Although David Fincher’s big screen adaptation of the late Swedish author Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was largely known as one of the acclaimed director’s underrated efforts, it’s hard to deny that his 2011 version remains a visually engrossing thriller anchored by Rooney Mara’s captivating title role.
It’s a shame that Fincher alongside original stars Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig was no longer involved in the proposed back-to-back sequels in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest — a result which eventually got scrapped after years of development hell. Instead, Sony chose to start afresh with a sort-of sequel to 2011 movie in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, complete with a new cast (Claire Foy and Sverrir Gudnason replaced Mara and Craig respectively) and a new director (Evil Dead remake and Don’t Breathe‘s Fede Alvarez).
Now, Claire Foy looks the part as the rebellious Lisbeth Salander while Alvarez manages to capture some of the first movie’s signature chilly visual template. But the story — involving Lisbeth’s murky childhood past coming back to haunt her while working on a job hacking into a FireFall computer programme which able to access the world’s nuclear launch codes — is disappointingly generic.
The sequel is even tailored like a Bond-style espionage thriller, going as far as eschewing the deliberate and icy tone of the first movie in favour of a pacey storytelling approach. It’s like as if The Girl in the Spider’s Web is repurposed as a more mainstream-friendly thriller made to please the general audiences who complained the 2011 movie for being too slow and lengthy (the sequel only ran a reasonable 115 minutes compared to the first movie’s 158 minutes).
If that’s not enough, Alvarez amp up the sequel by adding plenty of action sequences. But for all the motorcycle and car chases as well as shootouts and explosions, the action is surprisingly bland and lacks genuine tension. Not to mention Alvarez’s decision to shoot the action heavily in a jittery camerawork tends to ruin the excitement.
Apart from Foy’s decent lead performance, the rest of the cast is a letdown. Sylvia Hoeks’ antagonist role as Lisbeth’s vengeful long-lost sister Camilla looks as if she’s auditioning for an evil Bond girl. She even dressed like one, appearing in all-red clothing. Sverrir Gudnason and Lakeith Stanfield are both wasted in their respective roles as the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the NSA agent Edwin Needham.