SONY PICTURES RELEASING (2018)
Director: Fede Álvarez
Starring: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant
The David Fincher-less The Girl in the Spider’s Web already had a mountain to climb before release. The fact that Fincher wasn’t at the helm would be a negative for most movies, but with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo leads Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig both not returning to reprise their roles (a role that gained Mara a Best Actress nod) and its budget slashed in half, incoming director Fede Álvarez (Don’t Breathe) had a tough task to recreate the success that the first movie in the series garnered.
The sequel follows Lisbeth Salander (Foy) once more as she assists in retrieving crucial nuclear data from the NSA – data that is wanted by some very bad people, namely a violent group known as The Spiders. Love, loss and the past stab at Lisbeth throughout as the world begins to close in on her once again. Diving further into the plot would entail revealing spoilers and, really, there’s not that much more to the movie.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo really was a good movie. Great performances and Fincher’s nuanced direction elevated what could have been a fairly bland, emotionless affair. Frustratingly, that’s the fate that befell The Girl in the Spider’s Web. For all of the raw beauty that the Scandinavian landscapes bring to the movie, the distinct lack of urgency smothered Spider’s Web even more than the grimy filter that accompanied every scene. Despite having backstories to cling to, characters had no magnetism as they traipsed from scene to scene and there’s a real pedestrian pace that really doesn’t help. Claire Foy is OK as Lisbeth, she doesn’t necessarily put a foot wrong, but I just didn’t find her overly appealing leading the movie – even with her secretive backstory blown wide open. Stanfield and Gudnason were also fine (really, just fine) and Sylvia Hoeks certainly looks like a great villain despite not being written as one.
Spider’s Web begins with a strong opening scene and I kind of wish that the movie had continued with the theme that was set up. Once that scene concludes, the movie inexplicably becomes this odd, faux-James Bond send up. That wouldn’t be a bad thing normally, but the drastic shift from what made the first movie so successful was unnecessary and not executed well enough to stand up to the comparison. Aspects and moments of the movie did work well – though the ending really wasn’t great – and the crime aspect was better than the thriller aspect, for sure.
The key problem with Spider’s Web is that everything feels very much like an unexceptional B-side to a far superior A-side - even the visual aesthetic looks uninterested. Could Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig have done anything more to salvage the movie? Probably not. The lack of momentum really kills Spider’s Web and whilst it was more exciting than fellow recent Scandinavian offering The Snowman, that’s really the best compliment that I can give this movie.
November 13th 2018