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 History: 2011

For the Academy Awards, 2011 will forever be known as the year when a French black and white silent film came out of nowhere to win three major categories, including Best Picture. That would be The Artist and it picked up momentum over its rivals, becoming one of the more unlikely recipients of the prize in some time.

During that year, the number of Picture nominees was nine and it beat out The Descendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. 

As for some others I may have considered, my favorite film of the year was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. Another personal favorite: David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Furthermore, the expanded list of nominees could have given the Academy a chance to nominate some of the better blockbusters that year: Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol for example.

The Artist‘s auteur Michel Hazanavicius would win Director over stellar competitors: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), Alexander Payne (The Descendants), and Martin Scorsese (Hugo). Again, Mr. Refn and Mr. Fincher would have made my cut.

The Artist love continued in Best Actor where Jean Dujardin took the prize over Demian Bichir (A Better Life), George Clooney (The Descendants), Gary Oldman in his first (??) nomination (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and Brad Pitt (Moneyball).

I may have found room for Ryan Gosling’s silent but strong work in Drive or perhaps even Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love – in which he showed off real dramatic acting chops coupled with his comedic abilities for the first time.

Awards darling Meryl Streep took Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher (no relation) in The Iron Lady. Othern nominees: Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), Viola Davis (The Help), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn).

The Academy’s penchant for ignoring comedy was shown here as Kristin Wiig should have merited consideration for her megahit Bridesmaids.

Beloved veteran Christopher Plummer won Supporting Actor for Beginners over Kenneth Branagh (My Week with Marilyn), Jonah Hill (Moneyball), Nick Nolte (Warrior), and Max Von Sydow (Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).

Two others I may have made room for: Albert Brooks in Drive and especially the brilliant motion capture work of Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Octavia Spencer was victorious in Supporting Actress for The Help over her costar Jessica Chastain, as well as Berenice Bejo (The Artist), Melissa McCarthy in the rare nod for comedy in Bridesmaids, and Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs).

Two other comedic performances worthy of consideration: Rose Byrne in Bridesmaids and Jennifer Aniston’s scene stealing work in Horrible Bosses. I also would have found room for Shailene Woodley in The Descendants.

And that’s your Oscar history for 2011, folks! I’ll have 2012 up in the near future.

Top 25 Best Movie Trailers (1990-2015): Nos. 20-16

We continue to day 2 of my personal favorite movie trailers of the last 25 years and this brings us to numbers 20-16.

Let’s go:

20. Mission: Impossible (1996)

For a budding film franchise starring the biggest movie star in the world at the time, the trailer for Mission: Impossible sets expectations very high with this electric spot and it’s delivered in the form of five pictures and counting.

19. Godzilla (1998)

I actually considered the very effective trailer for the superior 2014 version, but this true teaser doesn’t use a minute of footage from the eventual (highly disappointing) 1998 flick and it manages to be an example of expert marketing for getting an audience’s anticipation sky high.

18. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Using Trent Reznor’s killer version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”, the teaser for David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo promises the “feel bad” movie of Christmas in a glorious and fast paced ad that serves as one example of many wonderful Fincher trailers.

17. Jurassic Park (1993)

We may forget now after four entries in the franchises, but the trailer here gave us our first glimpse of Spielberg’s dinos in all their glory and that alone merits inclusion.

16. Superman Returns (2006)

I struggled with whether to include the fine trailer for the 2013 Man of Steel reboot instead, but this one hearkens brilliantly back to the 1978 Superman with its Marlon Brando voice-over and rich visuals.

And tomorrow – we’ll get to numbers 15-11!

Ranking David Fincher

This weekend, director David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl posted his largest box office debut among his ten pictures he’s made over the past two decades plus.

The 52 year old actually his start in the world of music videos and his long list of credits includes Madonna’s “Vogue” and “Express Yourself”, Aerosmith’s “Janie’s Got a Gun”, Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence”, Michael Jackson’s “Who Is It?”, George Michael’s “Freedom 90”, The Rolling Stones’ “Love is Strong”, and Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”.

Fincher would get his big break in film with a beloved sci-fi franchise, though his entry failed to meet audience expectations and his directorial career was looking shaky. Three years later, an unexpected hit would arise and since then, Fincher’s never looked back. And by doing so, he’s provided audiences with some of the greatest and often darkest entertainment in cinema for 20 years.

In honor of his 10th effort, I decided to take on the very difficult task of ranking every Fincher flick from 10-1. Let me make one thing clear… there’s not one of these films that you shouldn’t watch if you haven’t already… he’s that good.

Here we go!

10. Alien 3 (1992)

Not nearly as bad as its reputation, Alien 3 does certainly suffer in comparison to Alien and Aliens, but it gives viewers a first taste of Fincher’s distinct visual style. The shoot of Alien 3 was a notoriously difficult one and Fincher was brought in at the last minute after several others dropped out. The result is uneven, but still worthwhile.

9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

The first of his pictures to receive Oscar attention is actually the only Fincher feature I would call slightly overrated. Stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are solid and the visuals are undeniably remarkable, but it’s overlong and not as involving as it should be.

8. Panic Room (2002)

This might be a conventional home invasion thriller if not for Fincher’s splendid technical work, a forceful lead performance by Jodie Foster, and an unexpectedly great turn by Dwight Yoakam as a demented burglar.

7. Gone Girl (2014)

Fincher followed up Tattoo by taking on another celebrated novel and the results were quite pleasing. Like Mara in Tattoo, Rosamund Pike received an Oscar nod in this thriller that would make Hitchcock proud.

6. Zodiac (2007)

The true life police procedural focusing on the mysterious Zodiac killer is right up Fincher’s alley with a sturdy lead performance from Jake Gyllenhall and Robert Downey Jr. beginning his remarkable comeback as an alcoholic reporter. The murder scenes are disturbing in ways only its director can pull off.

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Many were skeptical that Fincher could pull off adapting this beloved book, but he accomplished that and then some here. Rooney Mara earned an Oscar nod and a sequel is still rumored with Fincher participating.

4. The Game (1997)

It might be implausible when you rewatch it over and over, but it doesn’t much matter. The mind warp of a thriller starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn is one helluva ride.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Fincher’s most polarizing effort has a lot to say about its generation, materialism, and conformity. It took me a second viewing to realize this a pitch black comedy… and it’s an astonishing one with Brad Pitt and Edward Norton shining in their roles.

2. Seven (1995)

This is the picture where Fincher truly emerged after the disappointment of Alien 3… and did he ever. The last 30 minutes, I would argue, is possibly the most intense segment of a movie. Ever.

1. The Social Network (2010)

When it was announced that the wonderful David Fincher was making a movie about the founding of Facebook, cinema lovers were confused and highly suspicious that he’d gone off the rails. Turned out he made one of the most important films of our era. Lesson: don’t doubt Mr. Fincher.

And there you have it! Feel free to chime in with your thoughts on his best works and, as I said, if you haven’t seen all of these titles – you should.

Oh… and I forgot to mention he also directed a number of Paula Abdul videos, including “Straight Up”. So here’s that!