Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Girl In The Spider's Web

Salander Girls

The Girl In The Spider's Web
2018 UK/Germany/Sweden/Canada/USA
Directed by Fede Alvarez
UK cinema release print.

Oh man... this is an absolute travesty of a travesty.

It’s also a problematic film for me to write about since, if you treat The Girl In The Spider’s Web as just a film with no strings attached, so to speak, then it’s not a bad little movie on its own terms. Trouble is... it’s not trying to be a stand alone action thriller on it’s own terms. In some ways, the film is a lot like the 1966 adaptation of Peter O’Donnel’s Modesty Blaise (which I reviewed here). As a film without anything to compare it to, it’s a nice piece... as an adaptation of the original source material, it’s worse than just a bad adaptation, it gives a completely false impression of what any of the characters in the novels and comics are like.

The same thing applies to the movie ‘version’ of The Girl In The Spider’s Web. Not only is it a bizarrely twisted and completely off the mark attempt at an adaptation of the source novel, the original novel also has some atrocious problems of its own. So this film not only reflects the terrible liberties taken by David Lagercrantz in the ‘fourth’ novel, it also ridicules the characters and situations further (if such a thing is possible).

I’ve already said just how I felt about Lagercarntz’ novel in my review of it here but, for the record, he completely seems to dumb down the main characters of the original trilogy and, in the process, loses some of what made them so special in the first place. Not to mention completely ignoring certain twists and turns of the original characters... even going as far a ignoring the existence of main characters completely... so the people left in the equation aren’t as progressed in terms of their story arc as they were in the previous novel. And, yes... continuity went out the window on that one, as far as I’m concerned.

So why did I even bother to see this movie, you might ask?

Well, two reasons, the most prominent being composer Roque Banos. I like this composer a lot but I don’t have much of his stuff and this seemed a good way to be able to hear one of his scores in the context of the movie before the CD comes into my life towards the end of next month.

The other reason is... I saw the trailer to this and was astounded, bearing in mind it has the same title as the novel, at just how far removed from the events and situations in the book the film seemed to be going. So I wanted to see if the director had tried to make it more like the original Millennium trilogy or had just done the usual Hollywood thing of completely changing the content of the property that was purchased.

Well, I can confirm that the content of this film bears, in my opinion, only a superficial resemblance to Lagercrantz’ novel. Normally I might be happier about that but, honestly, it’s like they’ve tried to commercialise the characters even more and turn this property into some kind of James Bond action franchise. It even has its own Bondian style opening credits sequence which wouldn’t look out of place on any of the EON produced films of Ian Fleming’s popular character.

There are also some terrible choices in terms of casting. Mikael Blomkvist and Erika Berger are played here, competently enough, by Sverrir Gudnason and Vicky Krieps. Krieps, especially, looks as you might imagine Erika to have looked like in her youth. But that’s just the problem - these two people here are nowhere near old enough to be playing these two iconic characters. And, bearing in mind that the story must be set a year or two after the events of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, this makes absolutely no sense. There’s barely any age difference at all between Blomkvist and Salander in this movie, for starters and... well when did they think Blomkvist and Berger were making their names in the newspaper industry? When they were 5 year olds? This all seemed fairly wrong.

However, I said the film is problematic for me to review and here’s why.

For starters, it’s beautifully shot, beautifully scored and, in and of itself, is a nice piece of action thriller cinema. If it’s trying to be James Bond then it’s definitely James Bond with a much darker, rawer edge than what we’ve been getting in recent years. It’s easy on the eye and, if you can divorce the characters from who they are meant to be, then you might find yourself sucked into this one fairly easily.

The other thing is Claire Foy as Lisbeth Salander.

Now I’ve only ever seen Foy’s work in one other film but she is the third movie incarnation I’ve seen of this character and I’d have to say that, for the most part, I was quite impressed with her interpretation of the role. Each of the actresses who have played Salander so far... Noomi Rapace, Rooney Mara and now Foy... have each had their own ways of interpreting the character and, they are all equally valid. Admittedly, Foy’s character shows a lot more vulnerability around other people than she might have in the books but it’s clear that Foy has put in the research and, presumably, read more than just the source novel for the movie she is headlining... she’s obviously gone back to the original, classic trilogy... The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest... to piece together her version of the character and so, ironically, the version of Salander on screen in this movie is way closer than the one in Lagercarntz’ sequel novel. And, despite that occasional twinge of ‘pain seen by others’... I got the sense that the character really wasn’t compromised in the way she’s been portrayed on screen so, honestly, my respect goes out to this actress for managing to pull off such an alienating character so well in a film which is really trying hard to be a popcorn movie, to an extent.

And, yeah, the director films her and the situations she finds herself in admirably, with a lot of style and edited in a way which doesn’t leave you confused or pummeled by the train of events. Which brings me back to my dilemma because... I can’t say I hate this version nearly as much as I hated the novel it purports to be based on. Even Salander’s lost sister, introduced in the same book, seems to have some kind of credibility to her and the casting of Sylvia Hoeks, who played the lethal replicant in Blade Runner 2049 (reviewed here), was a good one. Although, the whole, almost albino whiteness of her didn’t look credible in terms of her make-up, I thought.

Okay so... I really have nothing much more to add on this so I’ll quickly conclude with this... if you are a fan of slick action thrillers with a bit of an edge to them and you’re not invested in the characters from Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium trilogy, then you should probably try and catch The Girl In The Spider's Web on the big screen. If, however, you are a fan of the characters in the original books then, well, I’d say give both the fourth novel and this bizarrely transformed version of it a wide berth. This is not, quite, the Salander you are looking for.

No comments:

Post a Comment