The Only Artemis Fowl Movie Review You Need
The Walt Disney Company infamously had the opportunity to add the Harry Potter franchise to its theme parks.
Regrettably, Disney passed, and the rest is theme park history.
During the 21st century, several studios have attempted to recapture the magic of Harry Potter.
Film adaptations of young adult novels came and went, mostly without making any impact whatsoever.
This week, Disney took its shot with a project that Coronavirus derailed.
Here’s a review of Artemis Fowl, which is available to watch on Disney+ right now.
What Is Artemis Fowl?
If you’re asking this question, you don’t have children, at least not ones who love to read.
In 2001, Eoin Colfer became one of the most successful follow-ups to JK Rowling. His series, Artemis Fowl, delighted young fans with its detailed fantasy setting.
The premise will win over any young adult literary fan. The title character is a 12-year-old boy and a world-class thief. In fact, he’s much more than that.
Artemis Fowl, Jr. is the son of the foremost criminal on the planet and the latest in a long line of leaders of the Fowl empire.
Yes, a pre-teen boy, the protagonist in the series, qualifies as arguably the most dangerous person on the planet. And if he’s not, his father is.
The Artemis Fowl franchise consists of nine novels plus a recent spinoff. Disney had intended/hoped that this story would galvanize a generation of movie lovers the way that Rowling’s films once did.
Alas, the $125 million production fell victim to the Coronavirus pandemic, although that’s somewhat generous as an assessment.
Artemis Fowl’s original release date was August 9, 2019, but it received a significant delay until May 7, 2020. Later, Disney pushed it back until May 29, 2020.
As a point of clarification, that would have been the weekend after Memorial Day. If Disney believed in the film, it would have come out during the holiday weekend instead.
So, this project was already troubled. Then, the pandemic finished the job. With movie theaters closed, Disney rightfully chose to skip the film’s theatrical release and debut it on Disney+.
I say this to help you calibrate expectations. If Disney had a winner, it would have held the film until a later date a la Mulan and Black Widow.
We’re getting Artemis Fowl right now because it’s not the high-quality project Disney had expected.
Artemis Fowl the Movie
Colfer, the writer of the franchise, describes his premise as “Die Hard with fairies.” The movie doesn’t follow the book’s story, though.
Sure, some broad strokes are there. However, director Kenneth Branagh borrows liberally from several books while employing several of his own ideas.
The result is a title that’s Artemis Fowl in name more than spirit. Yes, the protagonist is still a daring antihero living in a world where fairies are real.
Beyond that, many of the ideas from the book get watered down so much that this adaptation feels like it could have been a standalone original IP movie just as easily.
I say this to warn fans of the books. Artemis Fowl isn’t a bad film by any stretch. However, it’s not the least bit faithful to the books.
So, if you want a loyal retelling of Colfer’s work, you’re going to get your heart broken unless you prepare for it now.
The Characters of Artemis Fowl
On the plus side, the acting talent will blow your mind. Dame Judi Dench isn’t merely in the movie. She’s got more screen time here than she did in Shakespeare in Love, for which she won an Oscar.
Sadly, this work isn’t her finest. For reasons I don’t understand, Dench’s character sounds like Nina Blackwood after downing a carton of cigarettes in an hour.
Also, the character’s actions are wildly inconsistent at times, which no actor, even a Grand Dame, can overcome.
The other person who appears a lot is Josh Gad, who plays a tall dwarf with imprisonment issues.
Fans of the book know and adore this character, Mulch Diggums. He’s a thief whose innate skill agitates everyone and has led to multiple century-long incarcerations.
The Disney favorite is well cast here. This role, like his comic relief turn in Beauty and the Beast, allows him to steal several scenes.
Frankly, when Diggums isn’t in the movie, I’m bored more often than not.
Perhaps the most wasted character is Domovoi “Dom” Butler, the butler who would punch you if you called him that.
Dom has a terrific look and the tiniest bit of character intrigue created early in the story. Then, he’s not given much the rest of the film.
He’s…got a niece. That’s about it.
You’re likely wondering about Colin Farrell. He plays Artemis Fowl I, and the actor demonstrates his standard charisma and skill. Alas, he’s not in the movie much. Dench has a more substantial presence.
The character who does receive the most growth is Holly Short, an 84-year-old fairy who…well, I don’t want to give away too much.
I would argue that Holly gets to do more than the main character, which means that Artemis Fowl, the movie, is inaccurately named. Speaking of which…
Artemis Fowl the Character
Artemis Fowl’s natural skills are on display early in the story, as a de facto narrator details his track record as a prodigy.
Apparently, Junior is a chess prodigy who also has a flair for architecture. These descriptions have the purpose of establishing Fowl as a genius.
In execution, the events come across as needless flexes. Frustratingly, the character never develops throughout the story.
Branagh, who earned his bones with Shakespearean adaptations, fails mightily as a storyteller here. In fact, I joked with my wife that the script feels like it’s written by a robot who can pass the Turing Test…barely.
Much of what happens feels paint-by-numbers. One antagonistic character is so poorly written that his only lines of dialogue are negative.
A bright light should shine down on him along with a caption that states, “Will turn on everyone.”
The real storytelling crime involves the protagonist, though.
I watched Artemis Fowl for 90 minutes, and the lead character’s on-screen for most of it. Despite this fact, I can tell you shockingly little about his personality.
Fowl is bratty and arrogant and a fair bit entitled. He’s also motivated to find a kidnapping victim. Beyond that, there’s just not a reason to fall in love with the kid, even as a gifted antihero.
Artemis Fowl the Story
I’m coming across as negative here, but that’s born out of frustration as much as anything.
Disney built its reputation on story-driven projects that appeal to the under-18 crowd.
Artemis Fowl joins A Wrinkle in Time as a potential franchise where nobody remembered to lay the groundwork.
Neither story features memorable characters, which actively aggravates me.
Think about the introduction of Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. This captain nearly goes down with his ship. He’s instantly unforgettable.
I watched Artemis Fowl tonight, yet I can’t remember some of the details as well as I can from a Disney movie released in 2003.
On the plus side, Artemis Fowl is an absolutely gorgeous movie.
I wish I would have watched it in a movie theater. Even on a UHD television, it’s remarkably pretty.
Disney went all out on the special effects. The fairy world scenes are dizzying in their beauty.
I only wish that Branagh had spent as much time developing the characters as he did the fantasy fairy realm beneath the Earth.
I believe that there’s a good story in here, but Artemis Fowl will skew extremely young. Adults can’t help but notice the many gaping plot holes and lazy writing clichés.
I had hoped for an Artemis Fowl franchise that would reignite children’s excitement for fantasy realms. Instead, this movie feels like a least case scenario result.
You won’t hate Artemis Fowl, but I don’t you’ll love it, either. Instead, this film is something to pass the time on Disney+ while we await The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and The Mandalorian season two.
I give Artemis Fowl a four out of ten. If you want to watch a great Branagh movie on Disney+, pick Thor instead.
Also, Disney just announced that The One and Only Ivan will go straight to Disney+ on August 21st. It should be MUCH better. I highly recommend the book.