The Reel Review
Artemis Fowl, the first original film to debut on the Disney+ digital platform, is a $125 million fantasy blockbuster about the young descendant of criminal masterminds who hunts down a secret society of fairies after his father (Colin Farrell) goes missing. The young adult fantasy film is adapted from the first book in the series started in 2001 by Irish author Eoin Colfer and stars Irish newcomer Ferdia Shaw, grandson of Jaws co-star Robert Shaw.
Like so many other young adult fantasy franchises spawned in the wake of the Harry Potter films – the Percy Jackson tales, the Divergent series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and even JK Rowling’s own Fantastic Beasts franchise – Artemis Fowl falls far short of the Potter magic. But unlike those others, this listless disaster of a film doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. Not only is the poorly written story maddeningly watered down from the original source material – it is confusing and dreadfully dull, with thinly drawn characters and a dizzying array of special effects as dated as the nearly two decades old novel. Terrible doesn’t even begin to describe how bad this film is.
Neither Colin Farrell (in his three minutes of screen time), Josh Gad nor even a strangely raspy-voiced Judi Dench are able to breathe life into this uninspired mess of a movie. Seeing Dench dressed as a green fairy is right up there in surrealness with her weird catsuit performance as Old Deuteronomy in 2019’s musical disaster, Cats. (Please, no more crazy costume roles.) There is one glimmer of brightness – Lara McDonnell (The Delinquent Season) gives a heartfelt performance as the fairy police officer who befriends Artemis. Artemis Fowl bears a closer resemblance to director Kenneth Branagh’s awful 2014 thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit than his charming, 2015 live action remake of Cinderella. Disney, do better – and somebody get Judi a cough drop.
• The Artemis Fowl film adaptation has been in development since 2001, prompting author Eoin Colfer, who has a cameo in the film, to joke that it would probably be finished after he died.
• Artemis Fowl producer/director Kenneth Branagh also worked with Judi Dench and Josh Gad on 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express and with Nonso Anozie in 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and 2015’s Cinderella.
• Colin Farrell’s cameo role (three days of filming) was announced in March 2020, three years after the film’s initial production had wrapped. If you look closely at their scenes together you will notice an already older-looking Ferdia Shaw.