The books and movies that make up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series have usually been painted with broad strokes, and now this soft reboot of the American version of the film is some particularly messy finger-painting. Not that there was much of substance to taint with this series, but it is astonishing how cynical it has been rendered through this blockbusterisation, resulting in the perplexingly stupid and sometimes stupidly enjoyable The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
The titular girl, Lisbeth (Claire Foy), is an expert hacker who is given the task of digitally stealing a nuclear weapons related programme from Edwin (Lakeith Stanfield). It is of course not safe in her hands for long, as cyber-criminals/assassins, led by Jan Holtser (Claes Bang), come down hard on Lisbeth and her journalist comrade/sometimes-lover Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason). And from here, most plot-points are tethered together through the magical and contrived power of hacking – this film has less in common with David Fincher’s brooding adaptation and more in common with the outdated mid-90s flick Hackers (there’s similarly a computer mastermind in this called Plague).
This long-awaited soft reboot really is basically a straight-to-Netflix action-thriller B-movie with big budget aspirations. It’s unfortunate that there’s such a severe tonal contradiction, as it wants to be as moody and as emo-goth dark as the series has been, yet it also wants to present itself as attractive big-budget nonsensical schlock. It would be preferential if had gone all the way and included corny one-liners and heavy use of saxophone in its music as well because this film is close to entirely emulating the ridiculous action films of the 80s.
This new adaptation certainly falls short of matching the aesthetic heights of the Fincher version, as the stock orchestral music pales in comparison to Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose’s attention-grabbing electro-industrial-ambient music of the original. Foy does an admirable enough job with the film’s lead, but she still feels like too good of an actress for nonsense films like these. The kind of performance she can offer doesn’t do much good for such a self-serious goofball film.
It truly is astounding to see how far this series has travelled from being a fairly introspective drama-mystery to an unashamedly ridiculous thriller-blockbuster that’s dumber than most Bourne and Bond films. Once you lower your IQ to get on the film’s level, there is whacky, brain-deadening enjoyment to be had here and it will either make you wish this film was smarter or stupider to truly make it work.