Movie Review – Artemis Fowl

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Nonso Anozie is Butler, Lara McDonnell is Holly Short, Josh Gad is Mulch Diggums and Ferdia Shaw is Artemis Fowl. Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

I was really disappointed by Artemis Fowl.  Not because it was a bad film — it wasn’t — nor because it was badly made because, again: it wasn’t. The cast was (mostly) good, the effects were spot on, and the acting was fine. My disappointment was because the film was nowhere near the source material. And I don’t mean a wee bit of tweaking here and there…I mean so far removed from canon as to make sure that there can be nothing in any sequels (should there be any) to bring it back in line with the source material.

I read and enjoyed the Artemis Fowl books and, apart from the names, there is virtually nothing the same; the author, Eoin Colfer, described the story as Die Hard with fairies… Disney has not made that story into a film.

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What went wrong with Artemis Fowl?

Now if you’ve seen any of the comments doing the rounds in the social media, you’ll know the biggest complaint is the casting of Judi Dench as Julius Root. This didn’t bother me too much. She’s a brilliant actor and carries the role off well. The problem with the gender swap is, quite simply, Holly Short…in the books Holly is the first female L.E.P. officer and, as such, she’s a test case, front page news, and all eyes are on her. This is spoilt a bit by her commander being female.  Oh…and by the dozens of other female officers on screen. Personally, my choice for Commander Root would have been Brian Blessed or, at a pinch, Ken Branagh himself.

Then there is Artemis’ motivation. In the books, his father disappeared when he was nine and he’s now twelve. Normally you’d think that Dad’s dead and the poor child is just grasping at straws. Also his mother (who is totally absent) is so badly affected by Artemis Sr’s disappearance that she can’t leave her bed, due to a stress-induced nervous breakdown — allowing Artemis Jr free run of the house and fortune that’s available to him to develop as a criminal mastermind, rather than just adopt the title.

Another area of disagreement is Butler. Where Commander Root had a gender swap, Butler has had a race swap. Again, this isn’t a problem, as the book describes him as Eurasian and so able to blend in anywhere. However, he’s also supposed to be about seven feet tall and 25 stone of muscle, so won’t blend in anywhere! Making him a huge, platinum blonde black guy with piercing blue eyes isn’t that big a deal. In fact the bigger deal is his first name…it has a lot of significance in the books, but it’s just thrown away here.

Last couple of niggles…honest! Mulch Diggums is a dwarf, not a Hagrid clone, and Opal Koboi was a genius pixie who was very proud of her appearance and wouldn’t hide under a cloak.

Was anything in Artemis Fowl good?

Enough of the moaning! What was good about it? The effects were believable, but it is 2020 so they should be. Foaly the centaur is very well done, as are all the Lower Elements characters, and the action is entertaining.

My problem is that I find it difficult to distance myself from the books. I’ve asked my daughter, who hasn’t read them, to see what she thinks when she sees it.

In short, I’d say if you haven’t read the Artemis Fowl books, then dive in but, if you have, be wary.

I give it a C+ — and remember what a softy I am when it comes to grades!

Movie Grade: C+

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comment 3 comments
  • Anonymous

    Excellent review. I totally agree.

  • jill florio

    Jill Florio Administrator

    It actually *is* a bad film, which is a big waste of a potentially promising franchise. Looking pretty is no excuse for terrible world building.

    I don’t know why Disney bothers with some of these low grade efforts that don’t do justice to the books. A Wrinkle in Time squandered it too. I know it’s hard to get the fantasy genre right, but this is DISNEY. Fantasy is what they do!

  • Anonymous Administrator

    I’ll be honest and say that I’ve enjoyed plenty of pretty bad films. By that I mean that they’re not necessarily a great story but just very, very pretty to look at. Luc Besson is a master of the pretty film and I’m a big fan of his. When he does pretty he really does pretty. When he throws in a good story (Leon, Nikita, The Fifth Element) then, hell… just take my money!

    Talking of The Fifth Element… I saw it in the cinema, bought it on VHS, replaced it with a DVD, replaced that with a Blu Ray, and am watching it as I speak but in 4K HD on a big smart TV and I can see every pore, hair, rivet, stitch, everything is pin sharp and just beautiful to look at.

    I might give Valerian another look tomorrow…

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