The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story Movie Poster Image
Strong lead can't save violent, over-serious thriller.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Pessimistic overall, with Lisbeth's entire life devoted to finding/punishing abusive men because she couldn't save her sister from an abuser. Also suggests that America is unworthy of special software that allows control of nuclear weapons because it's a war-mongering nation, whereas Sweden might deserve the honor due to its peaceful history.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lisbeth is a very strong female character; her intentions are good, but her methods are frequently questionable. She engages in violence without repercussions, she occasionally breaks the law (or bends it), she has unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking, junk food), and it's suggested that she doesn't take sex seriously.

Violence

Implied sexual abuse of two young girls by their father. Horrifying image of man whose nose has been destroyed/removed. Lisbeth glues, staples closed a gaping wound on her back. Woman tortured by being sealed in a body-sized plastic bag with no air. Guns and shooting. Fighting, strangling, stabbing. Characters are shot, with blood spurts. Leg bone snaps. Woman is forcibly injected with needle. Suggestion of a man abusing his wife (she has bloody cuts and wounds). Dialogue about a man beating up prostitutes. Explosions. Car chases and crashes. Man hit by car. Falls from high places. Electric prods. A young boy is in quite a bit of danger; he's threatened and forced to watch awful things.

Sex

A fully naked woman is seen extremely briefly at a distance. Brief side glimpse of a woman's breast. Video of a man having sex from behind with a woman; thrusting and moaning, no nudity. Character wears a revealing dress; part of her bare bottom can be seen. Suggestion of Lisbeth sleeping with many different women; shown lounging in bed and wearing underwear. Photos of past lovers are glimpsed. Suitcase full of sex toys is shown. A woman's T-shirt reads "Give Me Head Till I'm Dead." Sex-related dialogue.

Language

Several uses of "f--k" and "s--t." Also "motherf----r," "bitch."

Consumerism

YouTube video shown. Polaroid pictures.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters regularly smoke cigarettes. Some drinking. Lisbeth smashes up amphetamine pills and snorts them (to counter a knockout drug she's been given).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story is the fifth Lisbeth Salander movie (though only the second made in the United States), the first to star Claire Foy, and the first not adapted from the original Stieg Larsson trilogy. Like the earlier films based on Larsson's work, it's extremely violent, with implications of abuse (including a father sexually abusing his daughters), a horrific image of a man's destroyed nose, and Lisbeth gluing and stapling closed a gaping wound on her back. There are also guns and shooting, fighting, falling, snapping bones, bloody wounds, dead bodies, car crashes, explosions, and more. Expect some pretty graphic sexual content, too, with brief nudity, a short video featuring explicit sex (a man enters a woman from behind, with thrusting and moaning), suggestions of Lisbeth having multiple lovers, and other sexual material. Language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more. Characters smoke and drink, and Lisbeth smashes up and snorts amphetamine pills.

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What's the story?

THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB: A NEW DRAGON TATTOO STORY flashes back to Lisbeth Salander's childhood with her sister, Camilla, and their abusive father. Lisbeth attempts to escape with her sister but winds up only getting herself out. Years later, the grown Lisbeth (Claire Foy) continues to use her hacking skills to track down and punish hateful men. She gets an offer to steal a piece of dangerous, weapons-oriented software and return it to its creator (Stephen Merchant), but she finds that a murderous organization called the Spiders is also after it. Lisbeth enlists the aid of journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason) and an American NSA agent, Edwin Needham (Lakeith Stanfield) -- who was hoping to secure the software for the USA -- to put an end to the trouble. But Lisbeth gets a surprise when she discovers just who's behind it all.

Is it any good?

This fifth movie in the "Girl" series offers Foy as a strong new Lisbeth Salander, but the movie doesn't quite work. It takes itself far too seriously for its ridiculous plot and flat supporting characters. The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story is the first film in the franchise to be adapted from a novel by David Lagercrantz, who took over the series from the late Stieg Larsson. The first three movies, based on Larsson's books, were made in Sweden with Noomi Rapace; then David Fincher directed a very strong American version of the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, starring Rooney Mara. Despite how perfectly Foy clicks into the hard, fierce leading role, this new movie feels like a big step down from its predecessors.

Director Fede Alvarez has done well enough with smaller-scale horror movies, but all he can manage here is to shake the camera during fight scenes. The plot's prize -- the software that allows anyone with a computer access to the world's nuclear codes -- is flat-out dumb, and the characters' motivations for obtaining it are equally shaky. (Spoiler alert!) Camilla, perhaps intended to flesh out Lisbeth's past, is nothing more than a one-dimensional psychopath who's totally uninteresting, and journalist Blomkvist has almost nothing to do. Not even interesting actors like Merchant or Stanfield can add anything to their roles as a computer genius and an NSA agent, respectively; they're so generically written that virtually anyone could have played them. Only Foy comes out well here. If the series manages to continue after this dud, she could be a highlight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Girl in the Spider's Web: A New Dragon Tattoo Story's violence. Does it feel thrilling or shocking? Why? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex depicted? Is it portrayed as meaningful or "just for fun"? Parents, talk to your kids about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Is Lisbeth a role model? Is she in charge of her own actions? Does it matter that her actions are iffy if her intentions are admirable?

  • How does this movie compare to the other Lisbeth Salander films? Have the characters evolved or changed? If so, how?

  • How is smoking portrayed? Does the movie make smoking look appealing? Are there consequences for smoking?

Movie details

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