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The Girl In The Spider’s Web: A Generic Franchise Revival

The film The Girl In The Spider’s Web is based on a novel by David Lagercrantz and it takes place three years after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the Swedish-language adaptation of Steig Larsson’s successful novel.

One thing that is clear from the onset of The Girl in the Spider Web is that it is more energetic than David Fincher’s aloof 2011 remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It is more in line with the original Swedish film trilogy, which was itself more “Hollywood” in many ways than Fincher’s rather austere reinterpretation.

The character Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is portrayed as an avenger for abused women. Larsson’s books focus on the twisted personal dynamics of its characters like Salander who is a tormented survivor of rape and an abusive family. It is not surprising that she is first introduced to viewers as a leather-clad avenging angel when she gives painful comeuppance to a recently acquitted businessman with a penchant for beating up women.

Lisbeth’s role as an avenging angel is however secondary to her main role of a hacker and the viewer sees this when she is unable to resist taking a seemingly impossible job offered to her by former NSA employee Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant). Rather than explore Lisbeth’s intricate psyche, the director/co-screenwriter, Fede Alvarez turns the film into the conventional spy thriller.

As the film evolves into its story of bad people trying to acquire an encrypted nuclear launch code, Firefall, developed by Frans Balder, the narrative becomes rather clunky although Foy’s depiction of Lisbeth Salander is compelling to make the film watchable. Like her Emmy-winning performance in The Crown, Foy superbly gives insight into her character’s inner state with just a look or a bit of body language, as well as the smart choices she makes.

In this installment, Lisbeth’s character evokes empathy rather than the audience’s affection. She manages to keep other characters as well as viewers at arm’s length. Not even the task of looking out for an imperilled child softens her. Protecting young August Balder (Christopher Convery) ties into the pain and guilt Lisbeth feels for leaving her sister Camilla behind as a child.

The impracticality of the film that appears to fetishise motorcycles and high-performance sports cars that can’t be too practical in the Scandinavian snow is forgivable because it helps the action to clip along smartly and stirs the imagination of the viewer to understand the coldness and loneliness a child must have felt growing up in such a household.

However, what is most likely to infuriate fans of the franchise is how the central character is eradicated into a meaningless substitute of what initially made her fascinating. It reduces the stoic and strong character who once refused to be bound by her sexual traumas and became a feminist icon by fighting a misogynistic society into a bland and nondescript female action hero. Her non-entity in her own story with all of her rage, feminism and sexuality reduced to nothingness in the #MeToo era comes across as offensive.

The verdict is that The Girl in the Spider’s Web is a film that takes itself incredibly seriously with the best sequence happening very early on and it is more dramatic than action. With the film failing to recapture the power of Lisbeth’s “I’m Batman” scene, it comes across as a genre-confused Bond film-cum-superhero story that lacks the glamour of the former or the humorous asides of the latter.

Someone would remember the film more for the nose ring that its central character wears throughout the entire film rather than your classic go to film.  The film leaves viewers holding their breaths hoping both the character and franchise can resurrect itself with the next installment.

Watch the trailers of the film below:

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