After “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” author Stieg Larsson died, his publisher hired David Lagercrantz to write more sequels, like those Jason Bourne books that weren’t by Robert Ludlum. Coincidentally, the movie version of “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” feels like a Bourne knockoff, not (just) because it isn’t as good as the originals but because for some reason hacker punk Lisbeth Salander (Claire Foy) is now getting caught up in espionage capers involving nuclear launch codes and going on the run because she’s been framed for murders like a common Jason Bourne.
What happened to avenging wronged women? Oh, there’s a little bit of that, just enough to remind you why you liked Lisbeth in the first place. But mostly it’s a dreary, derivative spy plot, directed by Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe”), in which a conscious-stricken computer programmer (Stephen Merchant) hires Lisbeth to steal an app he built that can access all the world’s nukes, and return it to him so he can destroy it. She gets it, but of course it’s promptly stolen from her by bad guys, including one (Sylvia Hoeks) who reminds Lisbeth of her sister. But her sister is dead, isn’t she?? Et cetera.
What happened to journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason)? Oh, he’s around too, occupying space and screen time. Since this is the fourth installment in the saga (though only the second to get an American movie adaptation), some obligation was probably felt to include all familiar characters. But they’re counting on a built-in fondness that is by no means assured: To the extent you ever cared about Lisbeth and Mikael, it wasn’t this Lisbeth and Mikael. And anyway, the characters have little to do with each other anymore.
LaKeith Stanfield is a welcome presence as an NSA agent pursuing Lisbeth and the app, and some of the hacker-vs-hacker business is fun. But in the end it’s an ordinary, mundane tech thriller whose only distinction is that it’s connected to a previous movie. It’s the very definition of a sequel nobody wanted.
C (1 hr., 57 min.; )