Few things compare to seeing one of your favorite book series brought to life on the big screen. However, there are exceptions. Sometimes, a film adaptation misrepresents that book series for what it truly is. Even worse is when it alters things in such a way to make the film adaptation incomparable to the book itself. Unfortunately, that is what Artemis Fowl is.
Don’t get me wrong. The film is visually striking, with spectacular effects throughout. Not to mention, it does a fairly good job of showcasing the fairy world and how they operate. And while I would have loved to see more of it, the representation is fair to what is presented in Eoin Colfer’s book. But what this really represents – in the terms of film production, at least – is an attempt to draw more people in for more sequels. Artemis Fowl is the tease to draw a crowd into the hopes of building a universe, to build more sequels. The books are the perfect opportunity to build a new Harry Potter, which Disney has at their fingertips currently. And yet, they flounder most preposterously at.
Director Kenneth Branagh won my heart over with Murder on the Orient Express, but in this film, he fails to draw you in. The script is light at best and fails to delve into what makes Artemis Fowl great. Fowl is a teenaged supervillain, with deep pulls in that direction. But instead of showing his villainy, screenwriters Hamish McColl & Conor McPherson choose to diverge. They feared the portrayal immediately of Fowl as a supervillain would fail to draw people in, choosing to make the main character’s development lead to that. Except here, they’re digging with a spoon instead of a shovel.
The casting directors made amazing choices. Ferdia Shaw makes a great Artemis, and Lara McDonnell is Holly Short to a tee. They did choose to go in a different direction with Commander Root, casting Judi Dench instead of a male figure. Dench does a fantastic job, but it does affect Holly’s development, especially going back to the book. The swap the writers did to address this missing piece, doesn’t work quite as well. But McDonnell more than makes up for it. The only cast member I have an issue with is Josh Gad as Mulch Diggums. The man does not fit in this movie. Every other member is believable, but every time Gad is onscreen, it distracts from everything else happening.
Sure, this movie is intended for kids. But people have to give kids more credit. The reason Colfer’s novels work best is that they are intricate, and have plot lines more developed than most children’s books. Studios need to give more credit to the youth of today and realize that sometimes an anti-hero will work better in a story than a hero will. But not to mention the obvious, that the reason these books are so loved, is because of the adults of today. There is a finite balance that must be played, as more and more IPs come to the screen, whether small or big.
On the surface, Artemis Fowl might seem like a breezy family film. But once you dive deeper into its story development, it becomes clear that none of this works. Disney gambled trying to showcase the future for sequels, and as a result, it may have lost big on the next big youth-driven IP. – Katie Gilstrap
Artemis Fowl is now available on Disney+.
The film stars Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Colin Farrell, and Judi Dench.