When Lisbeth Salander steals some wheels, she chooses a car just a couple of upgrades away from being the Batmobile. That’s appropriate for “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” which tries desperately to transform Stieg Larsson’s heroine into the Caped Crusader.
But despite recruiting red-hot Claire Foy for the title role, both Salander and the film lack the biff!-bam!-pow! punch required to get into the Justice League.
The film gets off to a promising start as our heroine terrorizes a rapist in Stockholm with a Rube Goldberg-inspired trap and her hacking skills. But then Salander impulsively agrees to aid an inventor (Stephen Merchant) who wants her to steal back his formula that would put the world’s nuclear weapons in U.S. hands. It’s the first of many foolish moves that damage her credibility as a smarty pants.
Her mistake triggers a cat-and-mouse game to secure the codes involving the Swedish police, the National Security Agency, an evil gang led by her estranged sister and her former partner, Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason), who has less to do this time around than Alfred the Butler.
Salander snaps to attention when required. A scene in which she uses her computer know-how to spring an NSA agent (a spirited Lakeith Stanfield) from an airport prison is a nail-biter. Same goes for a car chase that she cuts short by sabotaging her rival’s dashboard by remote control.
But she’s just as likely to suffer a brain freeze, skipping opportunities to kill off enemies when she has the chance and forgetting to toss away cellphones that can be easily tracked. She places the inventor’s son in so much peril that she might as well pin a “Kidnap Me” sign to his back.
Perhaps Salander is just too bummed out to remain on full alert. In addition to being haunted by memories of her traumatic childhood, she has to deal with director Fede Alvarez’s choice to film nearly every scene in dimly lit rooms. Guess Swedes can’t get a decent light bulb these days.
Foy does a nice job matching Alvarez’s penchant for darkness. She cracks a smile in only one scene, but it’s largely hidden by the sandwich she’s devouring. Foy’s physical chops are questionable; too many scenes are shot in such a way that it must have been easy for a stuntwoman to step in.
It’s not necessary for Foy to transform into Wonder Woman to keep her as the star of this franchise. But if future scripts forget that Salander is a stone-cold genius, she might want to start spending more time in the gym.