I’m told the Artemis Fowl books are top shelf, but the origin film is merely…meh. So I watched the movie with low expectations: usually that means I can walk out feeling somewhat sated. In this case, I was infuriated. How hard could it be for Disney to make a passable film from a well-regarded Harry Potter type classic novel?
Did it suck? You betcha. The maddening thing: why? Disney has immense resources, money, and talented imagineers. I love fantasy. I ‘get’ fantasy stories. So what went so very wrong?
The bad. And it’s almost all bad.
85% of Artemis Fowl is exposition, and not the clever kind.
Actors stand around throwing backstory at each other. Over and over, ad nauseam. There’s almost no action, and the exploits we do get are stultifying. In fact, the three scenes where things happen are not “all that and a bag of fairies” — I used them as Peetimes. That never bodes well. Since I didn’t know from the novel series what backstory was important, I had to keep each and every long monologue intact.
I found myself wondering if Dame Judi Dench could even walk anymore, because all her (endless) monologues are delivered entirely stationary. Her (frankly, awful) character takes a few steps at the end, so, okay, the aging actress is still mobile. Maybe she had to stay still so the CGI characters would fit as they flit around her.
You know you’re bored when all you can do is track these things.
What was Artemis Fowl about, after all?
There’s a Macguffin we’re told a lot about. Apparently you can rule the fantasy world with it. I really don’t remember.
Seriously, when you watch this movie, take a look at how many ‘this happened and that happened’ speeches there are. None of this backstory is earned, because we don’t care about the characters. When Artemis and the fairy become friends, we don’t see how the trust barrier fell. It’s all tell and no show.
How to grade something like this?
This isn’t the only time Disney fell down at the gates with a promising novel-based fantasy franchise: look at my review for A Wrinkle in Time. I also gave it the same movie grade, for similar reasons.
RunPee Rob gave Artmis Fowl a C+, inexplicably, and he’s a big fan of the book series. So he got something more out of it than I did. But he’s a self-professed grading softie.
As an Artemis Fowl newbie, I’m confused. There might have been a good film in there if the screenwriters stuck to time-honored rules of storytelling and world-building. You can’t craft a movie around CGI overkill and expositional vomit. I’d like to find an old copy of the book and give that a read. Disney doesn’t usually pick bad stories to glom a film onto. And Rob told me I have to read at least the original.
I’m giving Artemis Fowl a D+ because it was pretty. So very pretty, with lots of things worth pausing the playback to see in the background and foreground. However, the film is lucky to get that high a grade. In every other way Artemis Fowl is a total failure. Maybe releasing it straight to streaming was Disney’s way of saying, “Yeah, we know.”
Movie Grade: D+
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Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)