The Girl in the Spider’s Web is based on a novel by David Lagercrantz, who was appointed Larsson’s successor as keeper of the franchise (Larsson died in 2004, before his so-called Millennium trilogy had even been published). The storyline embroils Lisbeth in traditional espionage intrigue centering on computer scientist Frans Balder (Stephen Merchant); screenwriters Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez (who also directed) and Stephen Knight have added a handy MacGuffin in the form of Balder’s FireFall program, which can control the world’s nuclear launch codes. Balder created it for the NSA, but has had second thoughts about putting such power in one organization’s hands and asks Lisbeth to cyber-steal it from them. That puts her in the crosshairs of not just the NSA, as represented by agent Ed Needham (Lakeith Stanfield), and the Swedish authorities, but a shadowy Russian outfit called the Spider Society. No sooner has she retrieved Firefall than the Spiders steal her computer and give her a fireball, blowing up Lisbeth’s apartment and almost Lisbeth, who rather improbably survives by jumping into a full bathtub.

Fans of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium franchise won’t be pleased with the way Lisbeth Salander has been reduced to a Batgirl-like figure with a tacked-on psychological profile.

Director: Fede Alvarez With: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks Release Date: Nov 9, 2018

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It was probably inevitable that Hollywood would neuter the best elements of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” franchise, but did the producers really need to shift it into a commonplace cross between a superhero flick and James Bond? David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” tried hard to balance the Swedish films’ sensitivity to protagonist Lisbeth Salander’s severe psychological trauma with broad box office appeal, but “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” — based on the novel by Larsson’s successor David Lagercrantz — is more vested in fiery external explosions than internal pain, reducing Salander to a quirky Batgirl-like figure, soft-pedaling her feminism, practically eliminating her queerness, and tossing in an American so the U.S. can save the world. Director Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe”) delivers some big-bang thrills in a slick production that will do hefty business, but for Salander fans, this entry feels like a betrayal.

Rome Film Review: ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’

Reviewed at Rome Film Festival, Oct. 24, 2018. Running time: 117 MIN.

PRODUCTION: (U.S.-Sweden) A Columbia Pictures release of a Columbia Pictures, Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures presentation, in association with Regency Enterprises, of a Scott Rudin, Yellow Bird, Pascal Pictures, Cantillon Company production. Producers: Scott Rudin, Eli Bush, Ole Søndberg, Søren Stærmose, Berna Levin, Amy Pascal, Elizabeth Cantillon. Executive producers: Arnon Milchan, Robert J. Dohrmann, David Fincher, Line Winther Skyum Funch, Johannes Jensen, Anni Faurbye Fernandez. Co-producers: Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebcken.

CREW: Director: Fede Alvarez. Screenplay: Jay Basu, Alvarez, Steven Knight, based on the novel by David Lagercrantz, with characters introduced by Stieg Larsson. Camera (color, widescreen): Pedro Luque Briozzo. Editor: Tatiana S. Riegel. Music: Roque Baños.

WITH: Claire Foy, Sverrir Gudnason, Lakeith Stanfield, Sylvia Hoeks, Stephen Merchant, Claes Bang, Christopher Convery, Vicki Krieps, Cameron Britton, Synnøve Macody Lund, Beau Gadsdon, Carlotta von Falkenhayn, Hendrik Heutmann, Sonja Chan. (English dialogue)

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