Out tomorrow on Disney+ from Walt Disney Studios and director Kenneth Branagh is Artemis Fowl. This fantasy adventure from Irish author Eoin Colfer sees young Artemis Fowl (played by newcomer Ferdia Shaw) a genius in every meaning of the word have to use his incredible intellect to save his father (Colin Farrell) from supernatural forces that he himself has only just learned about.
Fowl by name fowl in design
Yes I know I got the tagline of the books wrong but at least I’m not the one in charge of bringing this character and world to the big screen and stupendously failing at it.
Artemis Fowl is without a doubt the worst film of 2020 and it comes from several major factors. First, there is the issue of the character of Artemis Fowl junior.
He’s described to us (in excruciating detail) as the smartest, most daring, most sinister child on Earth. Unfortunately, we see none of this in the film. We’re simply told this by Josh Gad’s giant dwarf character Mulch Diggums who is narrating the entire film. This is a terrible narrative choice, breaking one of the biggest rules in film, show don’t tell.
Artemis seems to be falling through each scene of this 93-minute magical mess trying desperately to look cool. Sadly young Ferdia is not up to the task of bringing this supposed miniature machiavellian villain to the big screen. His change in demeanour throughout each scene is baffling. One minute he’s questioning everything that he ever understood about the world almost going into a blind panic, in the next scene he’s as cool as the proverbial cucumber.
This brings me to my next issue, director Kenneth Branagh. Branagh has no clue what he wants his actors to do in this film. You’d think a man who directed the wonderful Cinderella remake and was a part of the legendary Harry Potter franchise would understand how to inject charm and genuine wonder into a live-action interpretation of a much-beloved staple in young fantasy.
Trying to tick every box but missing the mark every time
Then there is the magic system of Artemis Fowl. It makes no god damn sense. It seems like Elves are the only ones with magic but it can be turned off, Dwarves eat dirt and then poop it out to dig and Goblins are fireproof (the part about the Goblins is pretty cool because they show us what it looks like and from an aesthetic point of view it is fascinating).
There are no rules in this cinematic version of this fictional world so when all these ridiculous things are going on you don’t care because you don’t understand the stakes.
Characters are throwing out terms at lightning speed so before we even have a chance to take them in we are shown them in action and the majority of these elements look truly terrible. This is to yet another surprisingly serious issue with Artemis Fowl, the special effects.
Apart from the Goblins and their fire breathing there is nothing aesthetically pleasing in this film because everything looks generic and at times cheap. There is a magical ability to stop time in play twice in the film and when it is utilised in the final act of the film there are some seriously dodgy shots of elves flying around as well as a human fisherman falling off his boat in mid-air. It’s horrible.
And then you went and hammered in the final nail Artemis Fowl
For a film set in Ireland with several members of its cast hailing from our shores, this does not feel Irish. There are many words and phrases thrown around that try and make us feel like we’re home but all of it falls flat. One particular moment that had me scream “no” at the screen was Dame Judi Dench (a British actor) proclaim, “Top of the morning” when she entered a scene.
It’s worrying that within 6 months I have seen the celebrated actor possibly deliver the two worst performances of her career. Then there was the score. It felt more at home in Darby O’Gill and the Little People than anything contemporary and genuine.
I’m done now, I can’t write anymore about this film without reiterating the fact that this was a massive magical misfire.
Artemis Fowl could have been the next Harry Potter instead, it ended up like Eragon’s cinematic debut, but at least Eragon had dragons, I like dragons.
Tune in to Scannain for more news, reviews and interviews and please, please help me. I haven’t seen a good film in weeks.