Under the Radar

'The Girl in the Spider's Web': Lisbeth Salander Cannot Be Solved

Claire Foy stars as Lisbeth Salander in "The Girl in the Spider's Web." (Sony)

Sony is trying again to launch a Lisbeth Salander movie series with "The Girl in the Spider's Web" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital), a movie based on a sequel written by author David Langendorf instead of the late Stieg Larsson's original trilogy.

The lush, David Fincher-directed 2011 version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig, was a big-budget borderline success. The studio didn't make the investment in continuing the series. Fans of the original books still must rely on the Swedish-language film trilogy that made Noomi Rapace an international star.

This time, we get Claire Foy as Salander in a career choice seemingly designed to obliterate any memory of her beloved-by-old-folks performance as a young Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's "The Crown."

Salander is a cipher in the novels, a blank-but-twisted slate who allows readers to project their own demons onto her troubles. Larsson spins a compelling story, but character isn't a strong suit.

Maybe that's why it's so hard to translate these novels into movies. Ron Howard has managed to transfer the equally-weak-on-character Dan Brown/Robert Langdon novels into pretty good movies, but Tom Hanks is able to rely on his good-guy persona to paper over the gaps in Langdon's personality or motivations. Salander is an angry and confusing character with no real internal life. It's a tough movie to make.

"The Girl in the Spider's Web" skips over a lot of Langendorf's complex plotting and manages to lose the details of the conflict between Lisbeth and her sister Camilla and the horrible details of their father's abuse.

Viewers who haven't read the books may not be able to follow the motivations behind the plot or maybe they won't notice what's missing. Salander is a complicated figure, compelling even when you don't understand her motivations.

How much you enjoy the movies depends on your tolerance for her debauched lifestyle.

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