Spider’s Web is that the movie felt useless, which is the biggest crime a movie could make. This is an empty, lifeless movie with no depth, poor acting, and mediocre visuals. If done properly, and with the right movies and context before it, this could have been a good, interesting movie. But it wasn’t done properly, so it’s not.