Directed By Kenneth Branagh
Starring – Ferdia Shaw, Colin Farrell, Josh Gad
The Plot – Based on the first two books in author Eoin Colfer wildly popular children’s fantasy series, the film tells the story of adolescent criminal genius Artemis (Shaw), who captures a vicious fairy, and attempts to harness her magical powers in a bid to rescue his family.
Rated PG for fantasy action/peril and some rude humor
– Aesthetic punch. “Artemis Fowl” is like taking a bite of a delicious looking cake, and finding out it’s nothing but excrement inside. With that said, it’s a visual appeal brought to life with a crisp, clean presentation seen through 4K cameras that solidifies its big screen appeal. The color coordination for the film is exotic, radiating with a near neon appeal that practically leaps from the screen in each frame similar to the vivid appeal of a comic book. On a flat screen television, this is a gorgeously transfixing film that visually intoxicates audiences to the fantastical elements of the action/adventure genre of children’s filmmaking, and even when Branagh loses grip of practically every other side of the movie’s filmmaking, the ambition seen through its entrancing visuals brings to life this fictional world of fantasy seamlessly, and markets a quality for Disney Plus that brings big screen appeal to a straight-to-streaming platform.
– Special effects. In addition to the visual circumference, which rivets, the computer generated properties are illustrated in a way that stretch believability for all of the right reasons. That might sound like a back-handed compliment, but the layers of artificial properties maintain great depth while stretching what we see to believe before our very eyes. Take something like Mulch’s jaw stretching wide. Something we the audience knows is physically impossible, but in the visual context of the movie feels synonymous with what’s possible, and solidifies that anything is possible in this world set in our own, yet one that feels so very distant from it. In addition to this, the wide angle landscape shots are beautifully presented, capturing the essence of Ireland, Haven City, and anywhere else exotic that “Artemis Fowl” steers us towards. It feels like a lot of this movie was filmed with a green-screen backdrop, but thanks to the advancements of computer generation, the line of divide between artificiality and reality seem closer than ever before, and make anything possible in a movie about elves and magic.
– Wooden deliveries. The performances in this film are horrendous, even for a child-majority ensemble. It starts and ends with Shaw, a young actor so void of emotional resonance or charisma that his deliveries immediately suck any interest that we or the film have in him. I say the latter because halfway through the movie the titular character feels like a supporting character in his own movie. Beyond Shaw, the work of Gad and a surprise turn by Judy Dench are equally as frustrating. I’ll give the former credit that his performance at least transforms him completely into another person, but he’s saddled with this Christian Bale Batman voice that does him, nor our ears, any favors in the subtlety department. Dench has the same problem, but hers is worse because she’s saddled with a wardrobe that brings back memories of John Travolta in “Battlefield Earth”. Dench struggles not only in the believability of what she’s saying, but also in the commitment to the gimmick, breaking vocal patterns quite frequently throughout the film. Between this and “Cats”, it’s been a rough year for the dame, and if I was her, I would fire my agent as soon as possible.
– Exposition pounded. “Artemis Fowl” is a film that feels like it has already taken place, and the events that are supposed to be riveting us with intrigue are reviewed by a storyteller narrator trying to recount every single aspect of the story. This narrator is Gad’s Mulch, a character who wasn’t present for most of what he’s foretelling, and one so blunt in his detailing exposition that he looks right at the camera and speaks to us the audience personally. Like I said, subtlety is not this movie’s strong suit. When the movie isn’t stopping every two minutes to explain some pointless detail of catch-up to us, it’s priming itself for sequelitis in the form of several teases for a movie that it will inevitably never receive. It reaches the point of frustration because of how little satisfaction in the narrative we actually receive here, and overall points to one of the sloppiest, most unimaginative levels of storytelling that I have seen in quite sometime.
– Completely boring. If a movie is so bad it’s good, it attains a level of unintentional entertainment that slightly elevates it from being one of the year’s worst. This is NOT that film, as almost immediately into the film, the movie’s framing device with an obvious narrator left me as uninterested as I’ve been this year. One would think that a 90 minute run time would help at this limitation, but when saddled with a protagonist with absolutely zero characterization, it almost makes time stand still, making the investment feel twice that because the script never catches an ounce of momentum. The movie knows this too, that’s why it becomes Holly’s movie when the script realizes her subplot is where the mystery and action is at. Speaking of action, it doesn’t appear until the 33 minute mark into the movie. Once it does appear, there’s no shortage of choppy editing or poorly depicted combat to hinder its possibilities, leaving us flat for the moments that should elevate the script into a whole different stratosphere.
