Skip to main content

She worshipped that pig. And now she's become him.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web
(2018)

(SPOILERS) Choosing to make The Girl in the Spider’s Web following the failure of the David Fincher film – well, not a failure per se, but like Blade Runner 2049, it simply cost far too much to justify its inevitably limited returns – was a very bizarre decision on MGM’s part. A decision to reboot, with a different cast, having no frame of reference for the rest of the trilogy unless you checked out the Swedish movies (or read the books, but who does that?); someone actually thought this would possibly do well? Evidently the same execs churning out desperately flailing remakes based on their back catalogue of IPs (Ben-Hur, The Magnificent Seven, Death Wish, Tomb Raider); occasionally there’s creative flair amid the dross (Creed, A Star is Born), but otherwise, it’s the most transparently creatively bankrupt studio there is.

Which makes it a minor miracle that Spider’s Web is an at least serviceable thriller. Despite being based on a post-Steig Larson cash-in-for-the-estate novel (I still haven’t checked out the sixth Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for similar reasons), and despite inevitably making it all about the past of the Lisbeth Salander again via an elaborate re-envisioning of her sister (or is it? Who knows what Larson’s intentions were) that only serves to diminish the otherwise agreeably preposterous plot.

My knee-jerk reaction to the news that Doug Liman was consulting Fede Alvarez regarding the best way to salvage the (eventually) forthcoming Chaos Walking via some extensive reshoots was “Why would you want to go to him?” He isn’t, after all, the most salubrious of filmmakers (to the extent that I have no wish to see his Evil Dead remake, while Don’t Breathe stands as a slick but distasteful exploitation flick). There’s plenty of implicit nastiness in this movie, the most obviously Alvarez-like – based on past form – being a noseless victim of the major henchman. The rubber vacuum device was also an addition (Alavarez has a screenplay credit, as does Steven Knight), so make of that what you will. He does, though, undeniably, know his way around a suspense sequence,

Alvarez is probably, well not wasting his time on horror since they make a lot of dough, but certainly not making the most of his talents. On this evidence, he’s an obviously talented action director, able to handle scale and spectacle outside of more intimate chills. There are several sterling chase sequences, and if you, like me, spent most of the movie wondering why LaKeith Stanfield wanted his part, wait until you get to the finale where he takes down most of the bad guys with a sniper’s rifle that fires through walls (it’s a great sequence, executed by Alvarez with tremendous flair).

On the other hand, there’s a very silly airport episode that suggests most of Salander’s tech skills are the equivalent of a magic wand (or sonic screwdriver). More damagingly, everything involving her crimson-clad sister (Sylvia Hoeks, of the aforementioned Blade Runner 2049) is a bust. Aside from a prologue in which Lisbeth leaves her to her predatory father (“Why did you help everyone but me?” asks Camilla, and the answer is “Because your formative experiences were retconned for this sequel, of course”), she has no function other than to be a big bad reveal (not so much, as her spectre is signposted with clumsy ruthlessness throughout) incorporating the all-important origins component that is sadly essential to modern fiction’s conceptual universes.

Elsewhere in the mix, there’s a genius kid (Christopher Convery) who never really takes on much importance, since he’s as much of a MacGuffin as the actual MacGuffin, and his dad, played by Stephen Merchant, a better actor than Ricky Gervais, but that isn’t really an endorsement. Oh, and Vicky Krieps, so great in Phantom Thread, has been seriously short changed as Blmokvist’s publisher. He (Sverir Gudnason) is at least in a more fittingly subordinate role compared to the Daniel Craig incarnation. As for Claire Foy, I come from a place of being mildly irritated that Rooney Mara didn’t get another shot, but Foy’s pretty good, and either she or (probably not) Alvarez ensures the voyeuristic sensibilities of the Fincher version are largely absent.

So yeah, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is actually surprisingly okay. It drops out of gear, ironically, as soon as Camilla is properly introduced, but then stages a decent recovery. It has no business being even okay, though, as it’s very existence is the kind of Hollywood franchise botch that should have been foreseen way before $40m was sunk into it.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke (the answer is: Mad Max: Fury Road )? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

You nicknamed my daughter after the Loch Ness Monster?

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (2012) The final finale of the Twilight saga, in which pig-boy Jacob tells Bella that, “No, it's not like that at all!” after she accuses him of being a paedo. But then she comes around to his viewpoint, doubtless displaying the kind of denial many parents did who let their kids spend time with Jimmy Savile or Gary Glitter during the ‘70s. It's lucky little Renesmee will be an adult by the age of seven, right? Right... Jacob even jokes that he should start calling Edward, “Dad”. And all the while they smile and smile.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli

It’ll be like living in the top drawer of a glass box.

Someone’s Watching Me! (1978) (SPOILERS) The first of a pair of TV movies John Carpenter directed in the 1970s, but Someone’s Watching Me! is more affiliated, in genre terms, to his breakout hit ( Halloween ) and reasonably successful writing job ( The Eyes of Laura Mars ) of the same year than the also-small-screen Elvis . Carpenter wrote a slew of gun-for-hire scripts during this period – some of which went on to see the twilight of day during the 1990s – so directing Someone’s Watching Me! was not a given. It’s well-enough made and has its moments of suspense, but you sorely miss a signature Carpenter theme – it was by Harry Sukman, his penultimate work, the final being Salem’s Lot – and it really does feel very TV movie-ish.