Released: 12th June
Seen: 16th June
In 2001, Eoin Colfer released Artemis Fowl which was the first in a series of eight novels surrounding the adventures of the titular Artemis as he fights fairies, tries to save his father and… uh… do his taxes? I’ll be honest, I never read the Artemis Fowl book series as around that time I was just getting into the Harry Potter series (Yes, I’m aware that I bet on the wrong horse there. Sure Harry Potter had a good run of movies but… well, now I have to deal with liking the work of a transphobe so the Artemis Fowl fans won this in the long run) and didn’t have time for another book series about a 12-year-old in a battle with fantastical creatures stories, When I heard there was going to be a film of Artemis Fowl released this year I was mostly just happy to see Disney making a film that wasn’t just a remake of their earlier work. Then the apocalypse happened and Disney seemed almost eager to move this film to their streaming service… and having seen it, I can see why because oh god this one isn’t good.
Artemis Fowl follows the young Artemis as he learns of his father’s disappearance and is tasked with finding an item called the Aculos in order to get his father back. As part of his very convoluted plan to get the Aculos, he ends up kidnapping a fairy which makes the other fairies very very upset and so they descend upon the Fowl manor to get back their fellow Fairy. This will be our big climactic battle for the movie that will also introduce a giant dwarf named Mulch Diggims who will also act as a narrator whenever this film can be bothered to explain what the hell it’s doing.
This film just doesn’t work at all. Maybe if you read the books you might understand what’s happening, but all indications I’ve seen tell me that they don’t even follow the book that well. Just as a basic film it doesn’t work, the visuals aren’t in any way interesting and it just had me either unsure of what was going on or uninterested in what was happening. There are no wild creative moments where the imagery matches the spectacle they’re implying, it’s all so bland and basic in all aspects as a visual story. The big effect is the “Time Freeze” that the fairies use in order to go in and out of somewhere without being spotted and they do nothing visually interesting with that. When you have a film filled with magic, I should at least have a mild sense of awe and wonder, instead of just wondering why I’m spending my time watching this.
It’s not aided by the performances which are just bad by everyone involved. I almost want to give the Ferdia Shaw a pass since he is only 12 but… he’s also playing the title character and he’s playing him like he has no emotions of any kind. The character we’re presented with isn’t remotely interesting or likable, he’s just a blank canvas who keeps seeming to say his lines off camera on regular enough occasions that I have to wonder if it’s just bad editing or if there was that much ADR needed to somehow make this film work. Then there’s Josh Gad and Judi Dench who I know for a fact are better actors than this but both of them have made horrible choices here. They both sound like they need a butter menthol to soothe their throats, Judi Dench is almost phoning everything in and Gad is mugging to the camera every chance he can get and he is given a lot of chances because the film inexplicably decides to make him do narration while in black and white. There’s no reason for this, none, it’s just a bad decision on the part of the filmmakers.
Bad decisions seem to be a running motif because the script has clearly been hacked to pieces in order to get everything down to under 90 minutes. We’re told repeatedly that Artemis is a Criminal Mastermind but it’s never shown to us why we should believe that. He never does anything that anyone would really consider a crime, let alone anything mastermindish. He has one scene where he points out that a chair a therapist is sitting in is a fake, was that meant to tell me he’s a criminal mastermind cos… no? That’s not how you get that piece of information out to the audience. You do it by showing him actually doing some kind of crime and being really good at it, but they never do that. It’s almost like you’re meant to know it because you read the books, except I didn’t read the books so that bit of knowledge won’t be there for me and also if you need supplementary material in order to understand a film then the film is bad and it should feel bad!
Do you want to know what film kept popping up in the back of my head as I watched this film? Dolittle, that Robert Downey Jr trainwreck from earlier in the year. Bad character choices, awful writing that both require you to know the source material while also seemingly ignoring it, bad CGI effects. The only difference they had for the longest time was that I didn’t see any jokes about butts in Artemis Fowl and then Josh Gad made his mouth super big and started eating dirt that then shot out of his ass… so yeah, Artemis Fowl is as bad as Dolittle, because why even bother trying to make a good kids film when you can just shovel garbage in their faces and they’ll watch it because they’re stupid children who don’t have standards. This is pathetic even by Disney standards, and considering this was something I looked forward to after the trilogy of awful remakes from last year… I just can’t have nice things, can I?