If you’ve seen or heard any of the reviews then the message you’ll have got is that Artemis Fowl isn’t very good. I like to be positive where I can, if you need proof of this then read my review of Cats, but unfortunately I have to confirm that it’s true; Artemis Fowl is poorly scripted, unimaginative, uninspiring and mediocre in every respect. When you consider the quality of the books it comes from, this is a massive disappointment.
The first, and probably the biggest, problem is that they have got the main character totally totally wrong. In the original novel young Artemis is a calculating, coutured and confident antihero; a boy who has some limits but who’s moral compass does not point North. He is an adolescent mix of Thomas Crown, Hans Gruber and Loki. Based on how he is in this film adaptation though he wouldn’t make it into either Gryffindor or Slytherin. Jonathan in the Paddington films has more chutzpah. At the end this Artemis proclaims himself the criminal mastermind the book has him famous as but he is convincing absolutely no one. Woody the Cowboy doll has greater illegal tendencies. If you are familiar with the character then watching this film is like expecting Chuck Norris but getting Charlie Bucket. In fact no, scratch that because even Charlie Bucket stole the fizzy lifting drink.
This isn’t the only ball they’ve dropped though. The fault is not really with Kenneth Branagh’s direction, although he will have to accept some responsibility. The problem is in the writing which is at best unsophisticated and at worst lazy and nonsensical. Hamish McColl appears to be the lead script writer and the most notable things on his CV are Johnny English and Mr. Bean. Unfortunately there’s no Rowan Atkinson to save the material here though. Josh Gad does better than most but actually he gets to deliver the line that annoyed me most. Let’s pick it apart to highlight the level of creativity we are dealing with here.
So the set up is that magical creatures are real but hidden from humans and at one point Gad’s dwarf is talking to Judi Dench’s Commander Root who is the leader of the fairy army. During this conversation he randomly says something along the lines of:
“He’d be like David Bowie if he was an elf… so basically just David Bowie. Do you think the humans will ever work out he was one of us?”
That makes no sense. It is just a clumsy line to celebrate Bowie’s wonderful otherworldliness. Saying this to someone who clearly knows David Bowie is an elf is like saying to a Beatles fan ‘you know, like John Lennon if he was a singer/songwriter’ or if you were chatting to a professor of Victorian English literature and said ‘imagine someone like Charles Dickens but if he wrote books’. Even if there was something witty in the irony of this statement you would not need to follow it with ‘pssst, hey Charles Dickens did write books’. Also, how would humans ever work out that David Bowie was an elf if they don’t know elves are real? The existence of such beings would be a fairly fundamental thing you’d need to be aware of if you were to suspect someone was one. ‘Hey, do you think people will ever begin to think that Elon Musk is really Batman?’ No, because Batman is a frickin fictional character and there is nothing to suggest otherwise because dressing up as a bat to fight crime is a ridiculous idea outside of a comic book! All they needed to do was have Gad say the Bowie comment to one of the humans who had recently become aware of the existence of mythical creatures and to miss off the pointless follow up line and it would have worked but no one gave it this much thought and the whole thing lands with an audience insulting thud.
In fact, while I think about it, half of this film’s plot revolves around the incredible importance of keeping the existence of fairies secret from humans yet the framing device where Gad relays the story of the movie, has him telling humans all about them, in full knowledge that he is being surveillance recorded. How dumb is that?
How can a film that is based on a series of nine excellent children’s books be so devoid of well thought out ideas? It was all there for them, all they had to do was not mess it up.
Is Artemis Fowl the worst film I’ve seen? Of course not. Will it keep kids happy? Sure, if they’ve not read the books. Is it good though? Not very.
The Ripley Factor:
Captain Holly Short is really cool on the page but less so on screen. Root is gender flipped.
Whatever, I’m done. If they can’t be bothered neither can I.