Artemis Fowl Jun 16, 2020 12:14:40 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Jun 16, 2020 12:14:40 GMT -5
Artemis Fowl (2020)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
While Disney was scrambling to salvage a theatrical release for Mulan, Black Widow, and Jungle Cruise in lieu of a pandemic, it's no wonder why they ignominiously dumped Artemis Fowl onto Disney+. Yet another property 15 years too late to the big screen, Eoin Colfer's beloved book series is shamefully lobotomized into a mess of worldbuilding only lacking a stamped guarantee it'll greatly disappoint patient fans and invite few others into the series' mystique. What it all amounts to is an origins story from a character we'll never see on screen again.
The film is narrated by a dirty, bearded Josh Gad, dawning Hagrid cosplay, providing so much exposition you're led to believe a great deal of the project was severed in post-production. Gad plays Mulch Diggums, a dwarf who is shunned from his community for being significantly taller than his kin. Gad's striking resemblance to Hagrid personifies the problem many Artemis Fowl loyalists will have with the film; it tries too hard to be comparable to the Harry Potter universe. We're plunged into a subterranean world where magical creatures exist but operate in secrecy due to fear of human retaliation. The exposition-heavy opening minutes zip by and leave us questioning a lot by the time we're introduced to Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell) and his son Artemis Fowl II (newcomer Ferdia Shaw, grandson of Robert).
Fowl's father is an antiquities dealer with a suspiciously large amount of priceless treasures from museums all over the world, who hopes to pass down the knowledge to his already prodigious 12-year-old son, a self-proclaimed "criminal mastermind." The younger Fowl was a European chess champion when he was only seven, won an architecture competition to build the Dublin opera house when he was nine, and effectively cloned a sheep at ten. He doesn't necessarily buy his father's constant bloviating about fairies and goblins until his father disappears, kidnapped by a strange cloaked figure that looks like a strange amalgam between Severus Snape and Emperor Palpatine. For the safe return of Fowl's father, Opal Koboi (voiced by Hong Chau, who was terrific in this year's Driveways) wants a classic movie MacGuffin in the form of an artifact that prompts junior to reckon with the fact that his father was telling the truth all these years.
The film unevenly shifts back and forth between the Fowl mansion, where Fowl II, a young fairy named Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), and the family bodyguard/servant (Nonso Anozie) race aimlessly to protect their headquarters, and this underground fairy world led by Commander Julius Root, played by Judi Dench, who will soon have to go on an extended apology tour following this and the reviled Cats.
Lost in this should-be YA franchise-starter is coherence. Revisiting the film's trailer from 2018 suggests a vastly different product was envisioned for release, one that would actually show Chau (whose physical presence is removed from the film entirely) and offer more in the way of commentary as opposed to a shoddy juxtaposition of worlds. But this is what happens when a film lingers in development hell for nearly two decades — the rights to an Artemis Fowl film adaptation were acquired in 2001 — and is then given a budget of $125 million despite a studio still having no clear idea how to handle the material.
It's true that since The Hunger Games concluded its original cinematic "trilogy," there hasn't been a new young adult movie franchise to take its place. The Divergent series initially proved promising, but an underwhelming sequel in both quality and commercial performance prompted it to be concluded as a TV series, which never materialized. Hollywood has only themselves to blame for butchering a handful of properties, such as The Host, Vampire Academy, and now Artemis Fowl, essentially by setting up a prequel to the respective series with the initial adaptation, which we've seen gets the material off to a wonky, often uninteresting start from which it never recovers. With that, fans never get the film they want to see because producers are planning for three-to-five films as opposed to planning on making the first one successful enough for those sequels to be greenlit.
This is probably the last time we'll see the character of Artemis Fowl come to life on a (relatively) big screen. Having not read the books myself, I still sympathize with the die-hard fans of Eoin Colfer's series, whose novels were ubiquitous in school libraries in the early aughts. Talk of a film adaptation goes back to around the same time, and those who fervently indulged in the many installments when they were new are now in their early-to-late 20s, many of whom have grown up and forgotten about Colfer's mythical world and enigmatic protagonist. Certainly not liable to rekindle their affinity for the property is a massive miscalculation like this one; a film so heavy on exposition and sloppy contextualizing that it obscures the widely lauded accessibility of the source. Artemis Fowl's narrative ineptitude and empty special effects made me yearn for another creative misfire like Jupiter Ascending, which for all its flaws, didn't forget one of the most integral elements of a potential franchise-starter was being entertaining.
NOTE: Artemis Fowl is now streaming on Disney+.
NOTE II: Check out my review of Artemis Fowl on my web-show Sleepless with Steve. Catch the show Wednesday evenings at 8pm CST at twitch.tv/sleeplesswithsteve!
Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Josh Gad, Lara McDonnell, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench, and Hong Chau. Directed by: Kenneth Branagh.