Artemis Fowl

⭐⭐½ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: An empty mess with the occasional moment where the genius of the books briefly shines through. Lacklustre.


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I loved the Artemis Fowl books as a kid, but I can't say I was expecting much from the film adaptation. For starters, a lot of what made the books so great was the nuanced dissection of Irish folklore, something which I felt would probably be skipped over in a film. Then there was the Fae language, which gets to appear around the edges of the book pages, ensuring you're constantly reminded of the otherworldly nature of the fairies of this universe, but a trick that simply can't work on screen. Still, with Colin Farrell and Judie Dench cast, there was at least a little hope.

Unfortunately, that hope was largely unfounded. Farrell and Dench aside, there weren't any particularly stand-out performances here, though I did enjoy Nonso Anozie's "Butler" and actually felt Josh Gad did a fantastic job with Mulch Diggums, despite being given a weird double-role as the narrator (that just about worked as an ending device). For the most part, the cast are good enough but I did feel that it could have benefitted from some better casting for Artemis himself. That said, Artemis is the one character that feels betrayed by the film, with a lot of his genius removed in place of a kid that just misses his dad, even if we get a brief moment early on that shows he's incredibly intelligent. It's a shame and it leaves a fairly boring shell. Other characters like Holly and Foaly felt more like their book characters, but received too little screen time to give them their loveable quirks. Most notably, that meant no tin-foil hat for Foaly (boo!).

In fact, "too little screen time" is probably the motto of Artemis Fowl. By combining the first two books, they had to rush the introduction of every character, crowbar in fan-favourite moments as world-building, and generally just skipped over the magic of the books. In a doubly-odd move, they then chose to still include some characters whose roles were relegated to practically non-existent, giving our main cast even less space to breath. That was worst with Juliet, who was introduced and then did nothing for the entire film, before being left behind at the end. Why not just cut her altogether? And then there's the whole Briar Cudgeon subplot, but we don't have time to make him a likeable character and then reveal the twist of betrayal, so instead we're just told he's a double agent at the start and then sit back and wait for him to make his move. It's pointless and he cut have also been cut entirely at no loss to anything.

I think they were desperately trying to set up a sequel, but that's unlikely to ever happen, which just leaves a mess. It has some of the charm of the original and I did still enjoy the occasional reference to folklore and tradition, but even the world-building was too rushed to really have an impact. Devices were introduced only when they would be needed later (like the troll or the time-stopping technology) whilst big interesting bits of the books, such as the language, are just brushed aside. Artemis seemingly cracks the Fae writing in about two hours, even after admitting that it's "encrypted"...

CGI is a bit all over the place as well. The time effects are great and I quite liked the troll, but the goblins looked like they just reused old masks from Harry Potter whilst Foaly felt awkward and strange. I genuinely believe the Narnia franchise did centaurs better almost a decade ago. Again, the best part was Mulch's dislocating jaw, something I really didn't think they'd be able to pull off.

The final result is a film that clearly tried to do it right, but which was always battling a dumb decision to combine the first two books into one. It lacks the time it needs to breathe life into both the characters and the world, and leaves you with a fairly soulless set of action sequences with no emotional connections to anyone involved.

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