Best efforts can only carry you so far…
The often delayed Artemis Fowl has finally landed on the Disney+ Streaming Service and we see why. Despite the undeniable potential in the story, this is basically a trailer for a longer story as it fills in a gap for those who truly miss their Harry Potter/JK Rowling stories.
Disney’s Artemis Fowl, based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastical, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds as he desperately tries to save his father (Colin Farrell) who has been kidnapped. In order to pay his ransom, Artemis must infiltrate an ancient, underground civilization—the amazingly advanced world of fairies—and bring the kidnapper the Aculos, the fairies’ most powerful and coveted magical device. To locate the elusive object, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan—so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.
Artemis Fowl checks off quite a few boxes if you’re a hardcore fan of fantasy adventures in a young adult realm. It’s well made and looks great but we’ve ultimately seen this movie before (which is basically just a set up for future installments), it just brings nothing new to the table as we never really find a reason to connect to the film’s young lead and the grander story arc that it’s trying to get us excited for.
With Kenneth Branagh taking the directorial reigns the film certainly does have a solid look about it from top to bottom but it’s the script from writers Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl is fine but is rather more concern with setting up the larger story rather than trying to sell us on the standalone narrative of the introduction to these characters. Rather than trying to tell one story by author Eoin Colfer, this film is getting us ready for the idea that it’s going to tell them all and that really doesn’t work when the character development seems thin and everyone in the film is either not very likable or just incredibly underdeveloped as it seems like this entire universe is leaning on a lot of actors who just don’t have a ton of experience in a story that has obvious fantasy elements but is also trying to straddle some real world action elements. It’s very purposely not picking a lane and that really shows in its young leading man.
Young Ferdia Shaw goes from mildly smarmy to sort of likable during the course of the film as our title hero but it just isn’t enough right now. However I will grant that even Daniel Radcliffe really didn’t find his footing in the Harry Potter movies until the 3rd one so there may be room to grow as it’s only his first film, but for a debut outing it’s not what I’d call memorable.
That being said, Lara McDonnell as the fairy Holly Short was actually the stronger end of this young duo and works well as the plucky young upstart fairy who plays by her own rules. Otherwise the rest of the ensemble has a couple of familiar faces in Nonso Anozie, Josh Gad and Judi Dench but only Gad really gets a chance to make an impression as even Dench was just playing a fairly one dimensional figure head throughout it all. And oh yeah Colin Farrell is in it as Artemis Fowl Sr…but between you and me…I kind of forgot that he’s even in this movie in the first place but since the guy who wrote the book is Irish and so is Farrell, I guess he gets a paycheck.
The reality is that Artemis Fowl may have a chance to improve with age if they get to make other installments and adventures but this was ultimately a very limp origin story that didn’t really get us invested in any of the characters. It’s a perfectly fine diversion if you like your fantasy with a ‘Young Adult’ tinge to it, but it’s hardly bringing anything interesting to the table because we’ve pretty well seen all the beats in this story before.