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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

'Artemis Fowl' Review: Kid Genius On A Magical Mission To Rescue His Father

Ferdia Shaw next to a helicopter

If there are any film award committees reading this, I’d like to throw my hat in the ring and suggest someone creates an award for a movie that does the unthinkable; spending half of its runtime on exposition just to confuse the viewer so much that they still have no idea what the story is about. Now that’s what show business needs. Director Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl, adapted from a fairly popular and beloved young adult book, allegedly is about a kid genius of the same name who needs to get the magical item(?) Aculos to a hooded villain(?) after the villain has kidnapped Artemis’ father. Somehow this all seems to be connected to revealing to the world that magic exists but who is to say really? Every year you get at least one major release (’Hellboy’ in 2019) that is parsed together to look like a feature length film, Artemis Fowl is exactly that as it doesn’t exist on one editing timeline.

In these kinds of cases it could be somewhat fun to look at the picture by following your own timeline. Even before we get to the on-screen portion of things, the script suffers from an overload of exposition as mentioned, trying to hide the fact that the plot isn’t interesting. Every single conversation between characters goes out of its way to explain magic, family trauma and character motivation to you, leaving nothing in between the lines. So what is on the screen then, you ask if you’re still awake?

Everything is CGI, nothing feels real or magical and so you don’t feel the stakes of the action. Artemis’ wardrobe looks like a four year old’s Men In Black costume during Halloween, actors aren’t ever moving spontaneously by director’s orders nor do they pop in and out of scenes with any rhyme or reason—like Domovoi Butler as Nonso Anozie whose death and resurrection scene is nonsensical and the worst offender in that regard.

That transfers to the acting which might be the year’s worst cast performance. Kid actors are kids, of course, but Ferdia Shaw as Artemis is not great at all, it’s all line-reading, zero charisma and the character seems more like a pure sociopath than a genius prodigy. Josh Gad (as Diggums, a dwarf) is doing his weird voice well technically speaking but is burdened by being the mouthpiece of the script’s obsession with exposition, Diggums is simply a device and not a character.

The other actor doing a weird voice is Judi Dench (as Root, boss of the fairies) who seems to be from a completely different movie altogether, only contributing by shouting, I kid you not, ’’Top of the mornin’!’’ with absolutely no one around her in the film’s most laugh-out-loud moment. With Tamara Smart (Juliet, a black best friend trope) unfortunately nearly cut out of the film, only Lara McDonnell (as Holly Short, a fairy) comes out fine from this and I would’ve rather watched that character’s journey for 90 minutes.

If only the film’s faults were those only but then they manage to screw it up even more in post-production, at this point no one probably even cared anymore. Artemis Fowl’s editing is an absolute mess from top to the morning’s bottom as Gad’s interrogation scenes were likely added later and most of the film was ruined by the acting. There are more than a couple moments where you go ’’Huh, I think there’s a scene missing here’’ because things shift so quickly. Even the reaction shots seem to be from different points in the script at times. Lastly you might feel like the film’s score could’ve been made for a completely different cut because man, most of it seems way too energetic and dramatic. Don’t get me wrong, the music itself is great, it just isn’t for this, whatever this happens to be now.

Smileys: The fairy stuff could've been cool

Frowneys: Acting, directing, screenplay, editing, score

My theory is that Dench doesn’t know how to open scripts in .pdf form and is ashamed to ask for help so that’s why she said yes to ’Cats’ and Artemis Fowl.


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