'Artemis Fowl' Review—Relentlessly Horrible

by Jonathan Sim about a month ago in review

No spoilers!

'Artemis Fowl' Review—Relentlessly Horrible

There are three signs that a movie won't be very good: 1) it took 20 years to make, 2) 18 months pass between the teaser trailer release and the film release, and 3) Disney drops the theatrical release and releases it on Disney+ despite retaining every other theatrical release.

From Kenneth Branagh (director of Thor) comes Artemis Fowl, a fantasy adventure film based on the books by Eoin Colfer. I have never read that series, but from what I've heard, this movie barely sticks to the source material and takes it in a vastly different direction; unfortunately, that direction is downward.

As mentioned earlier, this film began planning in 2001. After juggling multiple writers, directors, actors, and producers, this movie has finally seen the light of day on Disney+, despite their other films such as Mulan, Black Widow, and The New Mutants maintaining theatrical releases.

Well, this movie is a disaster. Artemis Fowl is a cinematic failure bogged down by a script that was clearly rewritten countless times. Take a look at the teaser trailer Disney uploaded in November 2018, and see for yourself.

It's not a bad trailer. It has fascinating moments, but the problem is that approximately 90% of the footage in that trailer is nowhere to be found in the finished film. The flying woman dressed in white? She does not appear once in the entire movie.

Production on this film was troubled, and it shows in the final product, which has a ruthlessly messy story. The character of Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) serves as a mouthpiece for the screenwriter, as every character-building moment and every piece of exposition is narrated to the audience, even though most of the information is blatantly apparent.

Nothing in this film is shown to the audience. We know that Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) and his father are criminal masterminds, but we never see their genius at work. We know about the relationship between this father and son because Diggums verbalizes it for the audience, not because we get to see their relationship build.

Every accomplishment that Fowl achieved in his youth is, once again, told to the audience. It would have been much more fascinating to witness these accomplishments, but because we don't bear witness to any of this, Fowl seems like an average child for most of the film.

The character of Diggums is dull. He has a few moments intended to be humorous, but none of it lands. His conflict is that he is a dwarf that gets bullied by other dwarves for being a giant dwarf. As ridiculous as this conflict is, it would have been nice to see this conflict have a resolution at the end, but of course it doesn't.

Our story revolves around a MacGuffin plot device, with Artemis Fowl's father getting kidnapped and the culprit asking for a magical artifact called the Aculos. Fowl has three days to find the Aculos. This three-day deadline is not even alluded to for the rest of the film, because tension is a luxury reserved for good screenplays.

Unfortunately, this story unfolds in the most jumbled way possible. The subplots are disjointed, and the direction of the action sequences is nightmarish to watch. It's a mind-numbing story with nothing enjoyable, and it throws character development in the backseat of this car wreck.

Characters in this film become friends for no reason. None of them have unique personalities or inner conflicts. According to Wikipedia, the character of Juliet Butler is "Domovoi's 12-year-old niece and protégé, and Artemis' best friend." However, she does so little in this film that it is quite easy to forget her character existed in this movie.

Relationships build off-screen in fractions of a second. There is a scene in this film when Fowl and a character named Holly Short declare themselves "forever friends." I believe this exchange occurs approximately an hour after their initial conversation, and they learn almost nothing about each other in this hour. It is atrocious.

When this movie isn't hunting down our remaining brain cells, it is ripping off superior films, with the fantasy sensibilities of Harry Potter and the mannequin challenges of X-Men: Days of Future Past and Doctor Strange, complete with a splash of Men In Black with the film's suit and sunglasses and a discount Neuralyzer.

The film may be 95 minutes, but it's also 95 minutes too long. The characters are boring, and they do not grow or evolve in the entirety of this film. The villain is quite literally faceless and wants nothing more than to destroy the world. How original.

Colin Farrell appears to have been added during reshoots, and it genuinely seems as if he showed up on set for a paycheck. Speaking of money, this movie cost $125 million to make. That money could have gone to make 125 superior indie films, but it went to this relentlessly horrible film.

And the ending of this movie demonstrates how this film desperately wants a couple of sequels. For the sake of humanity, that should not happen. This movie lacks tension, surprise, and anything fresh or original, and while it could have been worse, it is a foul experience.

Grade: ★☆☆☆☆ [2/10, D-]

Jonathan Sim
Jonathan Sim
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Jonathan Sim

Film critic. Lover of Pixar, Disney, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Back to the Future, and Lord of the Rings.

See all posts by Jonathan Sim