Artemis Fowl was released direct to Disney+ on Friday, and thanks to my parents I was able to watch it with them on Saturday. The film is based on the book series of the same name, though the story seems to mash together several of the books in a way that both keeps it open for a sequel and also uses up most of the content that could’ve been in said sequel.
In the film, Artemis Fowl Sr. is kidnapped by un unknown source alluded to be a fairy, and tasks his son, (and main protagonist) Artemis Fowl Jr, with obtaining a powerful fairy artifact in exchange for his father’s life. We are then told that this artifact of immense power (and the one of the most important devices in fairy lore) has been missing for… a while, and the entire fairy military is looking for it around the clock. And then for some reason they send that entire military to deal with one 14-year-old holding a single fairy hostage.
The plot for this film is almost nonsensical, even if you have read the books. Many decisions and character moments in the film aren’t so much forced as they are illogical. Several items which take 2 or 3 books to setup are often completed within one short conversation, adding to a significant feeling of “tell, don’t show” within Artemis Fowl (which, if you know anything about storytelling, is the opposite of what is usually recommended). Most of the first 30 minutes is narrated, meaning that we’re told much of the setup of the film – and then given a brief bit of action to prove it – rather than shown examples of character traits and relationships. For example, in the first 5 minutes we’re told Artemis Fowl Jr. is a child genius, and given a brief example of him pointing out a “family heirloom” of a throwaway character is fake. The rest of the film expects you to believe he’s a genius, although many of his decisions to take on the fairy army are effectively “we’ll surprise them” and only work because the plot says so and the fairy army is (apparently) completely incompetent.
As a result of it’s “tell, don’t show” approach, the film feels incredibly rushed and still manages to get almost nothing done during its 2-hour run time. The film takes seconds to introduce the main characters, meaning you just have to take the narrators word for pretty much everything, and yet still has the time to have these obnoxious action scenes which don’t improve the audiences understanding beyond “oh, the fairies have good technology” which we’ve already been told multiple times! Speaking of action scenes, the few fight scenes which do happen in Artemis Fowl are atrocious. The camera jumps around constantly ensuring the audience have almost no idea what’s going on, making it feel like nobody ever really “gets hit”, and making many of the characters feel like an utter joke. Artemis Fowl Jr. is not a fighter, so having totally chaotic fights as part of his “genius plan” – plus the fact he beats several TOP MILITARY FAIRYS in hand-to-hand combat in one scene – completely undermines the point of his character, and makes the fairies seem utterly useless.
But the script is probably the worst thing about the entire film. Every other line in Artemis Fowl has been lifted from the “big book of film clichés” giving it this weird 90s parody film vibe in stark contrast to the setting. The script is incredibly generic, almost every line in this film (if you remove the word “fairy”) could be placed in almost any other film creating an air of amateurism and losing what little immersion the audience had. It’s as if they spent all the budget on CGI and Dame Judi Dench (why on Earth she agreed to be in this film is beyond my understanding), and skimped on everything else. Also, given how many “comedy” moments were in this film, there was exactly 1 “joke” which was appropriately set up – when the character who is a known pickpocket (one of the few examples of “show and tell” in the film) hands an important item to another character as they confusedly search their pockets for it. That’s it. It’s not even a great joke, it’s just the only one which qualifies as an actual joke.
The acting in this film is probably fine, but the script is so poor I never felt like any of the characters were real, and I fully expect most of the actors didn’t have their heart in the performance. I don’t want to judge the actors too harshly as a result, but I was suitably underwhelmed given the rest of the film.
Which brings me to my titular point, who the hell is the movie aimed at? It’s a kids film which kids wouldn’t understand; it has adult moments in there but it’s far too childish to be enjoyable; I’m don’t think it would make sense to someone who hasn’t read the books, but it’s even more confusing if you have! I can only conclude that this film is aimed at people like me, who read the books so long ago they’ve forgotten most of the details, and now have an internet blog which Disney are planning to use to get their name trending online for making such a poor movie. Or maybe this is a long-term plan where they can claim “See? Movies without cinema budgets are bad! So you should all pay to see films in cinemas because that’s the only way we can make loads of money. I mean good films, ignore the money thing.”
The only reason I felt I hadn’t completely wasted the 2 hours I spent watching Artemis Fowl was because I was watching it with my Dad, (who remembered far more about the books than I could) and we spent most of the 2 hours laughing at all the ways this film completely butchered the books.
- Cinematography – 3/10
- Plot – 1/10
- Acting – 4/10
- Script – 0/10
- Enjoyment* – 2/10
OVERALL – 2.0/10
*Enjoyment is a personal measure of how much I enjoyed the film, more of a “gut feeling” than the empirical approach I try to take with the other ratings.