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“Artemis Fowl” Is A Foul Effort From Kenneth Branagh

I’m sure there must be some appeal to the Artemis Fowl book series that serves as the basis for this film adaptation of the same name. However, whatever might be there is certainly not translated to the movie. Artemis Fowl is something both bizarre and bland, boring while also being deeply strange. What could have been a fun and somewhat different kind of blockbuster for kids is instead just a big ugly mess. Pulled from a handful of different dates on the calendar over the last two years, it’s now being dumped on Disney Plus tomorrow, saving it from the box office failure that was undoubtedly in its future.

The movie is a fantasy adventure, based on two of the first books in the Artemis Fowl franchise. I’ll keep the synopsis brief, since it frankly doesn’t make any sense, anyhow. Here, we’re introduced to Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) a boy genius and son of the mysterious Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell). When the latter disappears under mysterious circumstances, the former begins to learn that many of the fairy tales and stories he’s been told as a lad are, in fact, based in truth. Finding out that his father is in danger, Artemis quickly morphs into a criminal genius, plotting to steal a MacGuffin and capture a fairy, all in a plot to save the day and be reunited with his father. The less said about it, the better, especially when we meet the characters played by Judi Dench (doing a voice that will make you cringe) and Josh Gad (also doing a terrible voice, but also doing something with dirt you’ll wish you could unsee). Kenneth Branagh directs a screenplay by Hamish McColl and Conor McPherson, based on Eoin Colfer’s novels. Supporting players include Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, and more. Haris Zambarloukos handles the cinematography, while Patrick Doyle composes the music.

It’s impossible to tell what Kenneth Branagh saw in this material. Disney clearly was hoping for a gigantic tentpole franchise, their own Harry Potter series, for example. That’s not going to be the case here. There’s almost zero chance it’s going to get a sequel. Branagh appears in over his head, both disinterested and flabbergasted by what’s going on. That extends down to the cast, who are overwhelmed by the nonsense (like Ferdia Shaw), or actively contributing strange choices that don’t work (like Judi Dench and Josh Gad). Branagh attempts to give some of the set pieces some scale, but whatever visual flair he attempts, it’s never effective. As off track as he is, writers Hamish McColl and Conor McPherson likely deserve even more blame, as they’ve taken what’s supposedly a well liked literary character and made him completely bland. Apparently, Artemis starts out in the novels more of a bad boy and softens over time. Here, he’s just a boy genius with absolutely no personality. It never works, not from moment one.

Artemis Fowl is one of the worst films of the year, and that’s coming from someone who had no ill will towards the project. Plenty of fans of the book franchise had been up in arms over changes already, so it’s unlikely that this will meet a loving crowd upon release. You can almost see what everyone was going for if you squint, a science fiction and fantasy mishmash that kids would delight in. Unfortunately, no one involved knew how to achieve that, so you simply get junk, instead. What might have been a flagship new property instead is a one and done that will be quickly forgotten about.

Tomorrow, fans of the book series will see for themselves if Artemis Fowl is still a worthwhile experience when it drops on Disney Plus. Judging by some of the bad early buzz among lovers of the novels, there may be as much hate watching as anything else. Unfortunately, when you get right down to it, this is just a bad flick, one that’s likely to end up on a number of 2020 Worst Lists. It’ll be shielded somewhat by its Disney Plus platform, but no matter how you slice it, this is just not quality entertainment, in the slightest.

Artemis Fowl will be amiable on Disney Plus tomorrow.

(Photos courtesy of Disney)

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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