Walt Disney Studios
Written by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell and Judi Dench
Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old genius and descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds. He soon finds himself in an epic battle against a race of powerful underground fairies who may be behind his father’s disappearance.
Artemis Fowl is the first film in a new series from Disney and everything about the plot and characters wants you to know that. The film is based on a popular series of young adult books and the film version begins with the conceit that the viewer has either already read the series or, if you haven’t, that the movie can fill you in with constant exposition.
The conceits of the film continue into the plot. Artemis is a watered down character with no edge, no real presence and limited personality. The fact that everyone in the film has to talk him up as being a criminal genius is a problem because nothing that establishes the character or gives him an arc to build is seen. We’re told (through exposition) that he’s smart, but we never see him work anything out using his intellect. Things just happen and they’re chalked up to how smart he is.
Almost everything that happens in the film screams for explanation and context. Artemis’ father is outed as a antiques thief (Why?). Artemis’ father is kidnapped by an unseen villain (How?). Artemis’ father is given the Aculos by Beechwood Short to keep safe (Why?). Artemis has to kidnap a fairy to force the other fairies to lay siege to his home in order to get them to find the Aculos (Why?). The immediacy of the plot is its biggest weakness because all of it screams to the viewer that they are watching the first part of a series and you shouldn’t get too invested because the stakes a relatively low.
The action scenes are very well done, especially the siege of Fowl Manor. Unfortunately, that scene can’t help a plot that seems more interested in getting to the next thing than either crafting a story or taking the viewer on a journey. Ultimately, Artemis Fowl fails as a movie because it takes too much of its runtime trying to setup a series.