The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. For Washington Post film critic Michael O’Sullivan’s review of “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” click here.
When we last left Lisbeth Salander … oh, does anyone really care where we last left Lisbeth Salander?
Well, regardless, she’s back — this time played by Claire Foy, taking over for Rooney Mara — in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” the second and hopefully last installment in the “Dragon Tattoo” series featuring the characters from the books by Stieg Larsson. David Fincher directed the previous film in 2011; now Fede Alvarez is at the helm of this sort-of sequel because, I don’t know, “Don’t Breathe,” his last movie, did really well.
At the beginning of the new film, Lisbeth is working as a vigilante and hacker, specializing in enacting vengeance upon men who hurt women, kind of a freelance feminist Batman. (This is not to say that Batman isn’t a feminist. I’m sure he is.) She’s hired to steal a computer program that would give the user the power to control every nuclear weapon in the world. Then the plot, such as it is, continues.
The story is similar to Mad Libs, but the kind you’d do with your sibling in the back seat during a road trip, when you hilariously filled in every blank with “butt” or “poop.” The “Girl in the Spider’s Web” version would go something like “Lisbeth uses her computer to computer into the computer and motorcycles computerly to a computer.”
There are things I cannot stand when it comes to movies, and the top three are all laziness. “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” is almost aggressively lazy. Obviously the book, by David Lagercrantz (who continued with the novels after Larsson’s death), is somewhat to blame; it’s hard to fault the three screenwriters (who include Alvarez) for so many “well, DUH” reveals. But the buck has to stop at Alvarez’s director’s chair; he seems to have taken cliche as his muse. He uses cheap cuts to gain cheap laughs; the car and motorcycle chases work better as commercials for Lamborghini and BMW, although the brands probably aren’t interested in advertising how bulletproof their cars are. Maybe those who can afford them get shot at a lot. I don’t know. I drive a Mazda.
In fairness, Foy does an admirable job as Lisbeth. She won’t get the Oscar nod that Rooney got, but she gives the character — and consequently the film — an emotional center that a less talented actor couldn’t have carried off. And one fight scene, set in a smoke-filled bathroom where all the characters are wearing eerie gas masks that glow red, is interesting both visually and in terms of punching.
Laziness in a movie indicates not only a lack of creativity, but a lack of respect for the audience. A good movie reaches out to the audience; it creates a world that is interesting enough to make viewers want to engage with it, to come along on the journey. This applies to movies regardless of genre: “Black Panther” did it this year, as did “Game Night” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” doesn’t do anything with its audience; it just comes at them like a bullet-riddled BMW driven by someone who’s asleep at the wheel.