On their many walks, Artemis Fowl is told stories of the fairy world by his father, but when his father gets kidnapped, Artemis is forced into a quest that brings to life what he thought were just fairy tales. Discovering that the kidnap is associated with the (very real) fairy world and its prized possession, the Aculos, Artemis takes on many-a-fairytale creature to get his dad back.
With a compelling young cast and arresting visuals, Kenneth Branagh has brought a stylish and imaginative world to life. However, where the film falls is with its confusing plot and meandering tones. A lot of the film’s actions are either not explained or don’t make sense. To get his dad back, Artemis and his henchman, Domovoi Butler, decide to, for some reason, imprison the fairy, Holly Short (Lara McDonnell).
Then to rescue Short, the fairy commander Root (Judi Dench with a couple of zinger one-liners) decides to rescue her with an entire army. However, seeing as this is a story about magical creatures, the magical creatures don’t use much magic. Instead, they rely on technology that is apparently terrible (the rescue effort is a struggle even against a couple of humans).
The fairy world, too, is not nearly explored enough – Artemis may apparently know absolutely everything about them but the viewer doesn’t. Myths and rules are barely explained and we end up spending more time in the human world, which seems like a waste.
The film is framed by a story told by the giant dwarf Mulch Diggums (speaking to a British Intelligence Officer – we’re never told why) played by Josh Gad, who gets a couple of good moments but is relatively underused. So too is Colin Farrell as Artemis’ dad and Tamara Smart as Butler’s niece Juliet – all great but barely used to full effect.
Based on the books by Eoin Colfer which depicts Artemis as an unrepentant criminal mastermind anti-hero, this adaptation depicts him as a kind of spoilt boy genius. Ferdia Shaw is fine in the role but the character is rendered pretty unlikable due to this change. Which is unfortunate in a protagonist.
Without a cohesive plot or danger (the antagonist is barely seen and doesn’t feel like a real threat), Artemis Fowl runs along without any real thrill (the emotions will likely be of confusion or frustration). Viewers may perk up at a Dench line or a good looking sequence here and there but that’s not enough to maintain interest.
Artemis Fowl is available on Disney+ now.