‘Artemis Fowl’ movie review: A visual spectacle with a fuddled narrative

A still from ‘Artemis Fowl’  

For a film that’s been 20 years in the making, Artemis Fowl has been highly anticipated by a loyal fanbase and a generation of new readers. As the trailer launched, the live adaptation of the book series was already fraught with apprehension about director Kenneth Branagh’s creative decisions. The film’s gender and race swaps as well as creative liberties have kept audiences on edge.

On its own, Artemis Fowl follows its source material almost faithfully. A 12-year-old genius, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) must rescue his father (Colin Farrell) from kidnappers. The ransom is the Aculos, a weapon of great power that can destroy the world if fallen into the wrong hands. Along with his butler, Dom (Nonso Anozie), Fowl holds a fairy, Holly (Lara McDonnell) hostage and cohorts with the dwarf, Mulch (Josh Gad) to go on an escapade of a lifetime.

Branagh’s interpretation of the books is given signature Disney treatment; that is a wholesome story about a father-son reunion with plenty of action and adventure. The former is brilliantly rendered with CGI. A sequence involving a loose troll wreaking havoc on an Italian wedding is particularly thrilling. The flight of fairies, as well as their breath-taking underground world is a sight to behold. But that’s about it: a visual spectacle with fits and spurts of adrenaline rushes.

Artemis Fowl
  • Director: Kenneth Branagh
  • Cast: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell, Judi Dench
  • Storyline: When his father is kidnapped, 12-year-old Ferdia Shaw must enlist the help of fairies and dwarves to get his hands on the Aculos, a weapon of great power

Contrarily, the books are darker, even if catering to children, with an evil anti-hero that disconcerts and amuses readers. In bringing the books to screen, Branagh forgoes nuances and opts for bold strokes hoping to rein in audiences with flair. The narrative unravels almost too simply, unlike its literary counterpart. This also affects the changes Branagh has introduced. For instance, Judi Dench’s Commander Root, a male cheerless character in the book, seems more disoriented on screen instead of terse. Butler Dom, who’s Caucasian in the books is played by Anozie, a black man. The decision feels more like a token diversity card instead of driving any consequence to Fowl’s story.

Drawing comparisons to the books is almost impossible to avoid, because of its impact on popular culture. So Branagh’s effort was already at a disadvantage at the get go. Unfortunately, the film is also pretty generic when it comes to the children’s fantasy adventure genre. After a 20-year-wait, the Artemis Fowl live adaptation disappoints more than delights.

Artemis Fowl is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2020 6:24:26 PM |

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