You may be a keen fan of the Artemis Fowl series of books, written by Irish novelist, Eoin Colfer, but more likely you could have a keen fan in your household as the books appeal to those in the tween and teenage age groups. Unfortunately, it’s these die-hard fans who’ve been mortally disappointed in the first film adaptation of the books, released on the Disney+ streaming channel last week.
Artemis Fowl is a series of eight fantasy novels featuring the criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II. The book series has received positive critical reception and generated huge sales for its Irish author.
But the first movie adaptation, Artemis Fowl, hasn’t generated the same sort of rapturous response. Both the critics and the audiences have registered their strong disappointment with the movie, with a score of only 9% from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes and 21% from the audience.
It’s unusual for a movie like this to be so unpopular and with Kenneth Branagh directing, you would expect more from such a veteran of the big screen. The screenplay was co-written by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl but this is where perhaps the author, Eoin Colfer, should have had more input.
Artemis Fowl stars Ferdia Shaw as the main character, Colin Farrell as Artemis Fowl I (his father) and Judi Dench plays Commander Root. The film details the adventures of Artemis Fowl II, a 12-year-old Irish prodigy who teams up with his faithful servant, a dwarf and a fairy in order to rescue his father, Artemis Fowl I, who has been kidnapped by another fairy, looking to reclaim an item the family has stolen.
Delayed in development since 2001
Perhaps one of the reasons the film doesn’t live up to expectation is the fact it’s was originally intended to be launched as a franchise by Miramax in 2001. It then languished in development hell with several writers and directors attached until Walt Disney Pictures acquired the rights in 2013.
Branagh was hired in September 2015 and much of the cast joined in 2017. Filming began in March 2018, taking place around Europe. It was intended for cinematic release earlier this year but due to COVID-19, it was released digitally worldwide on Disney+ on June 12th.
The film has received negative reviews from critics, with criticism for its screenplay, special effects, and unfaithfulness to the first two books in the series which it covers.
Not nearly as magical as the books
Many people have commented that the film is not nearly as magical as Colfer’s books — and far more confusing, with an uneven adaptation which could entertain those who haven’t read the books but is a disappointment for established fans.
As one enthusiastic fan of the books told us: “It feels like the makers of the movie went more with the concept of Artemis Fowl than the actual books. In the end, this is just a boring movie.”
We guess Branagh gets some points for somehow getting Dench in on the project but as you watch the movie, Farrell has little more to do than maintain his stressed out pose. Josh Gad (who plays an oversized dwarf who is an expert thief) and Dench, are crucial to the elaborate plot, with the former responsible for the movie’s only laughs.
For his part, Ferdia Shaw isn’t so watchable that he’ll be courted as the next big thing but he manages to play the part fairly convincingly.
For families and those wanting to catch up with the latest Disney movie, it’s fairly interesting viewing but possibly the best part of it could be watching it together and checking what’s missing from the book and what’s been changed.
The ultimate question we guess is – What does Eoin Colfer think about it?
In an email to Polygon in March of this year, Colfer wrote: “The movie has been halfway there so many times that I had begun to believe it was doomed..” But he adds: “I think Disney has always championed this film, and the current team has a real Irish heart, which pushed it over the line.”
If you want to check the movie out, just sign up for Disney+ here.
In Australia, the price is AU$8.99 per month or, if you pay for an Annual Plan it works out at AU$7.50 per month.
Disney+ supports unlimited downloads on four simultaneous devices all at 4k streaming and you can have up to seven profiles.