– Alienating fans. As an adaptation, “Artemis Fowl” is sure to disrupt the peaceful existence that its dedicated fanbase has attained in a series of child novels. For one, character identities are changed dramatically. Not a big deal when you consider how progressive our film industry is moving towards a right direction. Even worse however, is this Frankenstein merging between the first two stories that makes up the screenplay for this movie. This will ultimately deem it limited for potential once the supposed sequels take shape. Beyond this, the tonal capacity from the novels are completely different, here serving a kid friendly atmosphere that at times even shows difficulty depicting peril. The books always preserved a hard edge for young adults that supplanted urgency and vulnerability simultaneously. Finally, the out-of-nowhere friendship between Artemis and Holly in the movie is nowhere to be seen in the book. In fact, their rivalry makes for some of the more cerebral moments of the series that not only prove both of their mental prowess, but also helps to flesh out their personalities in a way this screenplay never comes close to attaining.
– Offensive dialogue. As a descendent of Irish heritage, I can say that this movie can take itself completely to hell with its stereotypical puns. Irish characters give us great lines of dialogue like “Top O’ the morning to ya” and “Find me pot of gold”. These wouldn’t be a big deal if they weren’t executed with a serious and threatening condonation, but the writing here tells me they’ve seen one too many Lucky Charms commercials, and that Ireland (To them) is a place where Leprechauns frolic in the patches of cabbage. Speaking of Leprechauns, the elves in the film are called Lep-Re-Cons, as in recon missions. I can’t make this shit up. The dialogue also has a horrendous manner of repeating itself frequently, most noticeably in the pursuit of the Aculos, which is repeated no fewer than twenty four times in the film (I’m not kidding). When a character says it once, another character then has to use it in their sentence. It makes for a wicked drinking game sure to kill you in the movie’s first ten minutes if you’re not careful. Wait, maybe this should be in the positives section.
– One track mind. Most movies can successfully juggle as many as four different narratives simultaneously for the progression of the pacing and its characters. Unfortunately, “Artemis Fowl” drops the ball on even cohesively balancing dual narratives competently, which results in a few character absences from the camera for long periods of time. Artemis, the main character of the movie, disappears for nearly thirty minutes in the middle of this ninety minute story. It’s a problem if you want to learn more about him, or keep up with his conflict, or even have the young actor earn his damn paycheck. Other characters are less fortunate than even he is, being introduced to the movie with important notoriety that halts everything else to learn who they are and why they’re special, and then never showing them again. It makes me wonder how many deleted scenes are laying on the cutting room floor while we’re saddled with a movie with such attention deficit that it has to pause anything outside of the realm of audience attention.
– By the numbers. By this point, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that this movie lacks anything special to make it distinguishable. But the level of mundane in this screenplay is not only evidenced in its general outline, but also in the lack of depth to break conventions into making this not feel like the hundreds of better films of the genre that came before it. There’s a faceless villain with an undefined plan, a series of macguffins that are only there to stretch out the material to reach the minimum of run time requirements for a big screen presentation, a prize with no logic or explanation of why it’s important, and an ending so void of heft or satisfaction that it deems this inevitably forgettable. Perhaps it’s a good thing that Disney was afforded the ability to take this straight to its streaming platform, because there’s so little established to make this entertaining and unpredictable to kids that to see it on a big screen would lead to several inquiries by them of “When are we going home?”. It’s “Men in Black” meets “Spy Kids”, but without a single opportunity to express any other emotion but boredom.
– Floundering production aspects. If I haven’t already been kind enough to this film, I will now pick apart its post production qualities that a professional like Branagh should’ve stood up to. The A.D.R is obviously added once shooting wrapped, pointing towards an overabundance of off screen audible dialogue for Artemis that filled in the blanks to what was evidently missing. This could be another signal towards Shaw’s impeccable delivery, but that kid has already taken enough of a beating from me, so I’ll stop. In addition to the sketchy audio edits, the cinematography from Haris Zambarloukos is erratic at best, and straining at worst. As is especially the case during action sequences, Haris’ jerky movements of the camera depict things from the most polarizing angles, and make it a visual challenge to focus on a single object during sequences that look like establishing shots on speed.
My Grade: 2/10 or F-