“Artemis Fowl,” a fantasy film streaming on Disney+, is brand spanking new but there’s a feeling of déjà vu that hangs over the entire film. Adapted from the beloved books by Eoin Colfer, the movie feels like an expensive mix-and-match of “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings.”
Newcomer Ferdia Shaw is Artemis Fowl Jr., a poor little rich kid and budding criminal mastermind with the sartorial sense of Will Smith in “Men in Black” and an IQ that would give Einstein a run for his money. When his father (Colin Farrell) is kidnapped, the youngster, along with his trusty bodyguard Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie), and some help from elf reconnaissance officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) and Josh Gad as Hagrid wannabe Mulch Diggums, sets off on a quest to locate him. To pay the kidnapper’s ransom Artemis and Company must infiltrate the mysterious underground world of fairies, led by Commander Root (Judi Dench), and take charge of the Aculos, the fairies’ most coveted magical apparatus. “Artemis,” says Domovoi, “it’s time to face your destiny.”
Question is, Will young Arte’s brains be a match for their fairy magic? There’s more but further details involve major spoilers.
Fans of the books take note, “Artemis Fowl’s” origin story takes liberties with the books. Both Holly Short and Mulch are allies from the get-go and daddy Fowl didn’t turn up until the second book in the series.
Structural changes aside, the film adaptation lacks much of the charm of Colfer’s writing. It does capture Artemis’ growth from innocent unaware of the world of magic and intrigue his father operates in, to almost anti-hero, but despite large scale set pieces and many action scenes it feels been there, done that.
Director Kenneth Branagh has crafted a handsome but generic fantasy film, complete with “Avengers” style special effects and a sweeping soundtrack that feels like the set-up to a franchise and not a stand-alone story. If you don’t believe me, check out Artemis’ last line in the movie. “We have some unfinished business.” It’s like a ninety-minute trailer for the next instalment.
“Artemis Fowl” may survive to have more on-screen adventures, perhaps filling the hole for fantasy fans left by the absence of “Harry Potter” movies, but next time around fewer special effects and more personality would help.