What Happened to Disney’s ‘Artemis Fowl’?

Published on June 17, 2020

What happened to Artemis Fowl? It’s a question that comes to mind more than a few times during the movie’s lethargic 90-minute running time. The Disney pic is based on a beloved YA series and directed by Kenneth Branagh, a good filmmaker with far better taste than what’s on display here. Months ago, Disney announced they’d release the adventure movie on Disney+ instead of in theaters, due to the coronavirus, but now, it looks like they knew they had a disaster on their hands and wanted to soften the blow.

Where to Start?

Almost every scene of Artemis Fowl is baffling. There’s a narration by Josh Gad, playing a big dwarf who eats and defecates dirt at one point, that halts every scene to a stop and doesn’t reveal much of importance. For a movie about a super boy genius and a world of fairies and magic, it’s a surprisingly convoluted story. 

Based on the series by Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl is a young mastermind. In the books, he’s a thief and more of a villain than hero, but in Disney’s movie, he’s been stripped of his nuance and anti-hero status. He’s a bland hero now. When Artemis’ dad (Colin Farrell) goes missing, all hell breaks loose and a fight ensues at the Fowl mansion with armed and flying ferries everywhere. Most of the movie is set in a mansion, which is deeply unsatisfying.

The Siege

There’s a whole world of magic and fairies, and yet, almost all of the story takes place in a big and flashy house? Apparently, that’s how things play out in the book, but in a movie, it’s uncinematic and uninteresting, at least how it’s presented here. There’s no excitement or wonder because we hardly ever see Artemis experience the magical world for himself. He’s just stuck at home before he gets pulled into events either too tedious to explain or too forgettable to remember, although all the choppy action involves a shiny gold MacGuffin that could change the world. 

Just a House?

Now, if the characters that occupied the Fowl house had any life to them, there’d be some excitement to Artemis Fowl. Every character, however, is painted with the broadest brush available or given nothing to do at all. Fowl’s mentor and protector, Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie), has a niece. Her name is Juliet (Tamara Smart). That’s it. Domovoi has a niece, she’s friendly with Artemis, and nothing else. It’s baffling and unfair to the actress playing her. Most of the characters, even Artemis Fowl himself, aren’t much better off. There’s a lot of action and CGI, next to zero character depth. 

What Villain? 

There’s a faceless villain driving Artemis Fowl. The villain’s true identity or motive is a mystery. He or she may have no more than ten minutes of screentime, in which he or she says gibberish as Colin Farrell, playing Artemis’ dad, is imprisoned by garish CGI. The main threat of the movie, the villain of it all, is even a confusing blank page. We could point to plenty that doesn’t add up in Artemis Fowl, but the villain is practically an extra in the movie. There’s so little sense of threat or danger throughout Artemis Fowl, especially because it looks fake.

A Consistent Eyesore

Disney spent over $100 million on Artemis Fowl, and it doesn’t show. The movie looks simultaneously cheap and expensive. It’s a world impossible to believe from the start because not for a second does it look real. Branagh is a filmmaker with a good eye, so the off-putting aesthetic of Artemis Fowl makes so little sense. 

There’s so little about this movie that screams Kenneth Branagh, even the performances. Anybody’s name could’ve been on it. Did Disney butcher it? Was 30 or 40 minutes cut out that provided actual character, drama, depth, and suspense? There will probably be worse movies than Artemis Fowl this year, but few movies that will be as head-scratching.

Jack Giroux is a Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is an entertainment journalist who's previously written for Thrillist, Slash Film, Film School Rejects, and The Film Stage.

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