The Girl in the Spider’s Web Movie Review

In 2011, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo billed itself as the “feel bad” movie of the Christmas season. It was an apt description due to its bleak subject matter stemming from the series of Stieg Larsson bestsellers. However, the film itself left a very positive impression with its stylish direction from David Fincher and fine lead performances from Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

It’s taken some time for Hollywood to come up with their second iteration of the franchise (there were three Swedish entries a decade ago). This time around, the players from Tattoo are MIA and they wisely removed themselves. Fincher only executive produces. Mara’s Oscar nominated turn as Lisbeth Salander is now portrayed by Claire Foy. Craig’s journalist Mikael Blomkvist is now represented by Sverrir Gudnason. The harsh material and winter that accompanies it are still present.

Unlike the 2011 adaptation, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (based on David Lagercrantz’s book following Larsson’s death) is not an example of bad meaning good. Sadly it’s just plain bad most of the time. In ways that were only hinted at in Tattoo, Lisbeth’s backstory is explored in detail here. She’s a child of a nasty abusive father that she managed to escape from. Her mission of avenging women from lousy men is provided more context. Lisbeth has a sister that didn’t get to loosen herself from her father’s grip. And she grows up to be Sylvia Hoeks’s character, who inherits many of the sadistic patriarchal traits.

Web has a tangled plot involving a McGuffin that reveals the global nuclear codes (how familiar). Lisbeth is hired by a conflicted programmer (Stephen Merchant) to retrieve it. The programmer, in a lame plot twist, has a young son who is the only one capable of unlocking the device’s codes. The American government, led by a sullen NSA agent (LaKeith Stanfield), want it back. So does Lisbeth’s sibling and her bevy of thugs who go by “The Spiders”.

I haven’t mentioned Blomkvist yet. He’s in the picture for plenty of minutes. As played by Gudnason, he’s also totally forgettable. The romantic dynamic between that character and Lisbeth was the bloody heart of Tattoo. Here it’s basically ignored and inconsequential. Mara and Craig clicked in the predecessor. Blomkvist is a dull blank slate in this.

Fede Alvarez is behind the camera and he’s a talented filmmaker as proven by his Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe. He does his best to bring some visual flair and succeeds a few times. He’s no Fincher though. Many of the action sequences are routine. I don’t look for plausibility in stuff like this. Yet the sight of Lisbeth getting herself out of impossible scenarios over and over again based on her being a walking super computer grows tiresome.

Foy is a fine actress who tries her best to provide some emotional heft to the lead role. This pseudo-sequel doesn’t deserve her. Tattoo made its feel bad mark in highly satisfying fashion. Spider’s Web feels like a fake.

*1/2 (out of four)

The Girl in the Spider’s Web Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (11/08/18): And another revision down to $9.4 million

Blogger’s Note (11/05/18): I am revising my estimate down to $11.7 million from original estimate of $13.7 million

The Girl in the Spider’s Web makes its way to stateside multiplexes next weekend nearly seven years after David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mr. Fincher is nowhere to be found nor is Rooney Mara as computer hacking heroine Lisbeth. Claire Foy takes over the title role with Don’t Breathe maker Fede Alvarez directing. Costars include Sverrir Gudnason, LaKeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, and Vicky Krieps.

It’s based on the wildly popular series of novels began by the late Stieg Larsson. This one in particular is adapted from the 2015 book by David Lagercrantz. The long layoff and different personnel involved could present some box office challenges. Reviews are mixed thus far as it stands at 73% on Rotten Tomatoes. There’s also direct competition in the form of Overlord, which will be vying for much of the same audience.

Comparing numbers with Tattoo is a tricky proposition. That eagerly awaited pic’s traditional opening weekend number was $12.7 million, but that’s with a huge asterisk. It opened Christmas weekend of 2011 when the holiday fell on a Sunday. Tattoo rolled out on Wednesday and Monday was counted as part of a long weekend. So its six-day earnings totaled out to $27.8 million. At the end of its run, it made $102 million.

Web is highly unlikely to approach those earnings. While it certainly could technically match Tattoo‘s traditional Friday to Sunday debut, there will be none of that extra holiday dough. I actually think a fair comp is September’s Peppermint with Jennifer Garner at $13.4 million and that’s right in the range of where I have Spider landing.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web opening weekend prediction: $9.4 million

For my The Grinch prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/the-grinch-box-office-prediction/

For my Overlord prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/10/30/overlord-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

On November 9, The Girl in the Spider’s Web drops in theaters stateside. It had its premiere at the Rome Film Festival and reviews are out. The film is a continuation of adaptations of the bestselling Swedish crime novels originated by Stieg Larsson (this particular book was penned by David Lagercrantz). If it seems odd to have an Oscar Watch post up for the thriller, don’t forget that 2011’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo nabbed five nominations: Best Actress (Rooney Mara), both Sound races, Cinematography, and Editing (which it won).

This version finds Claire Foy taking over the lead role of Lisbeth as she follows in the footsteps of Mara and Noomi Rapace before that. Don’t Breathe director Fede Alvarez takes over top duties after David Fincher made Dragon. Costars include Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, LaKeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, and Vicky Krieps.

Early reaction is quite mixed and Web appears highly unlikely to match the many kudos that went to Fincher’s film. Critics are pointing out Foy as a highlight, but I wouldn’t look her to be a factor at all in Best Actress. Lucky for her, she is a definite factor in Supporting Actress with the already released First Man.

