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…

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

1982’s Blade Runner has been reworked and remastered more in the past three decades plus than most classic albums. Along with Alien, director Ridley Scott created a one two punch of science fiction classics in a span of just three years. While the former spawned a series of sequels and offshoots, it’s not until 35 years later that a proper Blade Runner sequel has arrived.

Mr. Scott serves as executive producer because he was busy making the mediocre Alien: Covenant. So it’s Denis Villeneuve handling behind the camera duties one year after his highly rewarding alien pic Arrival. He proves himself as a natural choice to revisit this dystopian future that’s been an incredible influence on many sci-fi experiences that followed.

That influence has mostly been in its bleak look and astonishing production design. 2049, as the title tells us, takes place 30 years after what we saw in the early 1980s. Our central character is K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant who serves the LAPD like Deckard (Harrison Ford) in the original. These days, K’s kind are programmed to be more obedient and their primary function is in slave labor. K’s day job involves hunting down old school replicants. In the ultra stylish night, he invents a relationship with the gorgeous holograph Joi (Ana de Armas).

One of K’s assignments leads to a startling discovery that suggests replicants have the ability to procreate. The existence of a being of that ilk is troubling to K’s boss (Robin Wright), fearing a war will break out between humans and replicants. The revelation also intrigues Wallace (Jared Leto), the blind owner of the corporation that manufactures the product. He envisions this as a considerable financial opportunity and tasks his chief enforcer (Sylvia Hoeks) to find the now grown child.

This all eventually leads back to Deckard, with Ford completing a trifecta of revisiting signature late seventies and early eighties roles. It also involves his romantic interest Sean Young from the original. She returns in the archival footage manner. 2049 expands the Blade Runner universe and also expands the running time, clocking in nearly 45 minutes longer than part 1. In that respect, the sequel takes a bit longer to get its motor running.

Luckily for us, the visuals that were so special 35 years ago are remarkable here as well. There are sequences that are bleakly beautiful. Those expecting a full update on Deckard’s dealings may be surprised to find he doesn’t appear until about two-thirds through the proceedings. This is Gosling’s picture to carry most of the way and he does so with a quiet intensity.

Like Villeneuve’s Arrival, this is a sci-fi venture more steeped in its themes than action sequences. Violence comes in short and sudden bursts and that’s in line with two of the filmmaker’s other efforts Prisoners and Sicario. It’s no accident that I’m comparing 2049 just as much to those three movies as I am with the Scott original. Villeneuve succeeds in making this long gestating follow-up his own while clearly valuing an adoration of the first. That doesn’t happen too often as even Scott has fallen short with his return to Alien world. The legions of admirers of what came 35 years ago should be pleased.

***1/2 (out of four)