There seems to be an inverse relationship between the quality of a film and the length of its title. “The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story” is no exception. The story is a follow-up to Stieg Larsson‘s “Millenium” trilogy, which is more commonly referred to as the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” trilogy. All three parts were adapted as Swedish films in 2009 and the first volume was remade two years later by David Fincher featuring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in the lead roles. This team was supposed to reunite for the next two entries, but instead, they each left the project and we’re left with a film that’s both a reboot and a continuation.
The story opens with a flashback that further fleshes out the perverse abuse Lisbeth Salander and her sister Camilla endured as children. The trauma continues to haunt the Lisbeth (Claire Foy) as an adult. To cope she employes her impressive hacker skills and multiple stun guns against all abusive men she can find. Her vigilante ways have earned her the admiration of some and the ire of many others. The film takes a rather heavy-handed approach to illustrating how damaged she is, pulling from all the usual tropes. Coincidently, she soon takes a job to steal a piece of software that reunites her with her dark past.
It’s here that all the rough edges of this film begin to expose themselves. Every character in the story is simply going through the motions required to advance the plot. People behave in ways that aren’t in line with their character. The most glaring example is Lisbeth’s inconsistent security. Sometimes she has cameras, alarms, software backups, and escape routes. But other times, when the plot demands it, she’s caught surprisingly off guard. Every single piece of “detective work” in this film is a matter of pure chance. The previous films were expertly crafted, dark, engaging mysteries that kept our attention. Here, a character merely has to walk into a room for 3 minutes to get every bit of information they need to move on. Again and again, we wonder what would happen to the story if just a single bit of pure luck were removed. For nearly two hours the story continues in a very straight line, without a single twist or “surprise” that we don’t see coming from a mile away.
Another odd aspect of the film is how empty it feels. Considering the power of the software she’s stolen, and the potential global consequences, there are very few people involved. Only one man from the NSA seems to even be aware of what has happened and tries to track down Lisbeth on his own. Only one official in the Swedish government is ever seen and at most, there are only 5 or 6 police seen despite various murders, explosions, and traffic violations.
It’s a shame the script is so generic because it pulls down everything else the film gets right. Visually, it’s quite engaging. Almost every frame is beautiful in its stark contrasts and occasional bolts of bright color. Even if some are almost comically obvious attempts to spruce up the shot, it still looks good. (ex: Red backlit gas masks, a pale villain who dresses in only red, etc) The performances are all spot-on as well. Each character has an earnest sincerity to them that is believable, even if their actions are not.
“The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story” is a great example of everyone bringing their A-Game to a C-Script. It lacks the depth of what made the trilogy so engaging and instead comes off feeling like a facsimile than a follow-up.