Something is (Artemis) Fowl (a Review)

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I should have been a big fan of Artemis Fowl. I grew up at the exact right time as the books were coming out, they were popular at school (ignoring Harry Potter, Alex Rider, and Bone), and I read the first chapter of the first book (I think. It has been decades since that happened so I couldn’t tell you for sure) but didn’t like it. Well decades later Disney has us set with this (reluctant) Disney+ Original movie.

The movie is a story recounted by one of the characters and recalls the events of boy genius and son to an antiques dealer, Artemis Fowl, as he must find a magical object in order to save his father, Artemis senior from a fairy terrorist. To do so he must navigate the world of fairies with the help of rookie fairy, Short, and large troll Mutch, along with his butler to find the Aculos and save his father.

There is some very, very off with the film, and that off-ness grows as the film progresses. I think the central reason is that for a film titled “Artemis Fowl” he vanishes from the movie a lot in order to spend time with Short, and get accustomed to what the world of fairies is like. That, on top of what feels like clearly chopped up or missing scenes gives the movie no sense of weight to it. Artemis goes through no arc to speak of even, gains allies (one of which is his butler’s niece who feels like she was cut, but then put back in for no reason), and is a genius but never really shown as much as the film wants us to believe it did.

That is only bad because it is just so terribly distracting and contrived. Artemis needs a fairy? It is very lucky one decides to try and clear her father’s name. The fairy and human need to like each other? Give them a very vague connection with only one scene of them together and showing no growth toward that goal. Need a dumb action scene (the action scenes are so bad in this film too. They are so frantic, have no pace or focus and are just all over the place)? Have the commander be arrested for a scene only to reverse it when you need someone not to die, and act like Short was some traitor when she was not, and was never treated any different by her peers to start with.

The best way to describe it is that it tries to hold your hand while also just randomly tossing you into traffic and be frogger.

Or

It’s just a film of bread crusts.

That’s a shame too because the bread (production I guess I mean in this analogy) is really good. Kenneth Branagh is a great director for this kind of movie. The direction is clean, the sets look amazing and well realized, and has inventive use of freezing and slow motion. The worlds and magic also feel fleshed out. The political system makes no sense, but all the fairy technology and different creatures feel like they have their own logic that is consistent and accounted for. It really feels like he’s grown since his time on Thor.

Along with that, the cast is solid. They all feel like they know what kind of movie they’re in, they just are given no time to show their potential (poor Collin Farrell. That man is the best part of any movie he is in, and is always shafted. Does not give me hope of his role in The Batman because you know he’ll be wasted).

Looking at this movie visually I got a lot of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets vibe. That movie is equally crazy in its visuals and world, but that movie , for all its flaws, knows to focus on the title character, and does something with the world. This movie could really be that kind of wacked out experience, but is just too chopped up to satisfy anyone (also, apparently it is a terrible adaption).

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