Disney’s Artemis Fowl is as cursed a movie as they come. Years languishing under development delays, director changes, reshoots and moving release dates—all before the coronavirus pandemic hit—the Disney movie is as messy as they come, offering little to no payoff for kids or adults.
Cue the “more like Artemis Foul, amiright?” jokes.
There’s no point in recapping the plot of Artemis Fowl because there isn’t one, or at least, there’s barely a coherent one. What could be considered plot is so convoluted and rushed it really doesn’t register in this failure of a franchise non-starter.
Young Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) is a criminal mastermind searching for his kidnapped father, also a criminal mastermind named Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell). Fairytale worlds collide with reality so that Dame Judi Dench can play some kind of fairy commander and live underneath a volcano. And for some reason, there’s a centaur too.
Twelve minutes into the movie, Colin Farrell gets into a helicopter and flies away and, in retrospect, we can’t blame him because it’s really all downhill from there.
They’ve somehow taken the plot of Eoin Colfer’s more intricate YA novel and watered it down while simultaneously making it incredibly difficult to follow. It’s hard to believe that fans of the books could find anything worthwhile or rewarding here.
Josh Gad is tasked with the heavy exposition that’s clearly come from reshoots as has the addition of Farrell and Tamara Smart as a character who seemingly comes and goes. It’s easy to imagine whole subplots that have been left on the cutting room floor. Clocking in at a brisk 93 minutes, Artemis Fowl manages to feel at least three times that long. But maybe that’s down to Gad’s character Mulch Diggums, whose corny jokes fall flat again and again in this limp and lifeless movie.
Diggums entire existence kept me awake at night. A character name so dumb, I can’t help turning it over again and again in my mind. Perhaps I’ll name my next cat Mulch Diggums. But he haunts my waking moments for one reason in particular: A scene in which he unhinges his jaw to tunnel through the earth, evacuating the dirt through a gaping hole in his behind. It is so disturbing I will never look at Gad the same way again.
Unfortunately, 12-year-old Shaw, the grandson of actor Robert Shaw, is the face of the movie and I hope this isn’t a career killer for the young Irish lad. With not quite enough charisma to carry the movie, both he and co-star Lara McDonnell are left to flounder with flat dialogue as the movie clips along at a preposterous pace.
Filmed way back in 2018 and originally scheduled for a fall 2019 release, Artemis Fowl is directed by Kenneth Branagh who somehow manages to leave no fingerprints on this monstrosity. He’s no stranger to the Disney machine but here offers none of the sparkle he gave to the live-action Cinderella or even the competence with which he brought a large ensemble to life in Murder On The Orient Express. It remains to be seen whether getting the cast to deliver their lines as Christian Bale’s Batman was his idea or something that came out of the material after everyone just plum gave up.
And that brings us to 85-year-old Dame Judi.
Fresh off of Cats, an embarrassment in its own right, which has already taken on mythic status with cries of “release the butthole cut”, Dench is mostly bewildering as a high-ranking fairy military officer who rides around in her volcano lair on a Segway. Or is she in outer space? It’s hard to tell because there’s also spaceships.
The most unbelievably preposterous thing in a movie full of unbelievably preposterous things is the moment Dench, glad in metallic green military garb, throws open her space ship door and growls, “Top o’ the morning” in the most menacing Batman voice she can muster. I almost rewound the movie to watch that scene again but couldn’t stomach extending the viewing of Artemis Fowl by another 20 seconds.
Made for a reported $125 million, the best thing to happen to Artemis Fowl is the pandemic. At least now Disney can save face by earning views on Disney+ and not seeing the abysmal box office numbers this movie was sure to take in.
For anyone throwing their own Colin Farrell Film Festival, take his cue and get out of this one at the 12-minute mark.