Artemis Fowl is streaming now on Disney +
It has taken more than a few years for Eoin Colfer’s young criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl to make it to the silver screen, suffering numerous production problems, ranging from the fall of the Weinstein empire to Disney’s acquisition of Fox. Therefore the announcement that Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation was heading to Disney + was not only a surprise but, let’s be frank, a disappointment. Surely Artemis deserved a big screen outing, right? Wrong! Following the backlash at the long-awaited trailer earlier this year, Artemis has quietly arrived online, and it bares little relation to the books.
The result isn’t just a mess. It’s a bonfire of Eoin Colfer’s books. This is all the more confusing with Branagh at the helm, a director known for protecting literature in film. So what the hell went wrong? For me, the result smacks of studio intervention watering down the darkness of Colfer’s work for a kid’s audience. Here the screenplay, if you can call it that, attempts to stuff the first two books into 90-minutes, erasing the devilish charm of our pint-sized criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl played admirably by Ferdia Shaw. It’s important to say that Shaw holds no responsibility for the film’s failure.
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The problem lies with the adult cast, most of whom don’t seem to want to be there. Even national treasure Judi Dench’s gruff Commander Root displays the same boredom as the audience. However, there is one light in all the pervading darkness as Lara McDonnell’s ‘Holly Short’ shines in an ocean of woe; her presence engaging and bright among an otherwise lacklustre cast.
While it’s bad, Artemis Fowl is rescued slightly by some stunning design work and set-piece action scenes that lead you to ask further how the studio got it so wrong. However, these brief glimmers of potential are few and far between as Colfer’s characters are unceremoniously fed into a mincer with little care about the mess created at the other end. Ultimately Artemis Fowl falls foul of the same problem that dogged both Percy Jackson and The Golden Compass by removing core elements of the book in favour of quick, cash-rich action that lacks any emotional connection. However, where Percy Jackson offered good entertainment value despite its flaws, Artemis Fowl offers little to entice you to return.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Colin Farrell, Nonso Anozie