“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” gets tangled in mediocrity

Ryan Bell

The “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series broke it’s hiatus this November with the release of another film based in it’s universe, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.” In 2009 the critically acclaimed Swedish thriller novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was adapted into a foreign language film, before then being adapted once more in 2011, this time to an American film directed by David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig as the main characters. The American release was adored by audiences and critics alike, going on to be nominated for five Oscars and ultimately winning for film editing. While its sequel’s far from a terrible film, there’s no doubt that it isn’t going to make nearly as big of a splash as its predecessor.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Hanging a billionaire by his legs, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) prepares to transfer his money to his abused wife.

The two lead actors, Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander (aka “the girl with the dragon tattoo”) and Sverrir Gudnason as Mikael Blomkvist portray their characters realistically, never distracting from the film’s story. Additionally, since this is a film taking place in Sweden, the cast’s accents are all fittingly Scandinavian, with no distractingly obviously disguised Americans accents.

The action, which is what many fans loved from the first “Dragon Tattoo,” peaks in an amazing scene where Lisbeth sneaks into an emotionally and physically abusive billionaire’s house to steal some of his money and free his wife and child from his grasp. The buildup to the scene’s climax is very tense and the payoff of revenge is satisfying. This opening has nothing to do with the main plot of the film, and unfortunately, everything afterward fails to reach its peak of intensity despite escalating stakes. Much of the film is focused on keeping a nuclear launch program out of the hands of terrorists, and yet this is hard to care about compared to the opening. The film’s main antagonists, an organization called the Spiders, simply aren’t as fun to watch being attacked as the corrupt businessman from the beginning.

The two main characters also aren’t very well developed, making it difficult to like them. The journalist Mikael, for example, treats his wife very poorly, whether he’s flirting with someone else at work or blowing her off to continue pursuing Lisbeth for his story. There’s never any payoff or change to his character by the end, and it seems like his bad behavior goes completely unredeemed. Lisbeth, the main character, is a bit more likable, but still she doesn’t have much personality outside of her vigilante work. The leader of the Spiders, Lisbeth’s sister, Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks) also suffers from a lack of quality development, as her motivation for going after Lisbeth makes very little sense. She resents Lisbeth for escaping from their abusive father and not coming back to help her despite the fact that Camilla chose to stay. It seems as though the writers didn’t put much thought into her motivations and instead hoped that the viewers wouldn’t notice how little sense her decisions make.

Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Investigating a crashed car, Lisbeth prepares for a fight.

From a technical perspective, the film is about average for a typical action film. The cinematography, much like most aspects, peaks at the scene where Lisbeth attacks the billionaire, before returning to standard and bland for the rest of the film. There are a couple good shots where the color pallette is appealing and the framing is interesting and creative, but those moments are few and far between. The music is the one technical aspect that is below average. The orchestral soundtrack is incredibly overbearing, constantly manipulating the viewer into feeling a certain emotion without putting in the effort through the plot to earn those feelings for real. There’s also a scene fairly early on in which Lisbeth enters a club and the electronic dance music clashes hideously with the overblown strings in the soundtrack, making for an unpleasant, distracting experience.

There just simply isn’t much to love about “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” when there are so many films that do its strengths so much better. The film has a James Bond-inspired CGI opening credits and Mission Impossible-style gadgets, yet the films in those franchises are significantly more coherent and entertaining experiences than this one. It’s not bad, but if that’s the best thing that can be said about a film, it’s probably not worth the time. Unless the viewer is already very invested in the characters from “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” this film is probably best passed over in favor of the superior films which inspired it.