Fede Alvarez seems to have a woman problem; whether it’s his gory remake of Evil Dead or his home invasion thriller, Don’t Breathe, women’s trauma always seems to be on the backburner. They’re merely used as plot devices to give motivation for the protagonists or to fetishize violence for the sake of violence. The trend continues in The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story (yes that’s the whole title), where Lizbeth Salander is utterly devoid of everything that made her iconic and instead becomes a gothic Batgirl, who doesn’t seem to be anything more than her sexually traumatic history.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web takes place three years after the Dragon Tattoo series (though it’d be surprising if anyone could catch on to that). Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) breaks into an abusive politician’s apartment and hangs him up by his feet, demanding that he move his money into his wife’s bank account or risk getting exposed for his cruel nature. Lisbeth seems to have taken on the role of vigilante in this #MeToo, and when she’s taking down gross men by a taser to the genitals is when she shines.
However, soon enough, the plot turns into a bland James Bond, Mission impossible adventure. It revolves around a computer program, Firefall, that can hack any country’s nuclear weapon systems. The creator, (Stephen Merchant) had given it to the U.S.A but realizes that he has made a huge mistake and wants the program destroyed once and for all. However, in the midst of hacking the program, her flat is bombarded by secret agents who steal the program and attempt to assassinate her in the process. Now Lisbeth has to shake off not only her adversaries but also a U.S.A security specialist (Lakeith Stanfield) who wants to get Firefall back by any means necessary.
And it’s here where The Girl in the Spider’s Web begins to falter. The fact that Lisbeth Salander was turned into a male fantasy rather than the complex individual that she is shows that the writers do not understand her. She’s able to beat up the bad guys without breaking a sweat, hack into anything and everything, and utilize fancy spy gadgets. She’s reduced to the stoic action star who saves the world from mass destruction.
There isn’t even any chemistry present between her and her co-stars, especially Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), the man whom she is supposed to have the most significant bond with. The film introduces Blomkvist as someone who already has a history with Lisbeth. Their interactions and sexual tension suggest that the previous Dragon Tattoo films have already happened, which is hard for new viewers to grasp. The Girl in the Spider’s Web expects you to do your homework beforehand, which is such a ridiculous request considering that they wanted to reboot this franchise into an action series.
But even with an action film being the end goal, Alvarez can’t even conjure up any fun sequences to make up for the lack of characterization. The film has the staple car chase, government interventions, and of course, the one-dimensional villain, Lisbeth’s sister Camilla Salander (Slyvia Hoeks). Camilla had no substance to her beyond a subpar James Bond villain. While meant to be an intimate standoff between two sisters who took extremely different paths, it amounts to nothing more than just an underwhelming climax with every twist being as predictable as the next.
With Lisbeth Salander being reduced to a male power fantasy, it’s safe to say that the film failed her. If this is the future of the New Dragon Tattoo franchise, then Sony is in a lot of trouble. The Girl in the Spider’s Web can’t even stand out from this year’s mediocre action films, let alone the Dragon Tattoo franchise.