Sound the alarm. London Bridge has fallen! Or should that be press the snooze button?
The reported codename signalling the Queen’s death is applicable to The Crown star Claire Foy’s dire career choice as the titular star in Fede Alvarez’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
In the painfully dull continuation of Stieg Larsson’s mega-selling Millennium trilogy, Foy takes on the bad man-belting boots of androgynous hacker and wrong-righting avenger Lisbeth Salander.
The role was first played expertly by Swedish actor and Prometheus star Noomi Rapace, then Rooney Mara took it on opposite Daniel Craig in David Fincher’s English-language remake.
When that stalled after the first instalment, producers should have taken the hint. Instead, they’ve royally screwed Foy over with a moribund script and lacklustre everything else.
Excelling in this year’s Unsane and First Man, the Emmy winner has literally nothing to work with in The Girl in the Spider’s Web.
She’s saddled with a hokey accent in this steaming dud drawn from the first of the David Lagercrantz novels that pick up Salander’s new quest after dealing with her daddy issues.
This time she’s implicated in a plot to steal American military tech that could see control of the world’s nuclear armament seized by the wrong people. And boy does it blow: Witness its putrid rating of only 54 per cent on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes.
Manohla Dargis at The New York Times said that even Salander’s signature dragon tattoo is rubbish compared to the previous takes: “It’s as blankly ornamental as the rest of the movie.”
The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang dubbed it a “disappointingly bland return for everyone’s favourite Scandinavian pansexual goth-vigilante cyber-sleuth,” while Screen International’s Tim Grierson said its “soulless execution and autopilot narrative twists neuter whatever emotional undercurrents might surface”.
Playing out like a boring Bond stripped of that franchise’s knowing humour, the fight sequences are thoroughly unimpressive, as are the snoozesome car chases.
Instead of high-octane crashes and smashes, they literally grind to a halt with airbags and an inconveniently raised bridge.
Groanworthy tropes include a genius kid obsessed with chess who is the only person who can crack the nuke code after his dad, played by Stephen Merchant, is taken off the board.
Every note is predictable, which makes it all the more infuriatingly silly when Salander is cornered in one of her secret lairs.
Typically preternaturally aware of her opponent’s every move, she somehow fails to realise what’s behind her own escape door.
Then there’s the laughably bad throwback of Sylvia Hoeks’ villain. Her identity heavily signalled in the flashback that opens the film, she wants to blow up the entire world because of her admittedly horrendous childhood.
At least her fierce red pantsuit provides a much-needed pop of colour in this dreary misfire. An overly murky palette renders the film thoroughly uninteresting to look at, with Roque Baños’s instantly forgettable score no help.
Salander’s men are equally as torpid. Sverrir Gudnason is a damp squib as journalist Mikael, Lisbeth’s sometime lover who tries to help her out with her mission. Lakeith Stanfield barely registers as an NSA agent 10 steps behind everyone.
Only The Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps and Australian model Andreja Pecjic, in her first movie role, cut through as Mikael’s partner and Salander’s lover and assistant respectively, but they’re given short shrift by Alvarez and co-writers Jay Basu and Steven Knight.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is now showing in cinemas across Australia.