I loved the Artemis Fowl books. Growing up as an evil mouse in Ireland I didn’t have many role models. Sure, there were a few villains I aspired to. The cartoon villains that were beaten by the heroes every Saturday morning or the Irish politicians using their power for personal gain. But there wasn’t a kid villain that I could root for! I wanted someone that outsmarted the good guys! Someone who’s plans weren’t foiled every week. Then Artemis Fowl entered my life. Not only was he a smart villain, he was Irish too! Then after a few books into the series, I heard the news! They were making an Artemis Fowl movie! Holy crap! young me squeaked! I’ll finally see my
hero villain on the big screen!
Originally intended to be launched as a franchise by Miramax way back in 2001, the film languished in development hell until Disney acquired the rights in 2013. And I hate them for what they have done.
Okay, let’s get this over with.
The movie starts with reporters waiting outside Fowl Manor. Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) is moved from one police car to another just so we can get a look at him. He then is brought from Ireland to M16’s secret water base for questioning about his connection to Artemis Fowl and multiple stolen artifacts. Surely Irish authorities would have liked to speak with him first? No? Okay.
A webcam threatens him with PERMANENT IMPRISONMENT if he doesn’t tell them what he was doing at Fowl Manor. Mulch tells them that he is just a pawn and the real mastermind is the person who stole the Aculos. What is the Aculos you ask? It really doesn’t matter. It’s the biggest Mcguffin I have ever seen in a movie since the Mighty Mcguffos attacked Tokyo and had to be defeated by Godzilla.
Mulch then gives us the shocking twist that MI6 are looking for the wrong person. Because Artemis Fowl isn’t the brains of the operation, it’s actually Artemis Fowl…junior!
With lines that would make the Irish tourism board cringe we get a voice over of Mulch explaining that Ireland is the most magical place in the world and we see Artemis Fowl Jr surfing on the beautiful Irish coast.
Later we see Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) show off his super intelligence when he absolutely dunks on the school’s therapist by proving that the chair he’s sitting on is actually not a famous chair. The therapist then brings up his mother’s death, so you can tell Artemis struck a nerve.
Okay not even 10 minutes into the movie and we have jumped from the source material. Artemis’ mother is still alive in the books. She actually plays a really important part, so killing her off before we begin is a little strange. Secondly, Artemis is not cool. Artemis is a pale nerd who does not do any cool sports, especially not surfing, the 3rd coolest sport.
Artemis storms out of the therapy session and heads home and OH COME ON!
Artemis goes home where his father Artemis Senior (Colin Farrell) is waiting for him. We are told from the Mulch voiceover that Artemis Senior knows more about Irish fairy tales than anyone else and that is just ridiculous. Surely the person who knows the most about Irish folklore would appear on an Irish morning tv show telling the country about Irish halloween traditions when he was only 22 years old and I wish I could find a clip of that so I could show your readers Mouse, but I can’t.
Artemis Senior has to go away on a business trip, but leaves him with their bodyguard Butler (Nonso Anozie). Domovoi Butler, just called Butler in the books but changed here so that they can say “Don’t call him The Butler even though that’s his name, isn’t that funny”. Artemis wakes up the next day with the news that his father has disappeared and is wanted for the theft of a bunch of famous artifacts. Artemis gets a phone call from a mysterious shadowy figure who says they have kidnapped his father and says he has three days to return the Aculos. When asked what the Aculos is, the kidnapper just tells him that Artemis is a smart boy and he’ll figure it out.
What? Do you want this Mcguffin or not?! At least tell him what it looks like, it might be sitting on the mantelpiece. He might have walked by it every day for the last year thinking it was an avant garde art piece. Give him something to work with!
Butler shows Artemis the secret room in the basement where his father was doing his research into fairies, as well as all the stuff he stole. Yeah the movie frames it like, he did it to keep it safe and to stop it falling into the wrong hands (namely any hands that weren’t at the end of his wrists) but it’s still stealin’. Anyway they find Artemis Senior’s journal which says he hid the Aculos from the fairies and that Artemis Junior has to start believing in fairies, he does he does.
Cut to Haven City, the fairy city in the middle of Earth.
This is now a couple of minutes of movie that I enjoyed. We see a futuristic magical city full of different types of fairies. We meet our other main character, Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), an Elf Lower-Elements Police Officer. She walks through the city and we get a Diagon Alley meets Star Wars cantina vibe. She sees Mulch Diggums who we learn is a Dwarf, but a very large Dwarf (read Human sized) and is a bit of an outcast because of it. He’s on his way to Howlers Peak, a fairy prison. She and Mulch have a friendly relationship but she doesn’t even say goodbye as he is shipped off for a 400 year sentence for breaking and entering. Still less time than MI6 are going to give him.
