The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story
by George Wolf
This far along, it’s no surprise some freshness has wilted from the Lisbeth Salander franchise. But now, as the fourth book in Steig Larsson’s “Millennium” series makes it to the multiplex, some of its identity seems to be slipping away as well.
Claire Foy hops on the speed bike as the latest Lisbeth, Stockholm’s most infamous hacker/vigilante/all around badass. Her latest impossible mission is to recover a top secret computer program known as Firefall.
Developed by a weirdly tall code wizard (Stephen Merchant), the program can breach all missile defense systems and put them under the control of a single user. Though the program can’t be copied, it can be moved, and when the Americans steal it, Lisbeth is contracted to steal it back.
The job comes with plenty of attempts on her life and open wounds from the past, and as Lisbeth is pursued across Sweden by a Washington NSA agent (Lakeith Stanfield), her old pal Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) tries to help sort it all out.
Director/co-writer Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead) trades the cold, sterile atmospherics that marked the previous films for a more standard thriller tone. Despite a few nifty sleights of hand, the film always seems to be working from another’s playbook.
It’s less grisly, less ambitious and more comfortable settling for overly convenient plot turns and painting the female action hero in more of a male fantasy world. Salander has been an anti-Bond since book one, making this shift particularly disappointing.
For her part, Foy is a serviceable Salander but more of a blank slate. While Noomi Repace brought more instant menace and Rooney Mara more mystery, Foy can’t define her turn much beyond hurtful stares and beatdowns.
Spider’s Web is always watchable, and engaging enough to keep you invested. But Lisbeth became memorable by being uniquely compelling, not merely satisfactory.