The fantasy world created by Irish author Eoin Colfer gets a less than magical film adaptation. Artemis Fowl has a high production value, but fails to captivate in any meaningful way. The characters are clunky, poorly written, and devoid of chemistry. There’s no sense of wonder or intrigue to the storyline. The elements that made the children’s novels global bestsellers are sadly lacking. Artemis Fowl is a rare misfire from the venerable actor and director, Kenneth Branagh.
Authorities are stunned by the seemingly impossible thefts of priceless art artifacts and treasures. Clues from the crimes point to Ireland, and the home of reclusive art collector, Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell). As reporters circle the family estate, twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw), wonders why his absentee father is under suspicion. An unparalleled genius with little regard for anyone else’s opinions, Artemis Fowl II is thrust into a dangerous conflict. He quickly learns that the fables his father told him are true in this Disney+ adventure.
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Elves, dwarves, and all manner of creatures have lived hidden from humanity. LEPRecon, the Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance force, goes to great lengths to keep this magical society a secret. Artemis receives an ultimatum from a mysterious voice, his father’s life for a sacred Elven object with incredible powers. Artemis, his manservant Domovoi (Nonso Anozie), and LEPRecon officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) join forces to stop a sinister plot. An enemy with grand ambitions lurks in the shadows.
Artemis Fowl’s problems begin with the banal script. The film is plagued with horrendous dialogue. One-dimensional characters constantly introduce themselves and their intentions. Josh Gad, who co-stars as Mulch Diggums, a not so diminutive dwarf, also provides voice over narration throughout the story. It’s a lazy, uninteresting way to provide necessary exposition. The audience should never be spoon-fed details.
Artemis Fowl has a choppy feel that prevents traction. This is especially evident in the crucial second act. These pivotal development scenes fly by in a confusing blur. Characters are introduced with a stated specific purpose, then become obsolete by the end of the story. The antagonist bizarrely also suffers from this fate. We only understand a hint of their true intentions. This is done by design as a build up to future sequels; which works if the tentpole film is successful. That is certainly not the case here.
Artemis Fowl is supposed to be a boy criminal mastermind and anti-hero. Ferdia Shaw’s portrayal is too rigid. He’s arrogant and not much else. Shaw and the remaining ensemble cast are woefully underdeveloped. They have cardboard interactions. I won’t pin any acting shortfalls on a child. Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing, Thor) shoulders the blame as director and producer. His characters lack depth. They aren’t memorable, despite coming from a volume of rich source material. Branagh does not bridge the gap between page and screen. A disappointing outcome from a filmmaker who’s adapted Shakespeare to Cinderella brilliantly. Artemis Fowl is a production of Walt Disney Pictures. It will premiere June 12th on Disney+.
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Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.