Holly heads to the Police station where they are on high alert looking for the Aculos. Commander Root (Judi Dench), sorry wait a minute, let me re-phrase that: COMMANDER ROOT PLAYED BY DAME JUDI DENCH WHAT THE FUCKING SCHMOOKING SCHMOOK! HOW? WHY? HOW? WHY!?
Root tells the cops that it is vital they find it before it’s too late. If the Aculos is not found it could bring doom upon the whole fairy race. Somehow. I dunno.
Quick moan here, Commander Root is male in the books. Why is this important? Because in the books Holly Short is supposed to be the first female Captain. Root is extra tough on her in the first book because he knows that she will be the poster child for all the women police captains to come so he wants her to be the best. Root is constantly pushing her, and when we learn the reason why it makes the character that was infuriating more like a father figure for Holly. An overbearing parent, but still a parent. Does the change mean the relationship doesn’t work anymore? No, not at all. Well it shouldn’t have any way. I don’t know if Academy Award Winner Dame Judith Olivia Dench CH DBE FRSA is a bad actor. I didn’t think she was. I was almost sure she was pretty good actually. What is she doing in this film? I feel like I’ve taken Crazy Pills!
Holly speaks with Root about following a lead on her father at the Hill of Tara, who tells her no and that she is too invested in this case. The case of her father’s death. That no one else seems to be working on. Holly somehow doesn’t say “Of fucking course I’m invested in my father’s murder” and let’s it drop.
We go back to Artemis and Butler who are looking for fairies. Butler thinks Artemis needs some more help so he calls in Juliet Butler.
In the books, Juliet is Butler’s 16 year old sister who is almost as much of an ass-kicking machine as Butler is. In this she is Butler’s 12 year old niece (Tamara Smart), who’s sole contribution to the film is she brings Artemis a sandwich.
It was at this point that I realised that the movie hated me and was actively wishing me harm.
Back in Haven City, the tech officer centaur Foaley (Nikesh Patel) tells Commander Root that there is a fairy on the surface. Because Holly is the only officer available, (I’m not being flippant they actually say that is the reason), she is chosen to go up and monitor who this rogue fairy is.
She is launched up to Martina, Italy via magma shoot and she flies over a wedding where a Troll is about to chow down on some Italian…s. Holly distracts the Troll long enough for the rest of the fairies to arrange a Time Stop. The whole area is locked in time and the wedding guests have their memories wiped. The scene works and we actually get a fun action sequence of Holly flying around trying to stop as much devastation. After everything is back to normal and the troll is brought back below ground, Holly sneaks off to the Hill of Tara to find clues about her father’s death. Butler and Artemis are waiting for her and knock her out with a tranquiliser gun.
She wakes up in Fowl Manor and tries to use her mind-control powers to get her capturers to let her go, but Artemis has everyone wearing reflective sunglasses so the magic doesn’t work. The Lower-Elements Police start trying to get Holly back by setting up a Time Bubble around Fowl Manor.
For some reason the fairies set up the bubble so that Fowl Manor’s time runs normally but everything else around it freezes. We don’t see how far this goes, maybe the whole world which seems a bit excessive but I’m sure they know their business. A whole army of fairies land around the Manor and then Commander Root gets out of her ship and says:
This movie is a goddamn hate crime.
An elite retrieval team storms the grounds and Artemis and Butler come out to meet them armed with Holly’s fairy shape changing gun/sword/shield. The fairies are not trying to kill Artemis and Butler, but they don’t know that! They could have been taken out by Fairy sniper rifles as soon as they left the house.
Butler and Artemis take out the team without breaking a sweat. They also damage the time dome so the freeze in time won’t last much longer.
We get a scene of the kidnapper, Opal Koboi, oh I’m sorry did I spoil the surprise, speaking to Artemis Senior. She explains the reason she’s doing this is that humans not only kicked fairies out from the surface but then turned them into bedtime stories. And she’s going to use the power of the Aculos to take over the surface and wipe out humans. Then they ham-fist in the line “Fairies and Humans are incapable of friendship.” God damn it. She’s actually a really cool villain in the book, I swear guys.
Then we get the most maddening scene in the whole movie. Artemis visits Holly in her cell and gloats. This is the dialogue:
Holly: You think this is a game!
Artemis: Game? My father is kidnapped.
Holly: My father is dead.
Artemis: … Can I trust you?
Holly: You’ll have to. You have no choice.
Artemis then takes off his sunglasses.
Artemis: How did he die?
