It has taken nearly 20 years for Eoin Colfer’s young criminal mastermind ‘Artemis Fowl’ to make it to our screens. His arrival suffering numerous production problems, ranging from fall of the Weinstein empire to Disney’s acquisition of Fox. Therefore the announcement that Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation was heading to straight to Disney + was not a surprise. Especially after the critical backlash following the release of the long-awaited trailer earlier this year. Which only confirmed many fans worst nightmare; the film’s divergence from the source material.
However, the result is far more of a mess than even most critics had expected. With the film feeling both rushed and misguided as Eoin Colfer’s vision and depth are sidelined in favour of quick and simple action. Something all the more confusing when exploring the previous work of Branagh; a director known for prioritising characters over action in all but a few of his films.
However, many of the film’s problems can be traced back to a screenplay that attempts to stuff the first two books into 90-minutes. In turn, sacrificing any character development, in what can only be described as a quick, brash and dull adventure. The devilish charm of our pint-sized criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) quickly airbrushed out; replaced by an un-relatable poorly written clone. While Colin Farrell stares vacantly toward his next paycheque and Josh Gad’s maniacal ‘Hagrid’ narrates.
Meanwhile, if we thought things couldn’t get any worse for national treasure Judi Dench after the horror of Cats. We are sadly proved wrong, her gruff Commander Root showing the same level of boredom experienced by the audience. However, there is one light in all the pervading darkness as Lara McDonnell’s ‘Holly Short’ shines in a sea of woe; her presence both engaging and bright among an otherwise lacklustre cast.
Of course, it’s not all bad, with some delicious design work and moments of ‘what could have been’ in scenes where a troll gatecrashes a wedding party. But unfortunately these brief glimmers of potential are few and far between. Ultimately leaving the audience screaming in both despair and boredom. As Colfer’s characters are unceremoniously fed into a mincer with little care about the mess that comes out the other end. There is also an interesting dichotomy between the final film and the footage and style of its teaser trailer. Hinting at further editing before its arrival on Disney +.
Ultimately Artemis Fowl falls foul to 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 or dramatic gravitas. Ultimately treating its young adult audience as mere children when they deserve so much more. However, where Percy Jackson offered entertainment value and some solid performances, Artemis Fowl struggles to keep up. The temptation to switch off and doing something else gnawing at the brain after just 30 minutes. Therefore our advice is to read the book until something better comes along.
Director: Kenneth Branagh