BEIRUT: It must come to no surprise in 2018 when cinema, much like days of old, has become a political tool for a particular agenda, that more and more films of this nature will find their way to silver screens and the box office.
What will come as a surprise, however, is the unaffected reaction these types of films have on their audiences.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB spins a tale so predictable that it traps itself and suffocates, and this is a shame since its predecessor was a masterfully made film.
Being marketed as a new story in the Millennium film series, it is set three years after THE GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO and follows Lisbeth on a conspiratorial labyrinth as she battles her dark past in order to save the future.
The look, that tattoo, those skills, that determination are not enough to create an engaging enough character for a film that drags on for almost two hours.
Lisbeth is now a vigilante hunting down men who harm women, while being in a one-sided love affair of her own – clearly Mikael is using her to advance his career, but the audience is meant to ignore this and pretend this relationship is fine since it makes for good conflict.
A scientist employs her to steal his work from the Americans, Lisbeth finds herself pulled into a dark and violent web of intrigue that rather illogically links back to her past which has come back to haunt her.
All her complexities and layers are thrown out in order to make room for kick-butt Lisbeth, another push in the creation of so-called strong female characters, yet what we are left with are characters that have no heart.
For you see, when the intent of a character becomes more to prove a political point and subvert expectations, you end up with nothing more than a hollow shell.
As author of STORY Robert McKee once wrote, “Difference for the sake of difference is an empty achievement.”
Every female character here is having an affair, lying, manipulating, murdering and yet somehow men are the enemy, because in the case of the narrative the original sin that began it all – Camilla, the film’s big bad, was in fact dressed as red as an apple throughout her entire time on screen.
The narrative attempts to trick the audience many times with misdirection, but after an audience witnesses a magic act so many times, the sleight of hand becomes more visible.
There were also many moments that lacked a certain logic.
For example: how could an entire caravan of federal agents, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel not notice a go-pro camera hanging on a fence, or how could an entire mansion explode leaving the inside almost ash-ridden yet somehow a lizard survives, and so do significant pieces of paper?
Gone are the days where suspension of disbelief can be held to that extent.
Visually, director Fede Alverez flicks away David Fincher’s subtlety and trades it in for a more Russo-esque style.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB looks and feels more like CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER or an entry in the Mission Impossible franchise.
This is a film series that has a wide presence in mental real estate seeing as to how it a Swedish film series, and what is now a somewhat stand-alone American film.
So, to go and completely uproot it from its already established cinematic world and atmosphere, is a bit risky in today’s easily divisive landscape.
Though there are a few interestingly filmed sequences due to the cinematography and the edit, they are not enough to carry the weight of the film and help it find its way out of its own convoluted web.
The performances in this entry are as concrete as they can be given that the material within their hands is not as layered or complex as it feigns to be.
With all of Claire Foy’s greatness in Netflix’s critically acclaimed series THE CROWN, she could not break through Lisbeth Salander’s encrypted character.
The stand out performance here goes to Sylvia Hoeks who last appeared in Dennis Villeneuve’s BLADE RUNNER 2049.
Her characterization of Camilla Salander, a character that does not have a lot of screen-time, and the character with the most baggage is not only believable but also quite heart breaking, though the way the character is handled in the screenplay is unfortunately rather two-dimensional.
The film’s score by Roque Baños is hypnotizing and does its job at keeping the audience as engaged as possible.
Usually, a film’s score should play as a companion to the film and not take the spotlight.
In the case of THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB, there were moments where the star of the film was, in fact, the score.
Baños weaves his way melodically adding tension and seriousness to moments that would have otherwise been laughable and by doing so allows the audience to hold onto their suspension of disbelief a bit longer before having to gasp for air.
At its core, THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB is the culmination of many things but mostly it is the product of the new Hollywood.
The Hollywood that is more than willing to sacrifice good storytelling in order to push political agenda and promote the illusion of political correctness and inclusion; the Hollywood that cares more about money than it does touching an audience; the Hollywood that plays on nostalgia but forgets why these films had a lasting legacy.
In years to come, people will continue to talk about the powerful films of the 90’s and decades passed, and films like THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB will lay forgotten catching dust.
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