The case of Artemis Fowl is a curious one. This is because of the time Disney has taken to come out with an adaptation of a book. Intended originally to be launched as a franchise in 2001, it has taken close to two decades for the film to release, and now that it’s here, you wish they had left the book alone. With the first two out of the eight-part fantasy novels written by Irish author Eoin Colfer getting crammed into a 90-minute-long film, Artemis Fowl turns out to be more an expensive world-building exercise instead of the origins story it should have been of a 12-year-old criminal mastermind.
On paper, it’s a straightforward story. Set in Ireland, the film’s protagonist, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), is a kid as smart as little Sheldon, minus the humour and the cold rationality, which means Artemis can believe in the stories of his father about the existence of fairies, trolls, and leprechauns. When Artemis’ father (Colin Farrell) gets kidnapped by an unknown pixie, it’s up to the kid to acquire an ancient artefact called Aculos and trade it for his life.
Despite sounding rather similar to the plot of Spy Kids, Artemis Fowl has a source material that paves the way for the transformation of the titular character from an obnoxious kid to an evil genius. But instead, we get a barrage of insignificant characters. There’s Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), an elven reconnaissance officer who does not obey the command of Commander Julius Root (Judi Dench, who still looks annoyed about last year’s dud, Cats). We have Dom Butler (Nonso Anozie), an Alfred-like servant who cries when he has to act. And what a particularly horrendous time to have a black character play a servant! Dom’s niece (Tamara Smart), who is Artemis’ best friend in the book, gets reduced to an extra.
The only saving grace is Mulch Diggums, a dwarf and a gentleman thief, who acts as the narrator. Shockingly, the film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who is known for tasteful adaptations of work like Hamlet, As You Like It and Cinderella. This film though is a far cry from the aforementioned illustrious attempts.
Platform: Disney+ Hotstar
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh