REVIEW: ‘Artemis Fowl’ Is An Atrocious Adaptation

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Artemus Fowl

Artemis Fowl, directed by Kenneth Branagh, is a Walt Disney Studios film based on the young adult novels by Eoin Colfer. When his father (Colin Farrell) is kidnapped, Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) learns of the hidden world of faeries and magic. He gathers a crew of unlikely allies; his bodyguard Butler (Nonso Anozie), Officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) of the L.E.P. Recon peacekeeping force, and the dwarven thief Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad). Artemis races against time to find a fairy artifact called the Aculous and save his father.

I remember being excited when Artemis Fowl was first announced. I was a huge fan of the book series and was eager to see what Branagh did with the source material. It turns out that my excitement was in vain as very little of what made the books special was represented on the screen.

One of the major problems lies with the titular character. Artemis in the books is extremely cunning and antisocial, only loosening up over the course of several books. Artemis in the film is presented as cunning and antisocial…with daddy issues since his father is always going on business trips. This strips Artemis of everything that makes him an intriguing protagonist. It’s almost as if Branagh and Disney were afraid to have a protagonist who was rough around the edges.

His motivation is also different; in the books, he wanted to steal gold from the Fairy People because it posed the biggest challenge of his criminal career. Here he only gets involved when his father is kidnapped, learning about the fairy people in the process. None of the faults lies with Shaw; he gives a solid performance, and there are flashes of the genius Artemis displayed in the books. He even has a genuinely heartwarming moment with his father at the end of the film.

The rest of the cast is fairly underutilized, particularly Judi Dench’s Commander Root. (To be fair, Cats remains the worst film she’s been associated with.) Gad’s Diggums, however, takes the largest role as he narrates the film’s events. On the one hand, he gets some genuinely hilarious lines, such as “Humans are afraid of gluten; how do you think they’d handle us?” On the other hand, it’s not a great sign when a supporting character has more screen time and more presence than your protagonist.

This mainly lies with Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl‘s screenplay; it seems as if the duo only took a glance at the novels and wrote it based on what they remember. Rather than a straight adaptation of the books, elements from the first two books have been spliced together. Character relationships are severely altered. For example, Artemis’ mother is dead in the film; in the books, she’s very much alive. I understand that an adaptation doesn’t have to be 100% translated from the page, but there’s a clear difference between adapting a book and completely straying from the core of the story. McPherson and McColl chose the latter.

Even more disappointing is Branagh’s direction. Branagh has a flair for the operatic, having directed Thor and Murder on The Orient Express. Here most of the action is regulated to Fowl Manor or the prison site where Diggums is held. Save for a time stopping shootout between Artemis, Butler, and the L.E.P. Recon forces, the action is sorely lacking as well.

Artemis Fowl is a dull adaptation that squanders the promise of its cast and bears little resemblance to the novels it’s based on. If Disney was hoping to start a new franchise, they’re out of luck this time. I highly recommend checking out the books instead, they’re far more entertaining and worth the investment.

Artemis Fowl is currently streaming on Disney+.


Artemis Fowl
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    Rating - 3/10
3/10

TL;DR

Artemis Fowl is a dull adaptation that squanders the promise of its cast and bears little resemblance to the novels it’s based on. If Disney was hoping to start a new franchise, they’re out of luck this time. I highly recommend checking out the books instead, they’re far more entertaining and worth the investment.