ARTEMIS FOWL Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Where to start? Artemis Fowl is a mess. A total mess. Review over. Thanks for reading. Y'all take care now.

What? You want more? You need me to justify that one-line bottle review? OK, then...

Have you ever read any of the Artemis Fowl books? Well, the Artemis Fowl film that has just debuted on Disney+ isn't like them, not really. It's a shame because the original source material by Eoin Colfer lends itself to an adaptation for the big screen, and indeed it wasn't long after the first book in the series was released, back in 2001, that a film was announced. However, it languished in development hell for the best part of two decades, which may be why when Disney eventually acquired the rights they approved the idea of dumping just about everything from the books, bar character names and general magical premise.

Big mistake. Huge.

What we have in Artemis Fowl is a film that will do nothing but upset fans of the source material. If you're familiar with the books or graphic novels then watching this will be like some kind of vague, muddled nightmare featuring obscure versions of the characters you know (at least the ones they haven't killed off for seemingly no reason). If you're entirely fresh to Artemis Fowl then this film will just confuse and alienate you from the book series thanks to it being borderline incoherent.

There's a gap in the market for a new series of children's fantasy films. What we could've had here was the launch of an 8-film series, adapting the books, spread out over the next decade, a la Harry Potter. Having someone behind the camera with the calibre of Kenneth Branagh should equate to a steady hand in guiding that all important first step to the screen, setting the tone for what is to come. Unfortunately it seems that it was Branagh's creative choice to change so much of the source material and veer the characters so very far away from their literary equivalent. In doing the rounds whilst promoting the film, Branagh eluded to the changes being made as he felt cinema audiences wouldn't necessarily connect or accept the book-Artemis as he is on the pages of the novels from the get-go. You'd think that 25 million book sales would convince him otherwise so I'm really not sure why he made this decision (and, bizarrely, Colfer approved?) as it hasn't helped one bit. In literally no areas is it an improvement.

Plot wise, 12 year old Artemis Fowl II finds himself in an epic battle against a race of powerful underground fairies who may be behind his father's disappearance. There's a potentially exciting story story there, but the screenplay by Connor McPherson & Hamish McColl is a convoluted one which is messy and struggles to connect with its audience throughout. I'm not sure if the confusion is down to the final edit. I'd guess not, but at 93 minutes it's surprisingly short for what was originally intended to be a Summer blockbuster. Mind you, those 93 minutes really drag so it feels a hell of a lot longer than it is.

It's always very difficult to be critical when you have child, or young person, actors. Suffice to say, because of the changes to his personality and dumping of his general story arc, newcomer Ferdia Shaw does the best he can with his role as protagonist Artemis Fowl II. It's not great, but then he's not been given the real Artemis Fowl character to work with. He's supposed to be more like a junior Bond villain from the off, a criminal mastermind working toward redemption, but the movie Artemis is more high-functioning sociopath than anything. A kind of Cumberbatch-Holmes in child clothing and without the charm.

All of the named talent on screen can take the hit, Artemis Fowl is a mere blip on their resumes, but that's beside the point. I'm not blaming them for the lines and characters (with personalities loosely based on the source material) they were given, but their performances are not good. Colin Farrell, as Artemis Fowl I, phones his performance in with an air of uncertainty about what it is he's actually doing (I couldn't tell you either Colin). Judy Dench is damn lucky she long ago reached the status of national treasure otherwise the one-two punch of this and Cats would have her black-listed. Here she has a weird Irish accent (I think it's supposed to be Irish, could be Cornish, perhaps?) and a look of utter despair (possibly caused by agreeing to be in the film and/or listening to her accent on playback). Josh Gad comes off the best of the three star names, although he seems to have taken the Harry Potter comparisons to heart and dressed as Hagrid for Halloween this year. He also often over delivers his lines, especially during his interrogation scenes and narration when it's as if he's trying out for amateur panto time.

Oddly, the one character who actually connects, even though her story is as equally messy as the rest of the screenplay, is Lara McDonnell as Holly Short, and she was at the centre of whitewashing allegations being that in the book her character, an 84-year old elven reconnaissance officer, is described as having dark nut-brown skin of a coffee complexion. McDonnell's character is central to the one quite visually impressive scene in the whole film; when a monstrous troll attacks an Italian wedding and time is frozen. Aside from that, like the characteristics, the visuals are equally lacking spark.

Along with the casting controversies, you've probably read of the troubled production Artemis Fowl has had, and it's postponement from opening in cinemas last Summer to this May to eventually debuting on Disney+ last weekend. No doubt Disney would have you believe that it's all to do with the Coronavirus pandemic and the shuttering of theatres. Nah, I think they knew they had a turkey here, otherwise they'd have waited for social distancing measures to have been relaxed and tried to reclaim some of their $125 million back. Dumping it on Disney+ is essentially saying "we messed this one up and knew it wouldn't make its money back, but as it's included within your monthly subscription you're more likely to watch it".

Do yourself a favour. Don't bother.

The big loser of Artemis Fowl is not the audience (after all it is essentially a free addition to Disney+, and I can't see a scenario where this is what sparks someone to subscribe for the service), rather Eoin Colfer who thanks to this rare miss from Branagh is unlikely to see his creation return to the screen anytime soon, or even attract a new audience to his far superior YA source material if they only have this mess of a movie to go on.

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