Possible spoilers ahead!
Newcomer Ferdia Shaw (grandson of Robert Shaw) stars as Artemis Fowl II, a 12-year old boy genius whose world comes crashing down when his father, Artemis Fowl I (Colin Farrell), is kidnapped and is accused of stealing countless priceless artifacts from around the world. But as young Artemis soon learns, for generations, the Fowls have secretly collected artifacts that prove magical creatures exist. This is why his dad is now being held captive by a dangerous fairy named Opal Koboi, who wants to know where Artemis I hid a powerful magical device known as the Aculos.
With the help of his family’s trusted bodyguard Domovoi “Dom” Butler (Nonso Anozie), Artemis II hatches an elaborate plan to rescue his father – one that puts him right in the crosshairs of the Lower Elements Police (LEPrecon for short) and other fantastical forces led by Commander Julius Root (Judi Dench).
Based on author Eoin Colfer’s young-adult bestselling series about a 12-year-old criminal mastermind and directed by Kenneth Branagh, hopes were high for the live-action “Artemis Fowl.” But then the pandemic hit and Disney decided a movie about a criminal kid went against their brand. So instead of releasing the film to theaters, “Artemis Fowl” debuted on Disney + on June 12th, and the reception has been mixed, to say the least.
Let’s start with the worst part of “Artemis Fowl” which sadly is its lead actor, Ferdia Shaw. I don’t know if his casting was Kenneth Branaugh’s idea or if Shaw was thrust upon the director. Either way, Shaw’s casting was a terrible decision. Hi, line delivery is some of the worst I have ever seen. At times it looks like he’s waiting for someone off-camera to give him the next line, while in other scenes he had to be reading cue cards because there is no way Shaw was looking at the actor he was supposed to be interacting with.
One of Ferdia Shaw’s worst scenes comes early in the film when he finds out his dad might be dead. In it, he’s supposed to show two types of emotion: grief for his dad and anger when the media accuses his father of stealing artifacts. But instead of giving us that emotion, Shaw’s acting causes laughter, especially when he starts screaming at the television as if he’s waiting for it to reply. Ferdia Shaw is probably a nice kid, but he was not ready for a feature film, let alone one where he plays the lead character.
As a film, “Artemis Fowl” has been chopped up so much that it no longer works as a standalone film. All the interesting things such as what kinds of artifacts the Fowl’s keep in their home, what exactly the Aculos does, and what another type of magics there are, is rushed through. The result is a movie that is so confusing it barely manages to cobble together a coherent story. There isn’t even any character development for Artemis or any of the other characters we meet.
The majority of the film’s world-building and key plot information is relayed through a lengthy exposition from the unusually-large dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad). My wife liked this character, but I couldn’t stop thinking he looked like a young Robbie Coltrane playing Rubeus Hagrid. Too bad Gad gives the exposition while he’s interrogated by British Intelligence in a subplot that has no reason to exist. To make this even worse, Josh Gad used a Christian Bale “Batman” voice for the entire film which gets old very quickly.
In my opinion, the best parts of “Artemis Fowl” were Lara McDonnell as young LEPrecon officer Holly Short and Nonzo Anozie as the Fowl’s bodyguard Domovoi Butler. By the way, Butler is his name and not his profession. If you call him “the butler” you do so at your peril. Anyways, despite getting little to no background stories, both characters were likable and better suited for this line of work than the film’s lead.
In a perfect world, “Artemis Fowl” would have been a tv series on Disney+. Each season could have been one of the novels, thus giving this world and the characters plenty of time to develop naturally. Doing season instead of a 93-minute film would also have made all the information that’s thrown at us easier to digest. As is, “Artemis Fowl” is a chopped up mess that wastes an entertaining premise and an eccentric array of characters.
Also in a perfect world, Disney would not have changed Artemis from a mastermind criminal to a hero of sorts. During the movie, they keep saying Artemis is a criminal genius but I never got the sense of that. If anything he lucked out more often than not and would have been done for was it not for Butler, Holly, and Mulch.
“Artemis Fowl” D