Artemis Fowl (2020)

Artemis Fowl
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer: Hamish McColl, Conor McPherson
Based on: Eoin Colfer‘s novel
Cast: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Josh Gad, Nikesh Patel, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench
Seen on: 14.10.2022

Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) may only be 12 years old, but he is also very smart and when his father (Colin Farrell) goes missing, it’s Artemis who gets the ransom call. What the kidnappers want isn’t money, but a magical artefact. Quickly Artemis has to come to grips with the fact that the stories his father told him about fairies weren’t made up at all, but preparing him for actual interaction with them. Now Artemis has three days to figure out where his father hid the Aculos and how to get help from the fairy realm to actually get him back.

Artemis Fowl was pretty horrible, I’m afraid. It feels much longer than it is thanks to a plot that is both barely present and overwrought and a generally bland feeling.

The film poster showing Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) sitting in an arm chair, his fingers stapled, wearing a suit and sunglasses. Next to him is a giant shiny acorn in a special container.

I read the first novel in the Artemis Fowl series a very long time ago and I remember quite liking it, though I am uncertain whether I continued the series past the first one. In any case, as I watched the film, I kept wondering whether I remembered things so little of the book or if there was simply nothing left of it in the film, apart from a couple of names and the fact that fairies exist in this world. I’m afraid that the latter is true, though. If you’re looking for a faithful adaptation of the book, you will have to keep looking. Not even Artemis feels like Artemis here.

But given that it’s been almost 20 years since I read the book and I’m not what you could call a superfan of it, I wouldn’t have minded if the film had given us a fresh take on the series – if it had been a good one. But unfortunately what we got felt utterly drained of anything creative. As so often is the case with movies aimed at children foremost, it felt soulless, like the people who made it don’t really care.

Dom Butler (Nonso Anozie), Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) and Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) standing next to each other.

And so the film actually ends up squandering both Judi Dench and Colin Farrell, and that is quite an achievement but not in a good way. Plus, I was incredibly uncomfortable that they cast Anozie, a Black man, in the role of the white family’s servant (in fact, the only Black character apart from his niece). Definitely not the right way to do a “colorblind” casting – especially when you end up with an almost exclusively white cast that way.

I could hardly believed that the film was only about 90 minutes long. It feels more like two hours. And not just two hours, but two hours of exposition for a series that is never going to come, as told by an excited 10-year-old who keeps forgetting important things and then has to backtrack to explain something even though they only remember the highlights of the story and not the stuff in-between. You know, the stuff that makes us care for the characters and what happens to them. Instead of wondering about that, I kept wondering what had happened to the film.

Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) wearing sunglasses, standing in a completely messed up entry hall.

Summarizing: stick with the books.

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