By Marc S. Sanders
Why can’t Disney adapt a good book anymore? They massacred A Wrinkle In Time. Now they’ve taken a hatchet to Artemis Fowl, a Disney + byproduct that was shamelessly shelled out during the height of the pandemic.
There had to have been a more fleshed out, extended film here. Scenes are taped together with no bridge. All I can imagine is some suit insisted on cutting the guts out of director Kenneth Branagh’s film to ensure that its target kid audience would sit still, at least for 95 minutes. The same line of thinking had to have been applied to Ava Duvernay’s A Wrinkle In Time. Both films introduce characters that serve no purpose or make no sense. One character here shows up just to shout “Artemis!”
Speaking of the title character, what is he really? We are told by the narrator known as Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) that Artemis Jr (an uninteresting kid actor named Ferdia Shaw who must’ve gotten the part cuz he looks good with sunglasses) is one of the greatest twelve-year-old geniuses of all time. He literally has an answer for any question that comes his way. So we’re told! Fact is, all this kid does is shoot a laser gun and wear a black Tarantino suit and tie. Never once in this film did I see Artemis Fowl demonstrate any of his genius, mind bending abilities. He surfs in the ocean outside his Ireland mansion. Does that merit the aptitude of a genius?
Artemis Sr (Colin Farrell) is apparently believed to be a thief of rare, priceless collectibles. After telling his son about some tale involving fairies that live in an underworld, he is soon kidnapped. It is now up to Junior with his trusty butler (Nonso Anosi) to rescue him. This butler doesn’t measure up to Batman’s Alfred. All this butler does is introduce young Artemis to a basement he was never aware of. Mulch also explains that if you call him Butler, he’ll snap you in two. Too bad we never got to see that. (Why tell us, dammit????) Then….AND I AM GOING TO SPOIL THIS SURPRISE….he dies. Tears must flow of course, but all I ever thought of was that gee, I hardly knew this guy.
Artemis Jr must recover a MacGuffin called the “Auculus.” How many times must I hear the word Auculus in a span of an hour and a half? The Auculus. The Auculus. THE AUCULUS!!!!!! Enough already. The filmmakers must believe that the more you say it, well then the more important the Auculus must be. My question: WHAT IN THE HELL DOES THIS AUCULUS EVEN DO?????
Judi Dench is here but only for the purpose of wearing a green leather trench coat that appears to weigh her down and doing what I think is likely a terrible enunciation of an elderly Irish lady’s accent. She plays the General of the fairy army. Dench is awful in this role and appears as lost in the effects as I was. Half the time I didn’t know what was going on. All of the time Judi Dench didn’t know what was going on.
The one main fairy is Holly Short (Lara McDonald) sent on a mission to go to Artemis’ mansion. Once she gets there, I truly lost track of why she was there to begin with. However, she seemed to have more activities to do than the title character is ever given. Once again, the super genius Artemis just shoots a gun. Holly at least gets to fly around with her motorized wings; yes, this is a fairy with an engine to activate her wings.
Artemis Fowl is a gorgeous looking picture. The special CGI effects are truly dazzling to look at with incredible color, but only if I’m watching a fireworks display at Magic Kingdom. Within a story, I have no clue what purpose any of the visuals serve or what possible results could come of anything. Nothing is explained here; much like this Auculus I talked about earlier.
The culture of the film is a failure as well. We are shown that this story is rooted out of Ireland. Where’s the Irish inspiration though? There’s no sense of inspiring traditions to learn from or appreciate. The soundtrack is hardly Celtic. Truly criminal is casting a Jewish Josh Gad and an English Judi Dench. For authencity’s sake, couldn’t actual Irish talent have been used instead of terrible dialects from marquee names?
There had to be a better film here. I’m talking a 2 1/2 hour film with solid, interesting exposition with mystery and questions like the first Harry Potter film. Nothing is of any consequence or comprehension here. How could I be so lost with this film?
This is a pattern for Disney of late. They acquire the rights to some wonderful children’s stories and then just mix some kind of slop in a slow cooker. A Wrinkle In Time, John Carter, and now this dreck. I don’t understand though. If the studio is so committed to packing so much into Avengers and Star Wars movies then why can’t they do the same with its other properties? I promise that kids will sit engaged with a longer film if it’s constructed with care. I know it.
Artemis Fowl is a squandered opportunity. They had the beloved novel by Eoin Colfer to springboard off of, and I know, without even reading the book, that they disregarded almost everything that made this story so special. It couldn’t be more apparent.
Artemis Fowl is a textbook example of when Hollywood does a complete disservice to its author as well as its target audience. It’s a criminal adaptation. It’s a betrayal of the intelligence that kids really come equipped with. It’s a terrible violation of culture and it’s an awful, awful, awful film.