I may be wildly wrong here but the dismissive notices for The Girl in the Spider’s Web, seem to be more than a little unaware of just what it is the film-makers were trying to do. Forget about the boring Stieg Larsson. Those books sold millions of copies I know, but unless the second and third volumes got a whole lot better they were just mechanical renditions of police procedural stuff, written by an earnest and rather pompous author who took himself too seriously. Ok, they struck a chord, whatever. No accounting for taste. I couldn’t even bring myself to start volume two and didn’t even know that in the manner of Bond and Holmes someone else had been commissioned to take up the cudgels and keep the rivers of gold flowing. So I don’t know if the new movie is even remotely related to the new book not written by Larsson. I’ll never find out either. At least not by reading it myself. Glad I got that out of the way.
What the new movie seems to me to be related to is something more interesting, rebooting not the Dragon Tattoo books and movies but the world of Fritz Lang and his late silents Spies, Spiders and the first Doctor Mabuse, and his early sound second Dr Mabuse. That explains much. Maybe I was primed by noticing the movie was made at Babelsberg, the new name for the former Ufa production company and its studio, host to Erich Pommer, Fritz Lang, the legendary Josef von Sternberg for The Blue Angel, F W Murnau, Emil Jannings and more.
Aaah Babelsberg, such nostalgia. Maybe connecting the word “Spider” in the title to Babelsberg got the juices flowing even more quickly. That was consolidated by a ripping title sequence, all liquid blacks and spotlights that would have done Saul Bass proud.
|Spiders, (Fritz Lang)|
|Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy)|
Then there’s the first appearance of Lisbeth Salander. She’s done up in a white facepaint mask and tight black leather (left). My god, it’s got to be referencing Musidora in Les Vampires. Gotta be. She tortures a nasty brute of a husband after an elaborate capture with menace, followed by some quick vigilante justice that could be straight out of Lang or Feuillade. Humming along here, and the sequence is funny! Though nobody except me laughed at the Randwick Ritz at the 6.10 pm on Friday night. What is this.
|Camilla Salander (Sylvia Hoeks)|
Lisbeth Salander wears black leather, smokes cigarettes and has an evil sister, Camilla, who decides she wants to rule the world wears red and high heels (left) even when walking through snow. Maybe we need Peter Wollen's princess dichotomy to work this out better. I'll have to think about that.
Lisbeth’s help is invoked to stop a group known as the Spiders (?, come on, don’t tell me they just got lucky or coincidental, notwithstanding the book title, because they get all the spider imagery just right) from taking over the world by being the only people who have all nations nuclear codes. I think that’s the gist of it. A long way from all that tedious stuff about discovering a child abuser that it is the mainstay of most detective and thriller fiction today and my memory says was what that first godawful novel was about.
In dealing with all the threats from the Spiders, corrupt police, uncomprehending authorities, SWAT squads and, whoa, maybe an echo of Franju here, the guy who removes his entire face, Lisbeth is required to deal with more than a few enemies. She makes good use of her motor bike but as well is very good with a taser, including one jokey moment when she tasers a metal railing a villain is casually holding onto. That was funny too but I was the only one who laughed, again.
Maybe you could say that Fede Alvarez who wrote and directed this is a little hamfisted, over-breathless, in the relentless action, too much in-one-bound-Lisbeth-was-free, then she’s off and running and the police don’t know where she is again. Maybe he's not the cinephile I'm believing he is and just got lucky echoing greatness wherever occurring. If so then maybe it needed whomever is today’s greatest inheritor of Feuillade and Lang and of course Georges Franju, who intermediated back in the 60s and 70s to be an even better movie. David Fincher didn’t do much for the first US version. Maybe the next one would be perfect for Ben Young to take a shot at. In Hounds of Love he showed he could do dread as well as action and could time his frissons with great skill. Just a thought.
Is this where the franchise is heading, basically leaving Stieg Larsson and his alter ego Mikael Blomkvist behind to pick up the bits and look after the kid. Forget about all that dreary and self-pitying discussion about the oppression of free speech and the power of the press. Lisbeth Salander was all that warranted saving frankly and her new incarnator, Claire Foy with her slightly bruised looking face, not beautiful here anyway, is perfect.