Blu-ray Review: The Girl In The Spider’s Web

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the latest installment in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and while it aims to stand out on its own, it also is hindered by the fact that many people may avoid it simply because they’d never seen the previous installment. Add on the fact that the North American adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo never went on to finish the trilogy and you’re somewhat missing a rather large chunk of information heading into the latest flick, unless you happened to watch the Swedish films which did complete Larsson’s trilogy.

If you’re in the group that didn’t watch the Swedish films, but did enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and are interested in checking this one out there are a few things you should know. Firstly, the film’s protagonist, Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is back and more badass than ever. The main piece of information that’s filled in over the course of The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (the sequels to Tattoo) is that Lisbeth’s father was a terrible, terrible man who abused her and others, setting her on the course to become the vigilante audiences know and love.

That’s very briefly touched upon at the start of Spider’s Web, but if you’re just looking to jump in here without watching the previous movies, then that’s the very least you need to know. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is also a much more action-packed movie than its predecessors. We’re talking Bond levels of action here, and I will admit that it’s pretty damn awesome to watch. Unfortunately, the action comes at a cost to the mystery and suspense that helped make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo one of the best movies of 2010.

This time out we also see Lisbeth take on the role of an almost superhero-like character in comparison to Tattoo, which was a much more grounded film. Whether or not you like this will depend on what you’re in the mood to watch, or how much you’re open to seeing Lisbeth dodging bullets and leaping into bathtubs just as a room explodes around her. She still uses a bit of investigative technique, and her resourcefulness and smarts are clearly there…it’s just that Spider’s Web aims to deliver a much more fast-paced adventure that doesn’t require much thought as some may have been hoping for.

So with that known, I will say that I do love Lisbeth Salander and what she stands for, and while I’m not sure that we’ll see any future films in this series, it was great to see her out and about one more time. While The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a masterpiece, Played with Fire and Hornet’s Nest both lacked something and never reached that same level. With Spider’s Web – which is based off the novel by David Lagercrantz – it’s clear that they wanted a story that didn’t let up, and while it suffers from various clichés and lacks the character chemistry from previous installments, Spider’s Web definitely succeeds in being an incredibly fun action flick, greatly in part to its leading lady Claire Foy.

Foy, who many know as Queen Elizabeth II from The Crown, is absolutely engaging to watch and really carries the film on her shoulders. While she does come off as a female Jason Bourne, at least Foy makes it believable by completely embodying Lisbeth as a character. While there’s no denying her action hero stature this time out, Foy at least grounds Lisbeth enough so that we believe that it’s her sheer will that’s driving her to do what needs to be done over having superhuman powers of any sort.

The rest of the characters in the movie are basically just there to help get Lisbeth from point A to point B. The most painful place this is noticed is with Mikael Blomkvist (played by Sverrir Gudnason.) Blomkvist is a huge part of Lisbeth’s life, and the pair share the workload in the other films, but this time out Blomkvist could be replaced with any random journalist and not much would change. He feels more shoe-horned in to the film, and that’s a shame. Add on to the fact that Gudnason and Foy have zero chemistry, and that he doesn’t come close to matching the charisma of previous Blomkvists’ Michael Nykvist and Daniel Craig and it almost feels like the movie would’ve been better had they just left Blomkvist out entirely and let Lisbeth take care of what little investigating he does do in the movie.

There’s a good chance that fans of the Dragon Tattoo series that have been waiting for David Fincher to finish his trilogy will be disappointed that they decided to skip ahead in the series and change the dynamic of the films likely in the hopes to reach a broader audience. If you can look past that and are in the mood for a cliché Bond storyline that also dabbles in abuse and vengeance but is elevated by kick-ass action and an awesome protagonist that I definitely want to see more of, then be sure to catch The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

The movie is visually appealing, with a lot of the stunts and action taking place without a green screen, and when digital effects are added in, they’re done so in a way that hides them incredibly well. It’s not an atmospheric film, even though it tries to be at times, but it works well for the action style that the movie focuses on most. The audio side of things also shines, with the sound effects, mix, dialogue and score all working in harmony to deliver a really great home theater experience.

Special Features:

Audio Commentary – Director Fede Alvarez and Screenwriter Jay Basu delve into the making of the film, and various other aspects of the process over the course of this commentary for those who may want to get a better idea of why certain things were done the way they were.

Deleted Scenes – There are almost 16 minutes worth of deleted scenes here to watch for those who enjoy seeing what didn’t make the cut. All of which have optional commentary by Alvarez and Basu to give more insight as to why.

Claire Foy: Becoming Lisbeth – This is a 10-minute feature that sees Foy talk about taking on the Lisbeth character, how she wanted to do something entirely different from her work on The Crown, as well as deeper insight into Lisbeth’s various piercings, and her take on the Dragon Tattoo on Lisbeth’s back. Definitely a fun watch for fan’s of the film.

All About the Stunts – This is a brief featurette at just under seven minutes in length, and it focuses on a few of the big stunts in the film. It shows how digital effects were used to make the biking across the lake scene come to life, as well as various other moments. Worth a watch as well, and likely could’ve been longer with how many crazy stunts were packed into the movie!

Creating the World: The Making-Of – This is the longest feature on the disc and talks about the decision to reset the series and pick up with Spider’s Web. There’s also talk about keeping the characters true to who they are, the direction of the film, as well as multiple aspects of the creation process. A fun watch, even if Dragon Tattoo enthusiasts may not agree with their decision.

Secrets of the Salander Sisters – This featurette is just under five minutes in lengths and touches upon the film’s protagonist and antagonist.

Sony Pictures Presents The Girl in the Spider’s Web. Directed by: Fede Alvarez. Written by: Jay Basu. Based on the Novel by: David Lagercrantz. Starring: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Convery. Running time: 117 Minutes. Rating: 18A. Released on Blu-ray: Feb. 5, 2019.

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