There are a lot of really good young adult fantasy book series. There are some pretty good films based on those books. And then we have Artemis Fowl. I have no first hand knowledge of the source material, although I do have a couple of friends (and kids of friends) who love the books. The sad news for them? I don’t think they’re gonna love this movie.
Let’s break it down. Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) is a 12-year-old genius whose father (Colin Farrell) has disappeared. His disappearance leads to Artemis Sr. being accused of stealing some priceless artifacts. Meanwhile, Artemis Jr. is informed by a mysterious figure that his father has hidden the Aculos, the most powerful object in the fairy world, and it needs to be returned within three days.
We’re also introduced to Haven City, the secret underground home of fairies. Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), a member of the Lower Elements Police, is sent to investigate a troll attack in Italy. Instead of returning home, she proceeds to search out the Aculos because her father was killed after taking it and she wants his vindication. This brings her to Fowl Manor, where much of the film’s action takes place. You can kind of imagine the rest. Artemis wants to find the Aculos and bring back his father. Holly wants to find the Aculos and clear her father’s name.
So let’s start with the good stuff. This film was beautiful. It looked expensive, which makes sense with an estimated $125 million budget. The actors? They all did a fine job. I think the film will appeal to some tweens who enjoy fantasy films. And with that, we conclude this section of everything I have positive to say about Artemis Fowl.
What is wrong with Artemis Fowl? Where do I even begin? Josh Gad plays Mulch Diggums, a giant dwarf who is a thief. While Gad’s performance falls easily into the “fine job” praise I gave everyone earlier, the use of Mulch under a police interrogation to provide all of the exposition in the story felt lazy. I never got enough backstory to feel particularly invested in any of the characters. We end up with a 90-something minute rush to an ending that seemed confident a sequel was inevitable-yet without enough story to make a sequel particularly desirable.
What is probably the fatal flaw in the film is that director Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis is a hero. Author Eoin Colfer’s Artemis is-at best-an antihero. Branagh has gone on record as saying that the Bond villain version of Artemis would be hard for audiences without background knowledge of the books to accept. Whether that is true, or the story was actually a victim of Disney’s corporate sanitization, is unknown. What is known, is that the Artemis we see in the therapy scene at the beginning of the film, the one we see in the “search for the book” deleted scene, and the one we get at the very end where he calls himself a “criminal mastermind” is a hell of a lot more interesting than the one we get for the majority of the film.
Whether you’re a fan of the books, ready to be disappointed, or someone with 90 minutes to kill, also ready to be disappointed, Artemis Fowl is streaming now on Disney+.
About Artemis Fowl
Descended from a long line of criminal masterminds, 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl finds himself in a battle of strength and cunning against a powerful, hidden race of fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.