“The Girl In the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story”
Directed by Fede Alvarez
It’s been 48 hours since I saw this film. Not one image, moment or character has stayed with me. Seriously. That means one, or both, of two things. A) It’s not very good, or B) it’s a perfectly fine escape-ist couple hours. In this instance, I’ll go with both. These are characters we know very well. But, if I’m being honest, only the original Swedish films have done it right. They made the characters the most human, the most real. They also made the actions and machinations of the films/plot believable…real. It’s that sense of realism and relate-ability that makes us give a crap.
Alas, Alvarez’ reboot based on David Lagercrantz’ re-imagining/continuation of Stieg Larsson’s characters (whew) has none of that. The tech, and speed with which they utilize it, is straight out of the Mission Impossible franchise. The absurd ability to rebound from violent interludes in seconds is straight out of The Bourne Franchise, and the brooding nature of each character/photography is straight out of the more recent films of the Bond franchise. None of which have anything to do with the “Dragon Tattoo” franchise. It’s cool. It moves at a decent pace, and it is interesting to look at…but…see A) and B) above.
There are elements to recommend, however. In spite of every single major character, save one, being two-dimensional, the acting is pretty great. Claire Foy can do no wrong, even in a role as bland as this one. It’s literally a series of watching her mind work her way out of problems. But because Foy always keeps it real…never pushing..you don’t mind. Lakeith Stanfield, in another two-dimensional character, works his ass off to be a human being, and mostly succeeds. Claes Bang, unrecognizable from his star turn in “The Square”, is utterly wasted in his role as a heavy. And I literally have no idea what the hell Sylvia Hoeks, who was terrific in “Blade Runner 2049” and “Berlin Station,” was trying to do in the film. A truly bizarre character choice. Only Sverrir Gudnason, who was BRILLIANT as Bjorn Borg in “Borg vs McEnroe”, gets to be real, and he is. So much so it almost feels like he’s in the wrong film. And lovely to see Vicky Krieps, who broke out in last year’s “Phantom Thread”, again, although it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her performance.
The sets are gorgeous, thanks to multiple Production Design Oscar nominee, Eve Stewart. And they are shot in a blue sheen you may recognize from season two of “Ozark” by a relative newcomer, cinematographer Pedro Luque. It’s two of the better elements of the film. But the music simply has no place in the movie. It’s driving and exciting. Alas, it is also overused, overly instructive and very distracting. And while I can’t claim to know his work, composer Roque Baños has written close to a hundred scores, so it is surprising.
When all is said and done, this is a fine movie to wile away a couple hours. It would have also been a pretty good Netflix TV series. I just can’t recommend it as true extension of the Dragon Tattoo stories.
Written on 11/9/2018