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Artemis Fowl - Review (Disney+)

Artemis Fowl

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

DISNEY’S attempt to launch another lucrative film franchise falls flat on its face with Artemis Fowl, a surprisingly lifeless offering from director Kenneth Branagh that struggles on just about every level.

Based on the first in a series of eight fantasy novels written by Irish author Eoin Colfer, it’s clear to see that Artemis Fowl offers fertile movie material given its vast number of characters, rich world building potential and wider story arc.

But unlike, say, the Marvel Cinematic Universe or Star Wars, this first film lacks any real momentum and actually feels shackled by the fact it is clearly a first entry – a set-up with very little in the way of meaningful action. This is a shortcoming made all the more apparent when you consider that Colfer has described the first book in the series as “Die Hard with fairies”. In short, this comes nowhere close.

The story follows lead character Artemis Fowl (played by Ferdia Shaw), a 12-year-old genius, as he attempts to retrieve his kidnapped father (Colin Farrell) from a vengeful entity, while negotiating between the human world and the hitherto unknown fairy one.

A giant dwarf (Josh Gad) and a plucky fairy police officer (Lara McDonnell), desperate to clear her disgraced father’s name, may also prove key to his plans – as does a sought after item called the Aculos, which is being demanded by Fowl’s father’s abductor.

Also thrown into the mix, meanwhile, are Fowl’s trusted protector Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie) and a gruff Dame Judi Dench, as fairy commander Root.

Initially, given the vast array of characters and the two worlds on show, there is some intrigue in watching Artemis Fowl to see where things are heading. But while Branagh proved to be a safe pair of hands in setting up both the Thor franchise [for Marvel] and the Hercule Poirot series [for himself], the world of Artemis Fowl proves his undoing.

Firstly, the primary characters just aren’t that interesting. Fowl Jnr is a dull lead protagonist who mistakes genius for arrogance/petulance. He lacks the charisma to make him interesting.

But those around him struggle to contribute much either, save for perhaps McDonnell’s plucky fairy. Dame Judi feels largely miscast, her performance channelling unwanted memories of her association with another franchise bomb The Chronicles of Riddick, while Anozie’s Butler lacks the cool needed to make him more of a presence [something the trailer suggested he would be]. Farrell, meanwhile, is under-used, as is Opal Koboi, the main nemesis of the books, whose presence is unfairly muted.

Gad’s giant dwarf, on the other hand, attempts to inject some comedy and subversion into proceedings but – like most of the ensemble – struggles with the material and only intermittently entertains. Like so many of the characters, you feel there’s more to him in the novel[s] than the screenplay has allowed.

The set pieces, meanwhile, fail to deliver any real thrills either. The centre-piece is a showdown between Fowl, his allies and an ogre, but even this lacks any ingenuity or suspense. Unlike, say, Die Hard, there’s no sense of peril or fun.

Artemis Fowl instead feels like a workman-like slog… a first chapter of a story that may never now get told on the big screen. It’s easy to see why Disney was content to drop it from the theatrical release schedule in favour of Disney+, rather than out-waiting the coronavirus pandemic. A cinematic run could well have delivered a Fowl-smelling box office flop.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 95mins
UK Streaming Release Date: June 12, 2020

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