Movie review: Lisbeth Salander loses her sharp edge in The Girl In The Spider's Web

REVIEW / CRIME THRILLER

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB (NC16)

116 minutes/Now showing/2 stars

The story: A few years after the events of the first movie (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, 2011), hacker-for-hire Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) takes a job from scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant). It will soon have her shielding a child with special powers from the clutches of a criminal gang known as The Spiders.

It is 2018 and the retooled Lisbeth Salander still has her leather and motorbike.

But in these superhero-happy times, she has been turned into Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft crossed with Marvel’s Black Widow and, in the process, loses everything that made her character special.

In the 2009 Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and 2011 Hollywood do-over, Salander was an anti-hero. She was selfish and sneaky, a thief and lurker who used the Web to take power back from men who see women as prey.

Enter this “soft reboot”, a sequel to the 2011 story. Salander is now packing weapons and breaking doors to save a boy.

British actress Foy has a lot more work to do emotionally, compared with the actress she replaced, Rooney Mara. Foy’s heroine is much less broken, less closed-off, and she does an admirable job.

A crucial portion of the film flashes back to Salander’s childhood, therefore giving this the flavour of a superhero origin story. It is an arc that veers some distance away from David Lagercrantz’s 2015 novel of the same name.

In the present day, the family trauma from which she has been running catches up with her. There are a few stages of grief and guilt she must process, all of which happens in a trite manner that will remind viewers of how comic books wrap things up in the closing pages.

Director David Fincher (The Social Network, 2010; Gone Girl, 2014) gave the 2011 version a cool reserve that relative newcomer and current director Fede Alvarez erases.

If Alvarez has a style, it is hard to spot. This work, with its bland car chases, mild fight scenes and overwrought villains is a tension-free and anonymous Euro-thriller.

The erasure of Salander’s sharp edges has taken with it the things that made her memorable.

She used to be a damaged vengeance machine. Now, she is a moody big sister with a nice taser collection.

Watch the trailer at www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKMSP9OKspQ

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