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Salander Downsized

Saturday, November 24, 2018
By Deepa Gahlot

The Girl In The Spider’s Web
Director:
Fede Alvarez
Cast: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Sylvia Hoeks, Lakeith Stanfield and others
Rating: * 1/2

The Girl In The Spider’s Web came after Steig Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy that introduced the badass heroine Lisbeth Salander or The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo; after the writer’s death, the franchise was carried on by David Lagercratnz. The first book he wrote did justice to the indestructible hacker and brought in an autistic mathematical genius child for her to rescue and protect.

Fede Alvarez’s film, The Girl In The Spider’s Web, is an over-simplified, watered down, action movie in which a grim, black-clad Salander (Claire Foy) hacks away to glory, and spends her downtime punishing psychopaths who hurt women, escaping exploding apartments and evading trigger-happy gangsters. Her confidant and, a kind of sidekick, is journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason—totally bland), with whom she is in a need-based relationship. In the books, he struggles to keep his magazine alive, in this film, he does nothing much.

Those who have read the books would know that Salander survived a horrible childhood with a Russian gangster father, weak mother and an evil twin sister. She suffered terrible sexual abuse, that turned her into a kind of vigilante for female victim of violence. This back story is perfunctorily dealt with, only the evil, red-clad sister, Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks), turns up like a nightmare come true. The three Swedish films based on Larsson’s books, and David Fincher’s Hollywood movie based on the first novel, showed a lot more respect for the plots and characters.

Professor Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant), who worked on an artificial super-intelligence programmec called Firefall, realizes he is in trouble and fears for his life. In the book he calls Blomkvist to help get his story out; in the film he asks Salander for help in getting the programme from the high-tech computers of the National Security Agecy, which she does with ridiculous ease. But, she gets on her tail a gang of Russian thugs called Spiders, the Swedish secret police, and also the American, Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), who was in charge of it and they all want Firefall.

Balder is shot dead, and his son August (Christopher Convery) kidnapped, since he is the key to unlocking the programme. In the book, he could not speak, but could draw remarkably well and communicated with Salander through mathematical codes.

Succeeding Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara in the iconic role of Salander, is Claire Foy (of The Crown fame); she looks the part, but is given no complexity to play with—all she does is zoom around on her bike and control everything with her phone. Alvarez has made a slick thriller, but Lisbeth Salander deserved a better film.

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