Written by: Conor McPherson & Hamish McColl
Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell
Making a large studio movie typically requires many checks and balances throughout where things need to be approved. This happens aplenty at Disney as they attempt to control their brand and what each new release can do to impact it. With all this being said, it baffles me they allowed Artemis Fowl to be released under their banner seeing as it barely constitutes as a movie and proves to be a complete abomination.
12-year-old Irish prodigy, Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) has more smarts than he knows what to do with and when his father gets taken and gets framed for being a thief, he puts it to use. From the stories his father tells him, he learns about a secret fairy and mythical creature underground where he’s being held as all sides search for the most powerful item in the galaxy, the Aculos.
It takes effort to be as incoherent and terrible as Artemis Fowl because it reaches a level where I’m concerned for the people who put this together. The level of ineptitude displayed on-screen is truly shocking, especially when considering the budget and talent brought together to tell this story. Based on a very popular children’s book series, this movie had source material to work with, which makes it even more stunning how it could connect two coherent thoughts together. My best attempt at explaining what occurs in this film centers on the Aculos. Everyone’s on the search for it due to the power one can have if wielding it. The fairies want it for safekeeping, the evil faceless man who kidnaps Artemis’s father seeks it for evil purposes, and the protagonist wants it to use as a bargaining chip to get his father back. That’s as far as I can go to string together the mess this plot turns into as typically this would involve some sprawling adventure but this all takes place at Artemis’s house.
The whole story gets narrated by a dwarf, who faces discrimitation because he’s tall, portrayed by Josh Gad, which is a choice I guess. He’s doing this raspy voice as if he’s had far too many cigarettes in his life and begins to describe what the audience will see. The dwarf, Mulch, mentions the unquestionable smarts of Artemis and how nobody can dupe him only for the film to show none of it in action. All we receive is an arrogant kid living a luscious lifestyle who has been told stories as a kid about the magic of fairies. Artemis does nothing intelligent to justify all of the praise Mulch laid out for him and certainly not enough to explain his complete arrogance towards everyone. Then the fairies get introduced as a force ensuring the safety of mythical creatures and that humans never get suspicious about their existence. The main perspective of one elf appears in Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), who struggles with the legacy of her father. It appears both of the protagonists have issues with fathers, which is not a surprising turn for something under the Disney banner.
As the story progresses it just gets more and more incomprehensible as it goes along. So much occurs with little to context to the degree where rewind because necessary to make sure I did not miss an important detail. No, nothing was missed, the lack of substance and actual plot exists because of the incompetence of the story. By the time it got to the end, it felt like the story just began because nothing really happens in the 95-minute runtime. Things occur and characters suddenly get along but nothing of substance occurs because these characters apparently are waiting for the story to arrive and it never comes. It makes for the ultimate culmination of terribleness when it ends with the idea of there being a sequel to the story, which is beyond laughable.
Picking into what went wrong here feels futile because nothing positive can be found from the remnants of what was presented to the audience. For a movie as expensive as this one, the expectations of good visual effects should be the minimum, but it looks worse than most attempts from the 1990s. Judi Dench and Josh Gad had this terrible voice they attempted to do, which really only called to attention how they had nothing to do as characters. The poor young actor portraying the titular character had no chance with the material given to him, as he put on a putrid performance. All of this happening under the control of Kenneth Branagh makes it all the more frustrating because not only has he proven himself as a great director but he has also shown he knows how to operate under the Disney machine with the creation of the best thing this studio has made in the past decade in Cinderella. There must be more to what went wrong here because this final product is truly concerning.
The first film to a potential series needs to hook the audience for what can come in future installments. Artemis Fowl does the opposite in showing the lack of anything substantive with these characters, which leaves it in a place where it feels woefully incomplete and will never have the chance to finish the vision. They needed to make a good film that could be built on future installments but they went ahead and made one of the worst films Disney has ever made.