The Dark Herald Does Not Recommend Artemis FowlThe Dark Herald
REPOST: My wrist is in a sling at the moment. Consequently, you get to revel in the glory of one of my older reviews.
From the company that brought you modern masterpieces like A Wrinkle in Time and the Rise of Skywalker comes Artemis Fowl.
I should start by saying, I have not read the Artemis Fowl books. Neither have my kids.
Maybe this film is an accurate representation of the stories. Maybe it gets the feelz, right. But if that’s the case then there is no point in reading the books either.
I knew that the critical score on RT was an unusually low score for this film at 20%. And at the time I watched it, they had taken down the audience score, which I found intriguing. Gods of Egypt was a pretty good popcorn flick with decent character development that got a lower score than 20% and that was because the Wokeites #Cancelled it. So I thought I should give Artemis Fowl a look on the off chance that it was a hidden gem.
(UPDATE: RT Critical Score at repost time is now a stunning 8%, The Audience score is at a very low 19%.)
The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, and it resembles the look of his version of Thor rather than his take on Cinderella, which would have been more in line with what I was expecting. I guess Thor meets Spy Kids is what this movie feels like.
Film opens and we are given a quick snapshot of a world in crisis. Artemis Fowl (Senior) is all over the news. In a series of cut-scenes, we find out that this millionaire antique dealer (rich antique dealers are always a bit of a worry if you ask me) has been revealed as a criminal mastermind who has stolen some of the greatest art treasures in the world. The various news reports end up centering around a character who is large in stature with a huge bead and lots of unkempt hair. I will be referring to him as Not-Hagrid.
Not-Hagrid has been captured by the police and taken to an MI-6 black-site (Cataline shrugs. MI-6 has them but they aren’t used for art theft investigations). Anyway, Ken shifts to a black and white interrogation setting and Not-Hagrid becomes the narrator of the story.
We get a quick intro to the boy Artemis Fowl age twelve (I think). Montage scene! We are informed, that he is clearly a super-genius. We see this Irish kid who loves living in Ireland being a surfing champion in Australia and winning chess tournaments all across the world (except in Ireland), we also get to hear about a bunch of other ways about how this kid is cheating at life. We finally get a face to face with him. The school psychologist is trying to talk to him about his “problems.” Which is to say the school shrink is providing background exposition. (Sidenote: I did NOT go to rich kid school so maybe there are a few of those that provide psychiatric therapy for their students. But frankly, this service sounds like an iron-clad reason to not send my kid to a school like that) The discussion starts with a quick mention of the psychologist’s “antique” chair and how it’s important to him as a family heirloom. It was a groaner to start off on because you know that shortly little genius Artemis will declare it to be a fake.
This is the problem when mid-wits try to write about genuinely sky-high intellects. The demonstrations of mental horsepower are awards and one-upmanship gotchas. Being obnoxious isn’t really that special of a gift.
We find out that Artemis lives in Ireland where things are still magical, (except when they aren’t which was pretty much the whole movie). The only person he has a strong relationship with is his dad and the Butler, who gets angry if he’s called the butler even though his name is Butler, (sounds like something from a book that didn’t translate to the screen.
Anyway, Artemis’ Dad teaches his son all about the fairy folk. And his son who is both a snob about his hyper-intelligence and is thoroughly obnoxious about it buys into the wee-folk stories hook, line, and sinker. Rather than saying, “Dad, these fairy-tales sound like utter bullshit to me.” Aremis’ lack of skepticism, is presumably further proof of his awesome intellect because the audience knows that he is right.
The Dad was played by Colin Farrell who was allowed to use his real accent for a change. He was the least ridiculous thing in the movie. Anyway, Dad is never home which irritates Artemis but that’s reasonable.
The first act concludes with Dad being kidnapped by someone in a cloak and a Hood and a modulated voice. Artemis must find the MacGuffin and turn it over to the Hood. Now we switch POV and go to the Fairy World called Haven City. And Haven City kind of sucks.
It in no way resembled the realms of Queen Mab and Tuath Dé Danann. What it looked like was a kid-friendly version of Asgard from Thor. Basically, the Fae were aliens in a science fiction setting, that’s what the Artemis Fowl Fairy World looked like in a nutshell. The wee folk were aliens with names like Goblin and Leprechaun instead of Skrull and Andorian but that’s what they were. The magic looked very high-tech, it relied on lots of machinery and required magic to function. Basically, they are trying for Harry Potter’s Wizarding World but the round landed short of the target.
And speaking of machinery the Fae are all freaked out because the MacGuffin is missing from their world and they need to get it back because they won’t feel good or something unless they do.
Honestly, it’s the worst kind of MacGuffin. They go on at length about how important it is but never actually say what the fucking thing DOES!
We meet Not-Hagrid, who enters the story on his way to prison. He identifies as a dwarf but since he’s seven feet tall the other dwarves aren’t buying it (Pratchett wore it better). We also meet Holly Short who is a member of a fairy gendarme called LEPrecon. She is quirky and tough. This is the most amusing part of the movie and that is just sad.
And I’m not going any deeper into the plot because I’m getting bored all over again just repeating it.
None of the characters have a story arc. The simplest story arc is one of “what does a character WANT versus what does that character really NEED?” The character gets what he wants but then discovers it wasn’t what he needed at all. He then figures out what he needed after his long dark tea-time of the soul and sets off to get it. Which is right before the climax. Sure, it’s formulaic but it’s a formula that works.
Artemis Fowl has no story arc. He finds the MacGuffin and it fixes everything in the most deus ex machina way possible. Literally just by turning it on. I’m not joking.
Artemis Fowl appears to be that saddest of things, a movie designed by test audience reactions. Or as Bob Chapek put it “creative excellence through data-driven audience feedback. That’s the Disney promise to their stockholders.” All the hallmarks are there. Character reactions that felt like they belonged somewhere else. A narrator sewing the plot threads together. The characters that remain shallow and half-developed. The story is little more than a fetch quest and for all of its talk about the magic of Ireland, it may as well have taken place in Burbank. There is nothing really Irish in it except for a couple of accents. Oh and Dame Judy Dench saying, “top o’ the mornin’ to ya.”
Sure, the effects look good but they always look good these days.
When Trolls 2 was sent directly to video, the theater owners howled in outrage. When this was sent straight to Disney Plus they didn’t bat an eye. There was a reason for that. It wasn’t going to make money in the theaters and it isn’t going to generate subscriptions to Disney Plus.
I was on the borderline with this picture between Does Not Recommend and Recommends with Reservations. I had to go with the lower rating because, while it’s not a bad film, I honestly couldn’t come up with a single good reason for you to watch it
Consequently, The Dark Herald does not recommend Artemis Fowl.
UPDATE: I wish I’d watched this first.