Lisbeth Salander is back on the silver screen. Unfortunately, the follow-up to the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) narrows her complex, traumatised character into a one-dimensional vigilante superhero.
So a little catch-up to make everything clear sequel-wise. Firstly, there was Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, a Swedish novel series. It was published posthumously in 2005. It soon became an international bestseller. Then all three parts of the series were adapted into movies starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander. The Swedish-produced first movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) gained international acclaim. So an American remake was made. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) directed by David Fincher and with Rooney Mara as the protagonist also received critical acclaim. Back in Sweden, the Larsson estate commissioned David Lagercrantz to continue the Millennium book series featuring Larsson’s characters. The first novel in the follow-up series, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, was now made into an English-language movie. This sequel stars Claire Foy as the iconic protagonist Lisbeth Salander. Not so easy to follow, huh?
Anyways, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (2018) film takes place three years after the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It finds Lisbeth operating as an avenging black angel saving abused women from aggressive men. This time the plot centres around a computer program that grants the user access to all the nuclear missiles around the world. So the stakes are high. Considerably higher than in the previous instalments. The world must be saved once again. And Lisbeth Salander is the only one up to the job. It sounds pretty simple, and indeed it is. The main problem with this film is that it doesn’t aim higher than your average comic book adaptation.
Although the original text offers a complex character with a history of trauma, this version’s Lisbeth Salander is one-dimensional. We as the audience don’t get to know anything about her. She was a victim of multiple sexual assaults beginning when she was a child. This determinative fact was highlighted in the previous instalments. But there is not a single mention of it in the sequel. Previously, Lisbeth Salander was a sexual being with a disturbed past who had to fight her demons too. Now, there is no inner struggle. Her character is straightforward and therefore paper-thin. She is reduced to a caped crusader who as a child had to run away from her psychopath dad leaving her sister behind. And now she is here to takes revenge. Despite Claire Foy’s attempts to bring depth to a character without any personality, flaws or humanness, this version of Lisbeth Salander falls flat.
One of the strong points of the previous American production was the representation of investigative journalist Mikhael Blomkvist. In Fincher’s version, Salander and Blomkvist had an intricate work relationship packed with emotions that veered back and forth between romance and hostility. Now, Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) is on hand-to help Salander, but his character is completely marginalised. There is no chemistry between the two actors and not much storyline there either. It seems that what made Lisbeth Salander so complex, were her complicated relationships with others, especially with men. Once these parts are missing, her gender issues become irrelevant. It also means that all the social, political and gender commentary present in the previous instalments are absent here. Lisbeth Salander is not a feminist heroine anymore who wants justice for womankind, but a genderless, sexless vigilante who fights everyone crossing her way.
The showdown is between the two sisters. Camilla (Sylvia Hoeks) stayed with her abusive father, while Lisbeth managed to run away. Both of them grew into wounded adults. But both profiles turn out to be quite cartoonish. Lisbeth’s short hair and all-black outfits are in sharp contrast with Camilla’s long blonde locks and full-red clothing. Lisbeth is the superhero with a dark side, while the later is a one-dimensional Bond villainess. Despite the sharp visuals and the snowy backdrop, their face-off proves to be more comical than cathartic.
I believe that Lisbeth Salander’s tale deserved more than a meaningless adaptation with paper-thin characters, primitive symbolism and a plotline that we have seen hundreds of times before. I believe that it all comes down to one thing. Unfortunately, the creators didn’t have much of a story to tell.
That’s it for another film review. All the movies I reviewed previously are here for you. Have you seen The Girl in the Spider’s Web yet? What do you think of Claire Foy in a dark action role? I love reading your comments so please leave me lots of them below.
Source of Featured Image: The Girl in the Spider’s Web