Cinematic Releases: The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018) - Reviewed

Going into a movie that is a part of an extremely popular and best selling book and movie franchise completely blind can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, there is something refreshing about having no preconceived notions or expectations about a film, as you have spent no time and energy watching and/or reading and getting attached to characters and stories. You are able to have an entirely nonbiased opinion on the film which can actually be really helpful. However, it can be difficult as well because, aside from the obvious fact you know very little about the plot, characters or direction of the franchise, it’s more difficult to make a determination if some of the directions taken in the film are questionable or they are just staying accurate to the source material. I say all this in order to preface my review of The Girl in The Spider’s Web with acknowledging the fact that this is my first experience with the franchise, both written and film, thus my review is going to be based on my opinion of this movie, the plot and the characters as entirely stand-alone components. 

The character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web is certainly one we have seen before. A woman with a lifetime of pain, violence and abuse who transforms from a scared child into a resilient, independent woman with a heavy chip on her shoulder. While I will always be a sucker for a badass woman who can take care of herself and outsmart the bad guys at every turn, her characterization in the film fell a bit flat for me. I think violence and sexual abuse against women has become a bit of a trope in the industry when creating strong, pragmatic female characters. While the idea of a woman taking back the power after such a traumatic event can be empowering, the fact that it almost every time turns said woman in to the exact same character can be a bit frustrating. 

Abuse impacts people in many ways, and strength and empowerment come in many forms, and I find the angry, aloof, almost robot like character to be a bit overdone. I recognize that my criticism may really stem more toward the book and the original story than this particular movie, but as mentioned previously this is my first experience with Lisbeth Salander and she just didn’t move me in a way I had hoped she would. While I appreciated how they explored her past and showcased her survival skills well, in my opinion, she still lacked much depth and felt very stereotypical. That said, the film itself was absolutely an enjoyable, action packed thriller. Similar to a James Bond style action movie, The Girl in the Spider’s Web definitely kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Explosions, close encounters and some heavy car chases involving fancy, beautiful vehicles kept things moving at an intense yet steady pace. Over the top fight sequences and intense imagery will make this movie a hit for fans of your typical action type of films.

The stunning visual elements in this film were certainly a highlight to me. The beautiful snowy landscapes set against old European architecture made the setting highly effective. You could almost feel the chill in the air during some of the more climactic moments. Because the scenery was so starkly cold and wintery, the careful use of colors throughout the film made the scenes in which brighter colors were utilized even more stimulating. The occasional times where you would catch a glimpse of movement only to realize it was an actual spider played upon both the title and plot, but also much of Lisbeth’s tormented past. 

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is an enjoyable, thrilling ride that I definitely think is worth watching, whether you are a fan of the entire franchise or just love action movies in general. While I could not speak to whether or not director Fede Alvarez and writer David Lagercrantz did justice to the original story by Stieg Larsson, the movie on its own as a spy thriller certainly was a hell of a ride. Though I wish they would have created a more dimensional Lisbeth and would have delved a bit more into her psyche, I absolutely did find myself highly entertained throughout the entirety of the film.

--Rachel Rutherford