I have never seen so many talented people make such an average film. Fede Alvarez who made the awful but appropriate Evil Dead remake and the excellent Don’t Breathe stepped into shoes previously occupied by David Fincher, a director who many YouTube/ Redditors commented upon seeing the trailer for this film should’ve been hired to complete the trilogy. This despite the first movie, an American remake of the Swedish series costing $90 million dollars + heavy marketing material and Fincher along with snobby film critics expressing indifference to the novel material being adapted.
It’s a logical and calculated choice by Sony in a movie that’s just as much, that if they wanted to turn this series into a franchise it would have to be done in a less expensive way and reasonably quickly by a B-movie maestro on his way up, rather than one of the highest regarded and slow-moving directors at the top of his game, whose assigned franchise sequel has been sitting on the shelf for years.
The biggest problem with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a competently framed and executed project from master producers Scott Rudin and Amy Pascal (among a list of others) is that it feels too much like any franchise hopeful in the last 5 years it’s a stepping stone. Golden Globe Winner Claire Foy does a good job following Rooney Mara and Noomi Rapace’s giving a performance with good accent work, that sits squarely in the middle of the two. Lakeith Stanfield makes up for his awful Death Note turn, making the most of a two-dimensional performance. All the players are very well cast. Who by the way would have thought of Stanfield and Stephen Merchant as believable NSA agents? The casting is by far the shrewdest decision made on part of the filmmakers, it’s a shame the characters aren’t given more to do.
“There was a lot of debate — but not with me — mostly debate among the studio, if they [were] taking that route or not,” says Spider’s Web director Fede Alvarez (Don’t Breathe), about the possibility that Mara might reprise the role. “Eventually, I think it was me coming in, saying, I preferred to have my own cast. As a director, I just didn’t like the idea of taking someone else’s cast. As much as I admired Fincher as a filmmaker I think Rooney Mara is Fincher’s Lisbeth, right? And I wanted to find my own.” – Entertainment Weekly, August 9th, 2018
Valuable lesson on creative individualism aside, apart from moments of Hollywood movie logic, although there’s no major errors with this adaptation follow up, there isn’t a whole lot more to recommend either. The framing and coloring is very slick, this is a nice looking $43 million dollar film replicating the harsh black and white tones of the previous film. Alvarez balances well between handheld and steadicam shots, but he needs to work on his action blocking. The pacing is breezy but never slows down enough for the film to gather any substance. As soon as it ended I wondered what from the film I will actually remember long-term. I think of Siskel & Ebert’s review of Batman Forever, another good looking but otherwise empty soft franchise reboot. I don’t remember much of it after I was done watching it, and I suppose as the days go on it will mean less and less to me, but for 2 hours I liked it while I was watching it and was entertained. You could do far worse, and the filmmakers can and likely will do a lot better in other projects on their way up.