TL;DR – There is a lot of promise here that unfortunately falls flat at every turn.
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Review – Some genres really excite me when I get to see them, and one of those is when you crash fantasy and science fiction together. It is a delicate balance to get right, but when you do, it is grand. So a story where all the tales of fairies and such are real and they still live, but in high-tech cities under the Earth, well you have me intrigued. But you need to do something more than just intrigue, which is where we fall flat from almost the start.
So to set the scene, we open in on Fowl Manor in Ireland, who is currently under siege, by the press and police. As the police arrest a Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) and take him to a black site for integration, he speaks of magic as it is real, to the amusement of everyone. However, as he continues he lets everyone know, it is not Artemis Fowl Sr (Colin Farrell) they should be concerned with, but his son Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw). Artemis is just a kid, a brilliant kid, what threat could he be? Because isn’t it the father, the thief, that is the real threat, or is there something darker at play?
Now I should say right from the start; I have not read the book series that this film is based off. This can be both a good and a bad thing for a movie like this. One the one hand, I am not bringing any preconceived notions of what the characters should be like to the film. But then I don’t have the luxury of having the story in its entirety. However, even without having read the stories, you can tell that a lot of condensing has been needed to fit this story into this film. I mean it is not as bad as the “and then they became fast friends” from The Last Airbender but it is close.
One area where it does fall is in its overarching narrative scaffolding of the film that I am sorry; there is no polite way of saying this. It is just grating. Throughout the film, two overarching voices drive the narrative, the first being Mulch Diggums, and the second is Commander Julius Root (Judi Dench). I am not sure if that was the actor’s choice what type of voice they used or if it was requested of them, but it was like fingernails down a blackboard. It also took away from the critical narrative of the film and the character of Artemis. They even refer to their voices as “a pair of hippos with a throat infection” which is not a wrong description and one that maybe they should have thought about more.
From a production point of view, some exciting moments happen in places. The first of these is when we arrive at Haven City home of the fairies and other fey folks. The design of this city is everything that I had wanted to see in a film like this. We also see this same weirdness during a sequence where time is bending, collapsing, and well just being weird. They do this odd perspective shift, which I would have liked to see on the big screen. However, in other action scenes, they use this flowy movement-spinny camera style that can be quite effective but does not help anything here. Also, that production design can only do so much, and this is where we get to the heart of it.
Unfortunately, where the film falls apart is that it is just bland. There is a vast tapestry that the film can draw from but not one moment in this film lived up to that. I am not sure if it is the story structure or the framing device, but in a movie like this, it is a real problem when the titular character is the dullest part of the film. Nothing about Artemis’ set up or development lands in any way, and as the credits rolled all I could think is that there has been a real missed opportunity here. Also, looking at the trailers after watching the film, you can tell there were whole story plots, and sections changed or cut before release, while this can work to bring the movie together, see Rogue One. However, here it feels symptomatic of the filmmakers not having a handle on the story at any point during the process.
In the end, do we recommend Artemis Fowl? Unfortunately not. If there is one word I could use to describe the film, it would be dull, and that is just a real shame. I think this is one of those films that needed some more work in the scripting phase, or maybe a movie was just not a suitable adaptation medium for the source material. Whatever the case, I would not waste your time with this film, especially if you are a fan of the books. If you did like the film perchance, I would recommend Stardust to you.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Artemis Fowl
Directed by – Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by – Conor McPherson & Hamish McColl
Based on – Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
Music by – Patrick Doyle
Cinematography by – Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by – Matthew Tucker
Production/Distribution Companies – Walt Disney Pictures, TriBeCa Productions, Marzano Films & Disney+
Starring – Ferdia Shaw, Colin Farrell, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Judi Dench, Hong Chau, Nikesh Patel, Joshua McGuire, Chi-Lin Nim, Adrian Scarborough, Vincenzo Nicoli, Conor MacNeill, Miranda Raison & Laurence Kinlan
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG