By Christian DiMartino
Wasn’t sure if anyone had made that joke about Kenneth Branagh’s disastrous Artemis Fowl, but it had to be done. By now, if interest in this film was expressed, it has since been retracted, because once the people saw it, they realized what trash it was. Now, I have finally seen it, and… yes. It’s bad.
Branagh is a talented actor and filmmaker, but one cannot help but wonder what he was thinking with Artemis Fowl. Perhaps he wasn’t. Artemis Fowl aspires to be so many things, and as a result, it hardly achieves a thing. A long, bizarre, often terrible but mostly just cluttered and confused 90 minutes, the final film feels as if the writers, cast, and crew skimmed the book, and included the stuff that stood out to them. Admittedly, I have not read the books. Yet this series has been around for about 20 years, and if someone has been eagerly awaiting for a satisfying film adaptation of it, well, they should probably just continue waiting.
To be perfectly honest, at about the 20 minute mark of this film, it occurred to me that I didn’t really have a clue what this film was about. Truth be told, I don’t think anyone did. So for my synopsis, I will turn to IMDb for help. Set in Ireland, Artemis Fowl tells the story of a child thief prodigy (I don’t know) with a world renowned father (Colin Farrell). Pops is kidnapped by a raspy voiced villain that never receives a proper introduction, or development of any form, and soon Artemis searches for a secret society of fairies in order to find him and save him.
Alright, so, where do I begin? Well to me this film suffers for the same reason that The Dark Tower did a few years ago, except somehow that was better. That problem being, they attempt to jam in so much material here that it never sticks. None of these characters, none of these worlds, none of these rules come anywhere near to coherence or development. The goal, I imagine, was to establish a universe and world-build. Yet it doesn’t exactly do either. They simply just throw stuff at you, as if they made it up as they went along. It also doesn’t help that, amidst this lack of world building, they give us half-dimensional characters… and they have the gall to try and add emotional arcs to them. Take, for example, a fairy that Artemis befriends. Not much is known about her, and Artemis barely knows her… and all of a sudden, she starts talking about her dead dad. No disrespect to the dead, but don’t try and force emotion on us, especially if it’s so lazily shoehorned in.
Its oblivious lack of development also doesn’t help in terms of the abilities of these characters. Take a fairy-ish character played by Josh Gad. He is sort of the storyteller here, and he himself forgot to mention that he can extend his jaw so then he can eat his way through the ground, with dirt literally flying out of his butt. I am not joking, dirt flies out of this man’s anus. It occurs, and it is never discussed again. Perhaps on paper, some of these ideas worked. Well, maybe not that one.
It also doesn’t help that the CGI here is pretty lackluster. Artemis Fowl was scheduled for a summer theatrical release date, but of course with COVID-19 that didn’t happen, hence why it was sent to Disney+. My guess is, they knew it was crap, and didn’t have faith in it, but anyways, seeing as this was to be a theatrical release, that means that it wasn’t just some Disney+ original made for chum-change. Oh no, they actually poured money into this… or, at least, they should have. There is barely a visual effects shot here that looks convincing. In 2000, I would have understood, but now? Not so much.
Also, can we talk about Judi Dench for a second? I love her, she’s a world-class talent and all that. I also heard a rumor a few years back that she was losing her eye-sight, which would make sense considering she starred in this and Cats back to back. I mean, watching either movie would certainly damage the retinas, but she also mustn’t be reading her scripts. Seriously, what the hell is she doing here? Dressed like a leprechaun Power Ranger and speaking in a raspy voice, Dench’s performance, like everyone else’s, doesn’t work, and she needs to strongly consider getting another agent.
Not a whole lot works, or sticks, in Artemis Fowl. Perhaps one-star is too kind, but there are worse movies out there. This is a terrible film with its fair share of awful moments, but it’s not as bad as it is jumbled. Somewhere along the way, this script must have been hacked to death. Or, maybe, that’s just what the people involved in this dud wished for.