The road of the “Millennium” series has been a strange one. Stieg Larson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” took the world by storm in 2005, featuring the characters of computer hacker and dark soul Lisbeth Salander and her adventures with magazine writer Mikael Blomkvist as they are intertwined with a forty-year-old disappearance cold case. His original plan was to write ten of these stories, but only got three of them done before his death the year before his first novel in the series would be published. His notes kept the series alive with the first three being made into films in Sweden as well as “Dragon Tattoo” getting Americanized with Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in 2011. Personally, I read the first book and enjoyed it very much, but prefer the Swedish version of the film. I have not gotten to the others, but I find it odd that America has skipped those books and gone straight to the fourth in the series with “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”.
In what can only be referred to as a reboot, Salander this time around is played by “The Crown” star Claire Foy with Sverrir Gudnason from “Borg vs. McEnroe” as Blomkvist. Lisbeth has upped her game as a vigilante by combining her hacker skills along with her fearlessness, and when she is tasked by a computer scientist named Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant) to steal back a program that can enable a single user to control all of the world’s nuclear arsenal, she again gets caught up between her own country’s government, the Americans she stole it from in Agent Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), and a syndicate of terrorist who all have their motives.
I found the choice of “Spider’s Web” to be a very interesting one by Sony. I understand not wanting to go back and do “Dragon Tattoo” again, but there are some threads with the characters that starting almost mid-stream can easily get lost on audiences trying to pick it up here. There are motivations to Mikael and Lisbeth specifically that make the “why” behind who they are that add layers to their stories and how they fit into the bigger picture that would truly benefit this film on multiple levels. Don’t get me wrong: this is an enjoyable film, but if the intent is to franchise this to help fill the hole that the “James Bond” series seems to be creating, it is important to keep these characters and their stories within the stories as fresh and clear as possible.
Fede Alvarez takes the director’s chair in this film, and the guy that brought us “Don’t Breathe” and the “Evil Dead” remake uses his dark style from both of those films here in a very effective way. It is apparent that he does give a nod to David Fincher’s style with the American version of “Dragon Tattoo” while brightening it up just a little bit to establish his own stamp on it as well. Larsson’s writing is very specific to his locales, and Alvarez translates that nicely to the point where I even felt a little chilly while watching “Spider’s Web”. Seriously, Sweden is COLD.
From a cast standpoint, here is where it gets odd. Foy is good as Salander, but there seems to be something missing for me. She does know how to do dark and brooding, but I never really committed to her as Lisbeth. Gudnason is serviceable here, but the level of chemistry required between these two characters just didn’t click. If these two are the plan going forward, there needs to be some work done to tighten this up.
If there is to be a “Mission Accomplished” banner to be hung here it is that “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” resparked my interest in the book series and may have me go back and pick up “The Girl Who Played with Fire” to get us back to this point. From what I have read, I am glad that I did not before this film was released due to the reports that there are a LOT of liberties taken from the source material that may put me in a “Ready Player One” place. As much as I do enjoy these characters, I hope that this can keep going forward while maybe even going back a bit to pick up the stories they skipped.