Usually whenever young adult book series are published and are very popular, there’s a film adaptation of it in the works released not long after it comes out. We’ve seen it done with Harry Potter, Twilight, Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games, etc. So, when I heard they were going to release a film called Artemis Fowl, I was confused because those books were first published almost twenty years ago and the people who grew up with those books are much older now. Better late than never, I guess.
Before I saw this film, I had little to no information about Artemis Fowl. I read a little bit of one of the books back in high school, but I couldn’t recall what the plot was or how it ended. The trailer, however, did seem intriguing and if we weren’t going through a pandemic at the moment, I would’ve probably have seen this in a theater. Fortunately I was able to see it via Disney +. Would I have I enjoyed this much more on the big screen? Let’s find out.
In Artemis Fowl we follow the titular character, Artemis Fowl Jr. (Ferdia Shaw), a twelve year old child prodigy who lives in a mansion off the Irish coast with his dad Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell). Artemis Sr. is a successful businessman who collects treasures from around the world and studies Irish fairy tales, and he shares his knowledge with Artemis Jr. One day when Artemis Sr. leaves for a trip he gets kidnapped by a mysterious figure named Opal Koboi (voiced by Hong Chau). Opal is holding Artemis Sr. hostage and will reunite the father and son in exchange for a mysterious device called the Aculos, which is a powerful device used by magical creatures. Meanwhile down below the Earth’s surface lies a secret city called Haven City where magical creatures live and stay hidden from humans. In Haven City lies an organization called the Lower Elements Police reconnaissance led by Commander Root (Judi Dench) and she also wants to find the Aculos but for good intentions. From there both worlds will collide with Artemis Jr. using extreme measures to find the Aculos in order to save his dad.
I won’t lie, writing that previous paragraph was a bit of a challenge because the biggest problem that Artemis Fowl has is that it’s one big, convoluted mess along with bad direction and unlikable characters. It was something that I saw coming into it as I read some reviews before and I wanted them to be slightly inaccurate, but, unfortunately, I was wrong.
The running time for Artemis Fowl is around an hour and thirty minutes (one hour and thirty-five minutes to be exact). You would think that with that short a runtime they would have a well-paced film, but sadly they don’t. The story itself felt rushed, which I wouldn’t have minded if the pacing was better, but overall it affected the character development that was much needed here. Not only that but there were characters that would come out of nowhere with little to no introduction. One could argue that the filmmakers wanted to be faithful to the source material and have as much story and characters as they possibly could, but by doing so it just leaves us with a messy narrative, poor direction, and characters that I couldn’t care less about their fates in the end.
I wouldn’t be too hard on Artemis Fowl if they at least had a protagonist that I liked, but the title character was someone that I couldn’t get behind for a majority of the film. While he may be a child prodigy with many gifts, he doesn’t use them to help others less fortunate then him. Instead he uses his intelligence to talk down and belittle others, which, by the way, is shown in the first twenty minutes of the film. I was asking myself “why should I care about what happens to him? Especially if there are no repercussions for his actions.” I will say though that any positive thoughts that I had for Artemis Fowl was when he was trying to save his dad. When he found out about the disappearance of his father, he did whatever it took to bring him back even if it meant jeopardizing his home. This type of action did leave an impact on me and it’s something that most of us would do for a loved one. It’s too bad that I couldn’t have this feeling throughout the rest of the film though.
It’s unfortunate that this was a disappointment not just because the trailer looked interesting but also Kenneth Branagh was the director here. For those who aren’t familiar with his filmography, he has directed a great number of films but most recently he directed some that I liked such as Thor (2011), Cinderella (2015), and Murder on the Orient Express (2017). Not to say every director doesn’t have some bad films in their career, but given his recent track record I was bummed to see Artemis Fowl not live up to its potential.
As you can tell already, I did not like Artemis Fowl and the things I did like don’t even come close to outweighing my negative thoughts. If you’re a fan of the book series and you have Disney +, then by all means check it out but be prepared to be disappointed if you’re faithful to the source material. Hopefully Kenneth Branagh can make a minor comeback later this fall when his next film Death on the Nile is released, and here’s hoping it doesn’t get postponed due to Covid-19.