Going into Disney's Artemis Fowl, I had hoped that not reading the source material would work in the film's favor. Hoped that, perhaps, my proclivity for children's movies and young adult fare might grant it some grace. Thought that, maybe, my love for fantasy and lore intersecting with that of science would help gloss over any haphazard COVID-19 rush-jobs.
I was wrong.
Warning, some spoilers ahead!! Don't want to know what happens before you watch? Click away now!
He's a cranky boy.
The bottom line: Incredibly frustrating and not worth the time
Stuff that works
- Most of the costuming
- The majority of the set pieces
Stuff that absolutely doesn't
- Juliet's sole purpose is to bring people food
- There is no climax to the film
- Editing choices are haphazard at best
- An obvious franchise starter that never starts
Before we hop into all of that, let's take a quick second to break down the plot. Young Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) is an extremely smart and gifted boy with a penchant for science and respect for no one. Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) has a mysterious job that keeps him away all the time, but when he's at home he spends the hours teaching his son of the myths and legends of the fairy folk.
It's not long before Artmeis Fowl Sr. goes missing, and his young heir must solve the mystery of his disappearance. With the help of his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie), Artemis quickly discovers that the fairy world his father had been telling him about all these years is real. Artemis, Domovoi, and Domovoi's niece Juliet (Tamara Smart) get to work on how to rescue his father from the evil Opal (Hong Chau).
To do so, the three will pit themselves against the entirety of the fairy world by kidnapping the eager young fairy cop, Holly Short (Lara McDonnell). Despite Artemis and Holly's differences, the two will eventually have to work together to save their respective worlds before it's all said and done.
Doesn't sound so bad, right? A bit rudimentary, sure, but it is a children's story after all. Before we dive into where Artemis Fowl goes so, so wrong, let's take a look at what works. There aren't many set pieces in the film, but the Fowl Manor and the small glimpse we get of the fairy world are pretty cool. Some of the costuming's pretty neat, too! Yes, Josh Gad's costume might literally have been stolen off of Hagrid's body, but the rest is alright.
One paragraph and eight-five words are literally all the nice things I can muster about this film.
Here's the thing. There are plenty of allowances I'm willing to make for a children's film. For example, I don't care that Artemis and Domovoi immediately know how to use fairy tech, or that Holly's fairy … pod (?) plays human music despite the stringent separation laws between the two worlds. It doesn't even matter that Artemis starts trusting Holly with absolutely no reason. Kids' movies are allowed to do that!
What kids' (or any) movies aren't allowed to do is introduce a character like Juliet, a young Black girl, who literally does nothing other than bring people food in the film. We see her fencing in her introduction, and then her sole purpose in the story is to bring folks sandwiches. We know what year it is. We know that this kind of crap isn't acceptable anymore. Yet, there it is. In plain sight. In a major studio release.
Films, regardless of genre or age demographic, are also required to put forward a whole narrative. Artemis Fowl does not accomplish that. After they manage to rescue Artemis Sr. with the Aculos, the story just… stops. There's no final confrontation with Opal, we never hear from the traitorous Briar Cudgeon (Joshua McGuire) again, and the device that was noted throughout the entire film as too dangerous to return to the fairy folk gets returned to the them with no questions asked.
We've seen Disney play this game before with what they consider to be franchise starters. They use the opening film to build up intrigue so they can then launch a trilogy on top of it. Sometimes they manage to get away with it. Other times it's so egregious that it's hard to believe they'll ever be able to build a sequel on top of the nothing of a story they've put forward. Artemis Fowl falls into that second category.
It's astounding just how much of this film manages to be bafflingly frustrating. Josh Gad is clearly being directed to overact, resulting in exhausting monologues that are instead meant to inspire intrigue and excitement. Meanwhile, cuts in certain scenes are so haphazard that they almost make even Dame Judi Dench (portraying Commander Root) seem like a bad actress. Some of the lines she's forced to deliver are just hilariously bad. "Get the four-leaf clover out of here," and the unbearably absurd "top of the morning to ya," hop to mind.
The long and short of it is this: Artemis Fowl is free to Disney + subscribers. This is convenient, because that's about how much you should be paying to watch it.
If you've watched everything else in your queue
What if fairies had technology?
What if the fairies also had a centaur who inexplicably wears a kilt to cover the completely wrong part of his body? Because that's not how horse anatomy works? This obviously isn't a part of the review, but if there was anything that was going to intrigue you to check out of the film after all of these reviews, that felt like it would be it.
We may earn a commission for purchases using our links. Learn more.