Initially scheduled to hit the cinema later this year, but thanks to the plague that has been 2020, it received the streaming gig instead. For once, I’m praying to the high heavens for that decision.
Based off of the popular teen book series, Artemis Fowl finally see’s its first screen appearance. A film that has been in the works in some capacity since the early 2000’s. Ironically, for a movie that has spent so much time trying to get out of production hell, it seems to want to get to the end as quickly as possible. Even with a runtime of 95 minutes though, it still manages to feel like a slog to finish.
The story isn’t stripped straight from the first book. In fact it’s sort of a culmination of the first two books (from what I’ve been told). Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) is a kid genius. He knows he’s leagues above anyone else when it comes to knowledge and he’s only 12 years old. To put it frankly, he’s an arrogant little know-it-all. After his father, Artemis Fowl I (Colin Farrell), mysteriously disappears, young Artemis with the help of his butler (Nonso Anozie), has to unearth all of his dad’s research into an ancient civilisation, to find a magical mcguffin known as the ‘Aculos’.
In order to find the whereabouts of this mysterious object he hatches a cunning plan. He kidnaps a fairy, Holly (Lara McDonnell) to hold as a bargaining chip. But they soon (coincidently) realise they have more in common than would appear, and join forces against the rest of the fairy world and Opal, a faceless entity who is holding Artemis’ father ransom.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor, Murder on the Orient Express), this kid friendly adaptation losses much of its steam in the opening ten minutes, and runs on empty for its duration. It spends a lot of its time (which it really doesn’t have much of) focused on some bizarre mystical, home invasion concept, that feels lifeless in the world it’s trying to create. A world of fairies, trolls, dwarves and elves feels more of a diversion for something far more grounded and underwhelming.
Artemis II isn’t necessarily a character you want to root for either, and uses its runtime to further highlight why we shouldn’t care as a result. This isn’t a fault of Ferdia Shaw, who puts in a fairly convincing performance, but more falls on the incompetence of its writers. More would be forgiven if this was a one-off chance, but the same can be said for the rest of the cast.
It seems Dame Judi Dench is severely paying for something terrible she must have done in a previous life. As if the ‘Cats’ gig seemed hard enough for her last year, Artemis Fowl does nothing to reinvigorate her career. Decked out in emerald coloured armour and a set of elf ears, she’s left shamefully blabbering out her lethargic lines with all the wholesome energy she has.
Stir Disney star child, Josh Gad, into the steam pot that is this movie and your biggest nightmares start to formulate. Gad dons his best ‘Jack Black doing Hagrid’ impression as Mulch Diggums. A giant dwarf with a rather unique ability that could only work in a kids book, and a weird, unexplained obsession with 80’s pop culture. Gad’s personal ability of earning the most jokes per script, whilst simultaneously sinking them is in full force.
For a film that seeps mythical potential, you’re left wondering where the magic is. A couple of decades in the film draft room, and an audacious budget which surpasses the $120mil mark, you find yourself scratching your head due to what little they have to show for it. Artemis Fowl will quickly fall into the void that we could only wish the rest of 2020 would.