The key rule in turning a famous book into a movie, especially if it’s based on a young-adult novel, is to not piss off the massive fans of the source material. Because it will be hard to please those who’ve respected them for a long time. Unfortunately, Disney’s take Artemis Fowl will not follow in the same footsteps of better books-turned-movies in the past, as director Kenneth Branagh’s take of this character will anger fans as made the mistake of making the Percy Jackson movies look like Citizen Kane.
What’s the Story: Based on Irish author Eoin Colfer’s novel of the same name, Artemis Fowl II (newcomer Ferdia Shaw) is a 12-year-old genius and descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds. He soon finds himself in an epic battle against a race of powerful underground fairies who may be behind his father (Colin Farrell)’s disappearance.
Truth be told, I have never heard of this book series until the news broke that Disney was going to be adapting it for the silver screen. But what I didn’t find out until I finished watching this was the fact this was Hollywood has been trying to get this project off the ground for almost 20 years ever since they published the first novel. Even though I anticipate most movies that have come from the studio, this wasn’t one of them. This was originally supposed to come out in theaters last summer, and then it was pushed until this past May. Making this the first movie to skip its theatrical release and making its debut on Disney+ was already a poor sign.
Since I didn’t know what to expect from this, I went into this cold except having the smart thought of thinking it would’ve been a box office flop if this was still in theaters. As the trailers came out, they didn’t look good in the slightest, especially the second trailer that made me wonder why this didn’t go to the streaming service in the first place. After sitting through this, you do not understand how baffled I was while watching this abysmal movie. Seriously, what did I just watch?
We’ve seen in the past Branagh can be a skilled director since he has worked on many adaptations of Shakespeare’s play, Thor, and 2015’s Cinderella, the latter of which I enjoyed a lot. Out of everything he has ever done, you truly feel bad it associates his good name with how terrible this turned out. Coming from someone who, again, never read the source material, there wasn’t anything about the world-building that blew my mind. Maybe this was a project he really wanted to take on since he read the books, but if this was what he imagined, he didn’t do a terrific job.
But it’s not just his direction that should be put to blame; the screenplay by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl (Paddington) doesn’t have any sense of having any fun with what the story was based on. The first six minutes have narration from Josh Gad’s character Mulch Diggums, a tall dwarf who’s been arrested, telling what happened during an interrogation. Not only was the narration unnecessary, but it uses those opening minutes for lazy exposition. No kidding, I paused it twice because right at the 32 minute mark since I had no idea what the frick was going on, and the second time was to reheat some leftover pizza so I could at least be eating something decent while getting through what’s left.
This is the first performance Fredia Shaw, grandson of Robert Shaw, has ever given in a movie playing the titular character. While I hate to be that person who bashes child acting, I was stunned by how dull this performance was. He might look like the character from the concept art I’ve seen, but talk about a bland role that doesn’t scream “remember me” in two years. Every time he speaks a line of dialogue, it just appeared very unconvincing. But do you know what’s the worst part? He’s the key character, and never once did I ever care about him. When that’s said about your hero, that means his screen presence means nothing. He’s a criminal mastermind, so what? This doesn’t give us to chance to know more about him since this wasted the opportunity to flesh out this character. And from what I heard from other people, but wasn’t he a villain in the first book and later turned into an anti-hero?
Everybody else doesn’t matter when these are characters that aren’t worth giving a single cent about whenever they show up. Not Lara McDonnell’s Holly Short, Nonso Anzoie as Artemis’ servant Domovoi “Dom” Butler, or Gad when he’s using this stupid deep voice throughout. Colin Ferrell plays Artemis Fowl I, and I didn’t know he was in this until the second trailer released online. His inclusion to this was because of the reshoots that happened, and I’m pretty sure he shot his scenes in two days since he was freakin wasted here. And seeing poor Judi Dench in here as Commander Julius Root made me wonder if she has since fired her agent for following up her Razzie-nominated performance in Cats with a role where she looked like she was sleepwalking her way through, having the voice of someone who’s been chain-smoking.
But with talking about the overall story to get you hooked instantly, there was nothing in here worth following. It was like they had to rewrite this script multiple times until it looks decent enough to cram in so much stuff into a short 95 minutes. Even those who have been a part of this fanbase would have no clue what this was trying to be. The key plot is there where it’s a world with fairies and mythical creatures, but there’s also something called “The Aculos,” which is the movie’s McGuffin, everybody wants to get their hands on as well as our protagonist to save his father. There isn’t a lot of action that took place in this, only two sequences that were poorly directed for a budget of $125 million and no sense of excitement during the duration of both of them. With that runtime short runtime, this felt longer as I was desperately waiting for any kind of enjoyment to happen. And don’t even get me started on the attempts at humor because they were desperately trying, yet this dared to name drop Foreigner and David Bowie.
Many have criticized the studios for their recent live-action remakes over the past few years. As much as I haven’t enjoyed most of them, let it be clear this is worse than all of them combined. It’s been a very long time since I hated a Disney movie on this level that’s not a live-action remake, and that’s a massive shame. The thought of turning this off halfway through would’ve been a blessing. I knew this would not be good, but it’s baffling how much of a disaster this was. Is this worse than something like The Lone Ranger, A Wrinkle in Time, or The Nutcracker and the Four Realms? This is straight to the very bottom of what I like to call the “Live-Action Disney Big-Budget Barrel,” as nobody should even dare say this was good.
Just from looking back at the trailers, especially the teaser from November 2018, SO much of what was in there wasn’t even in the last cut.
Artemis Fowl is easily the top contender for the worst movie of 2020. Not only is this an embarrassment for Disney, but to the sci-fi/fantasy genre and almost everything I loved about it. Everything about this has nothing redeemable, from the performance, direction, and script that doesn’t look like it’s going to be setting up a new franchise soon. There’s no fun or entertainment value to be had with this failed attempt that will be forgotten by the end of the month. Fans, stay far away.