Review by Dan Skip Allen
The young adult genre has only been around for about twenty or so years. Kicked off by the witches and wizards in the Harry Potter films, a series of very successful book-to-screen adaptations, the genre has had some highs — The Hunger Games and Twilight Franchises, among others — but also a few lows — like the Divergent and Maze Runner trilogies. It's safe to say this genre has been all over the map over the last twenty years. Artemis Fowl is the latest attempt to capitalize on the genre and it's from the house of mouse.
When the news hit that Disney had bought the rights to the popular young adult book series from Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl, people were excited but very hesitant. This was going to be a huge undertaking, to say the least. They chose an established director who has worked in worlds of fantasy mixed with real-life before with Thor in 2011. Artemis Fowl has a similar mix of a fairy world and the house and grounds off of the coast of Ireland of Artemis Fowl. Real people being mixed with fairies, trolls, and dwarves is not going to be easy to accomplish by anybody's standards. If anybody could do it, it would be Kenneth Branagh.
Eoin Colfer created a very magical world different than most young adult adaptations. The Percy Jackson and Harry Potter films are the closest to resemble what he has done, but they aren't close in scope. Similar to the first book, the first and probably last movie, falls into the same trap: they try to introduce too much too soon. The viewer hardly gets to know the lead characters before they are thrust into this fantasy world they know nothing about. Characters are introduced so fast you can't catch your breath before the story and movie moves on. That being said the film is a little convoluted at times, even to the point of being hard to follow. For those who didn't read the book, I can imagine they were pretty lost moving forward.
Branagh assembled a pretty good cast of established supporting actors such as Colin Ferrell, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, and Nonso Anozie. That said, real stars of the film are Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, and Tamara Smart. The cast is not the problem with this film, though. They do the best they can with this difficult dialogue and script. The script is pretty closely adopted by a handful of writers.
With Branagh's experience with melding real-world aesthetics with fantasy worlds, he accomplished the impossible of creating the fairy world of Haven City. It looks amazing. Having the fantasy aspects not come out right would have been a fail right off the bat. Like the acting, the visuals were not the problem with the film. Flying fairies, tunneling Mulch Diggums, trolls, and time warps all look very authentic. The film succeeds in placing the viewer in the world Eoin Colfer created very effectively.
Besides the script adapted from the source material, the real problem with this movie is as a viewer you're not invested in these characters enough to care about them. Even having read the book I wasn't invested in them at the end of it either. Why should the movie be any different?
Branagh rushes the story along so as to not get to know the leads very much. The children actors aren't anybody I've seen before so I didn't care about them very much. The biggest mistake is that Artemis Fowl is billed as this criminal genius and I didn't believe for one second he was evil. They don't establish that very much in the movie except for a little dialogue at the end of the film. These kids were good in the movie, but I cared more about what the established stars characters were doing and not the leads of the film. I didn't go in with high hopes and I still came out disappointed.
Artemis Fowl is now streaming on Disney+.