Artemis Fowl

REVIEW: Artemis Fowl (2020)

When his father (Colin Farrell) is kidnapped, child prodigy Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must find a missing magical artefact and battle against powerful fairies in order to rescue him.

I shall preface this by saying the Artemis Fowl series was one of my favourites as a child. I read them from roughly the ages of 9 – 14 and though it’s been a good while since I’ve read the source material there are some things that have stuck with me for all these years. In the books, Artemis Fowl is an antihero, with the emphasis on the anti. He is a criminal mastermind and his parents are not a major part of the story at all, in fact he gets involved with the world of magical creatures because he kidnaps one and wants money and secrets. The film version may use a few elements of the plot of the book (and brings in a villain from later books) the end product is mostly unrecognisable.

Part of this may be down to Artemis Fowl going through what is commonly known as production hell. There’s been a variety of directors and producers attached to the film over the years, and it has had multiple release dates before being dumped on Disney+. Also, there’s the antihero part. Artemis is not a nice boy, he is super smart and looks down on everyone, and is not above threats of (and carrying out) torture to get what he wants. This is the kind of lead character that doesn’t really suit the family-friendly Disney image. Though that was part of the reason the books stood out in the boom of young boy heroes like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and Alex Rider.

The film begins with Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), a giant dwarf, being arrested and as he’s interrogated, he begins to narrate the story of Artemis Fowl and what transpired at Fowl Manor. This as a narrative device is weird to begin with. Sometimes the dialogue is as if Mulch is talking to an unseen integrator while at other times it’s as if he’s talking directly to the audience. I guess this choice was made as a way to give information about this magical world to the audience, but it ends up being jarring and the film would’ve worked just as well as a straightforward narrative.

This is Ferdia Shaw’s first role so we’ll have to see over the course of his career if he improves, but in Artemis Fowl his line delivery is often flat and he doesn’t do a good job at show much emotion on his face. Lara McDonnell, who plays kidnapped LEPRecon Officer Holly Short, isn’t given much to do – in fact in one of the big action sequences in Fowl Manor she gets stuck in a chandelier for the majority of the ensuing battle. That being said, I feel the cast did the best with what they were given. It’s not their fault they had a bland script with little character development, and the end product was often shoddily edited making their characters look disconnected from one another. Watching the trailers again after seeing the film is interesting as there’s so many shots shown that aren’t in the film and hint at whole scenes and plotlines having been cut.

Artemis Fowl has a trim runtime of 90 minutes but amazingly it feels longer. The action scenes aren’t exciting, the intrigue isn’t there, and the characters aren’t particularly memorable. Though Judi Dench growling out “Top of the morning” was the one and only time that I laughed. While Judi Dench may have been an odd choice for Commander Root (the character being a male fairy in the books for one thing) her growling, no nonsense attitude was one of the only enjoyable things to watch.

Artemis Fowl is an incredibly disappointing adaptation and is also a disappointing film. It tries to cram in a lot of lore and it repeatedly tells you things about the world and its characters rather than show you, or indeed having the things it tells you actually being relevant – for instance the film begins with Mulch waxing lyrically about how smart Artemis Fowl is, when a lot of what he does comes from what he’s just heard his father talk about rather than researching himself. Artemis Fowl ends up just being a dull, lifeless film with generic and unexciting action sequences, and is unlikely to be remembered fondly by anyone – both people new to this world and fans of the book. 1/5.

Artemis Fowl Movie – Finally?

I’m simultaneously super excited and a bit scared about the news that Artemis Fowl is finally going to have his own movie.

The books by Eoin Colfer were a huge part of my childhood – I picked up the first book in my school’s library when I was ten. I then went on to read (almost) the entire series over the years. While I haven’t finished the series and am honestly not sure if I ever will, I did grow up with Artemis, Captain Holly Short and Mulch the dwarf. I got really upset at Commander Julius Root’s murder in the second book – I think that was probably the first time I read a book where a character was killed in front of the reader – and I still remember where I was when I read that part (The Red Lion Pub in Ashington if you were interested.)

While I’m now a few months shy of turning twenty-two, if or when the movie is released I will be in that cinema audience. When I was younger I had no real idea how books are turned into movies so frequently or what they had to have to be turned into a movie, I just read the books and enjoyed them. Nowadays there seems to be always talk of which books should have film adaptations and who should play which character. To have one of my childhood series maybe finally having a movie is something I never really imagined. Although I remember a friend from college saying that a young Tom Felton would have been the perfect casting choice for Artemis and I’d have to agree.

Now Harvey Weinstein is planning to work with Disney to get Artemis Fowl onto the big screen – that’s an interesting partnership considering their history but I’m sure it’s all water under the bridge. It’ll be interesting to see how closely Disney keeps to the book. I’m mainly thinking about the characters of Butler and Mulch, Butler is quite violent while Mulch is often rude and I’m not sure how that will translate into a “Disney family movie.”

I guess we shall have to wait and see but no matter what, I will be seeing the Artemis Fowl movie in the cinema.

Film info from Variety.