Bottom line: while Tattoo garnered Academy attention, don’t look for voters to stamp their approval here. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Mary Magdalene

In 2016, the directorial debut of Garth Davis was Lion and it earned an impressive six Oscar nominations. His follow-up is an ambitious one – Biblical drama Mary Magdalene. The film casts previous nominees Rooney Mara in the title role with Joaquin Phoenix portraying Jesus.

Anything featuring this director, the subject matter, and the leads is bound to lead to Oscar curiosity. Yet buzz out today strongly suggests otherwise. Reviews have been rather weak with one major trade publication deeming it a sophomore slump.

While Phoenix has been singled out for his performance, he is far more likely to garner a nod for other pictures he’s got in the 2018 hopper. They are Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and You Were Never Really Here and they’ve already been covered on the blog.

Besides the unimpressed critical reaction, there are other issues. While Magdalene is scheduled to roll out internationally in various countries in the coming days and weeks, it’s U.S. distribution is uncertain. The pic was originally scheduled for release from the beleaguered Weinstein Company and is currently without a release date.

There is one possible exception to its Academy chances. The film is composed by Johann Johannson, a previous nominee for The Theory of Everything and Sicario. Mr. Johannson died unexpectedly on February 9 and there could perhaps be a push to honor him posthumously.

Bottom line: don’t look for Mary Magdalene to have any real impact come Oscar time next year.

Oscar Watch: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

The Sundance Film Festival is in full swing in Utah and that means a batch of 2018 Oscar Watch columns are coming your way. In 2017, the fest gave us four pictures that find themselves in the awards mix: Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, Mudbound, and The Big Sick.

We begin with Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, a biopic of Oregon cartoonist and quadriplegic John Callahan. He’s played by Joaquin Phoenix with a supporting cast that includes Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, and Jack Black. Some of the early reviews out of Park City are quite positive, though not all of them are across the board. It’s scheduled for stateside release this May.

The project was originally intended as a starring vehicle for the late Robin Williams and it would’ve marked a reunion with his Good Will Hunting director. Van Sant has seen that film and 2008’s Milk garner multiple Oscar nods.

Could Foot follow suit? It’s certainly possible, especially for Phoenix and Hill. If so, it would mark the former’s fourth nod and the latter’s third. Neither have yet to win. Interestingly, Phoenix could face competition in the form of himself as his You Were Never Really Here played the festival circuit last year and won him acclaim.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Lion Movie Review

Garth Davis’s Lion, simply by the nature of its true origins, is both heartwarming and heart wrenching. Yet this doesn’t completely excuse some faults in the rendering of its tale. It tells the incredible story of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a five-year old boy circa 1986 in a poor Indian village who becomes separated from his mother (Divian Ladwa) and older brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) one fateful evening.

The lost journey leads the child many miles away in Calcutta where Saroo is placed in an orphanage that is more like a prison. He doesn’t know the language of the new land he’s stranded in and knows his mother only as “mum”. One of the amazing realizations while viewing Lion is the remembrance of lack of technology in the 1980s that basically made it impossible for Saroo to be reunified with his family.

While Calcutta couldn’t be more of a foreign land to him, he’s soon taken to a much more faraway land in Australia when a kind couple (David Wenham and Nicole Kidman) adopt him. They treat him well and he’s a good kid, which isn’t the case with the troubled second child they adopt a year after Saroo.

The film eventually flashes forward to 20 years later and Saroo is now played by Dev Patel. In his late 20s, he still resides in Australia and is embarking on a career in hotel management. Lucy (Rooney Mara) is his American girlfriend. He’s still close with his adoptive parents (though not without some complications) and there’s still issues with his younger brother. The memories of his former life still consume him, however. A chance suggestion of Google Earth now having the ability to possibly locate his Indian village feeds his obsession.

Thus begins Saroo’s journey home. While he focuses myopically on finding his long-lost mother and brother, it has dramatic consequences with the current individuals in his life. Lion‘s plot is inherently fascinating. The screenplay by Luke Davies succeeds better in exploring some relationships than others. Saroo and Lucy’s is rather uninteresting, while his dynamic with Kidman provides some fine moments. Kidman’s mother is complicated and caring and the actress gives a touching performance. The same can be said for both versions of Saroo with Patel and Pawar.

When Lion reaches its conclusion with a moment we’ve been pining for, it is powerful and includes some unexpected revelations. An epilogue left me curious as to whether a documentary about the subjects may have been more potent. The answer is probably yes, but the picture does a competent and admirable job of telling a remarkable story.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: A Ghost Story

Another Sundance Film Festival, another Casey Affleck picture potentially entering the Oscar conversation. It was right around this time last year that Manchester by the Sea screened at the aforementioned fest and immediately garnered Academy buzz. This Tuesday, Manchester looks bound for a Best Picture nod and it looks to be one of three (alongside La La Land and Moonlight) that could win.

Today, A Ghost Story premiered at the Park City festival and initial word of mouth is pretty strong. The low-budget drama reunites director David Lowery with his Ain’t Them Bodies Saints actors Affleck and Rooney Mara. It is said to be melancholy, powerful, and rather out of the mainstream. Early reviews have suggested this could have a tough time reaching audiences and that’s something Manchester has managed to do.

That said, Mr. Affleck could well be coming off an Oscar win and this will be his follow-up. It may never fully get into the 2017 Oscar conversation, but that fact alone and the solid reviews out of the gate allow it to be my first Oscar Watch post of the new year.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

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