OK, SO this can be a little confusing.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is both a sequel and a soft reboot, this time with The Crown’s Claire Foy as the title character.
Stieg Larsson’s hugely popular Millennium books, featuring the taciturn, vengeful and morally compromised anti-hero Lisbeth Salander, was first adapted for the screen in its native Sweden with Noomi Rapace and the late Michael Nyqvist.
The Rapace series covered all three of Larsson’s books and was originally released as a TV miniseries in Sweden but in cinemas around the world.
Then American director David Fincher came along in 2011 and adapted the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, with Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig. The two planned sequels to the Fincher film were mooted for years with several script rewrites in the offing. Then it stalled.
So by the time The Girl in the Spider’s Web director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe, Evil Dead) had been hired, the studio decided to skip the next two instalments and turned to the fourth book to restart the franchise.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web was authored by David Lagercrantz, who was chosen to continue the books after Larsson’s death in 2004.
So, yes, it is both a sequel that exists within the universe of Fincher’s film and a soft reboot because absolutely every character has been recast.
Some years after the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth (Foy), more isolated than before, is contracted by a former NSA employee, Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), to steal back a program he created that can remotely access nuclear codes.
Hiding out in Sweden with his young, genius son August (Christopher Convery) Balder now thinks this program is too dangerous is anyone’s hands.
Possession of the program makes Lisbeth and Balder a target for several parties with a keen interest, including Edwin Neeham (Lakeith Stanfield), the NSA agent tasked to retrieve it, and a shadow criminal organisation called the Spiders.
What Lisbeth doesn’t realise at first is she has a deeply personal connection to the Spiders, a link that exposes her past trauma.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is interested in the cycle of abuse and the effect it has on those trapped within it — the spider’s web, with its barely visible gossamer strands, binds people and their anguish.
Lisbeth, an avenging angel for wronged women, is clearly someone who is driven not just by a sense of justice but by trying to right something that can never be fixed.
She’s an entrancing figure, someone who always takes it too far but is vindicated for doing so — it’s a character that lets you question your own complicity in supporting her and the vigilantism she stands for.
Foy is a great pick to play Lisbeth, because as much as a rageful hacker seems, on the surface, miles apart from her most famous role, Queen Elizabeth, there’s a lot of shared DNA between the two characters.
Like the Queen, Lisbeth’s emotional turmoil is mostly hidden underneath — it’s all in what’s not said, and Foy can speak volumes without uttering a word, a master at conveying everything through repressed physicality.
You have to wonder how Foy relaxes after a day filming — she holds her body so tight, she’d need a top masseuse to work out all those knots.
While it’s an American production, The Girl in the Spider’s Web has a majority European cast with its stars hailing from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway and the UK — Atlanta and Get Out star Stanfield is the most high-profile American actor involved.
The performances are inconsistent, but mostly because many of these actors, including Bang (The Square) and Krieps (Phantom Thread) are under- or mis-used.
Alvarez, who cut his teeth on horror, has crafted a decent crime thriller and he’s certainly established moody vibes with the film’s cold, bleak Scandi aesthetic (loads of snow, steel and concrete). There are also some cool action set pieces.
But overall, it can’t match Fincher for visual flair or kineticism. So let’s call it watchable and diverting, rather than mandatory.