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK! How is this a real movie? How did someone get paid to write this? He’s kidnapped her! It’s been like 2 hours tops! They can’t bond this fast. They can’t be friends while one of them is still locked up! Holly Short is a police officer who has been captured. Her captive has made it so she can now hypnotize him, to MAKE HIM OPEN HER CELL AND LET HER FREE! She can now wipe his memory, but instead she tells him how her father got killed trying to get the Nintendo DS out of New Haven. Artemis realises that Holly’s father is the one who gave his father the Playstation Portable. Holly’s father is considered a criminal now because of his actions. Just like Artemis’ father. But really they are both noble heroes trying to keep these dangerous artifacts safe! God! Moving on! This scene cost me years of my life.
Mulch is brought up to the surface, fitted with an iris camera and sent to tunnels into the Manor. Dwarfs in Artemis Fowl have the ability to unhinge their jaws and inhale earth and…release it the other side. I wish I could blame the movie but this happens in the books too. I don’t know, it’s less weird in print I guess when you don’t actually see the Dwarf shitting out vast amounts of Earth. He ends up in the portrait gallery and coincidentally right beside the safe that holds the Nintendo Switch. Mulch cracks the safe with his magic beard. Artemis releases Holly and they both meet up with Mulch and take the Gameboy Advance.
Artemis, Butler, Holly and Mulch are a team now. This happens without anyone explaining why, but it happens.
Outside, Cudgeon, a LEP Captain that is loyal to Opal Koboi stages a coup of sorts and takes over the operation from Commander Root. He brings the Troll from earlier and sends it at the house. We get four minutes of rampage where our heroes have to survive the attack. The troll falls from the chandelier but Butler pushes Artemis out of the way and gets crushed instead. Holly and Artemis bring him to a chair and he dies. His niece isn’t here. Seems like they weren’t close.
Anyway before the tears start coming Holly uses her fairy magic to bring him back to life. Oh thank God for that. Outside the Time Dome fails and all the fairies are sucked back under ground, Mulch included. Holly is able to dodge the time stuff and stays to help Artemis use the Wii U.
They open a portal just as Opal is going to kill Artemis Senior and they are able to grab him and bring him back. Also the spell they use to make the portal is the same Incantation that they use in the book but it’s for something completely different and that’s not fan service that’s just pissing fans off. Father and son hug and Artemis Senior thanks Holly for the help and confirms that yes, Holly’s father was trying to protect the Playstation Vita so that’s why he gave it to an infamous art thief. He also gives her a list of names who may have been the person who killed him. That he had on his person. In case he ran into her. God!
Holly goes back to New Haven with the…damn I’ve run out of handheld consoles, wait the Oculus Rift isn’t even handheld, why did I start this? Root gives her control of her own task force to investigate each name on the list.
Artemis Senior and Junior talk about what they will do now and Artemis called Opal to tell her to get her affairs in order. Because he’s Artemis Fowl.
The movie ends with Artemis breaking out Mulch from M16 and flying away with the promise of sequel after sequel, from now until the end of time please god no.
This is a baaaaaaaad movie. As a fan of the books I hated this, but if you have never heard of Artemis Fowl before you will hate it just the same. The fact that Covid-19 stopped this from coming to cinemas means that from now on I have to say, “Well, Coronavirus wasn’t all bad.”
It’s not the worst book adaptation (Probably World War Z). But it gets everything important wrong, including it’s main character.
Our Heroic Heroes: 10/25
There are two people called Artemis Fowl in the movie and neither of them are like the book character. We get some points here because Lara McDonnell is actually a passable Holly. I’ll even go as far and say she’s probably the strongest part of the movie.
Our Nefarious Villain: 03/25
This is where Artemis should be! Instead we have the charisma-less, faceless Opal Koboi.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 08/25
Mulch, Root, Butler, Foley and Julliet. Josh Gad is fine I guess. But only because I can’t not like Josh Gad. Root and Butler are so disappointing. And Foley and Julliet are invisible.
Final Score: 27%.
Read the books instead. Please. I can’t believe I watched this again to do the review.
Huge thanks to Eamonn Sharpson for filling in this week.
You could have used the Game Boy Color! Or the Sega Nomad or Game Gear! (But yes, I remember being in 5th grade around 2003-ish and was mildly excited for the Artemis Fowl movie that was announced at the end of one of the books. If only I knew the horrors that awaited us all…)
You break my heart Kenneth Brannagh. You break my heart. …I’ll probably still watch the next Poirot, but like, heartbroken-ly!
Also, ditto on that moment when I had to explain dwarf physiology wasn’t a dumbass adaptation invention. “No, it’s unique and quirky in the books, I swear!”
My position on the Artemis Fowl books is kinda strange. I read the first few books; I *enjoyed* reading the first few books. But having read them, I didn’t really like them all that much. Something like, “I had fun reading about these characters, but in the end, they weren’t very likeable”? I don’t know, but for some reason I was never a big fan. 🤔
Been meaning to read these books for a while. When I heard the movie was coming, I put the plans on hold, thinking the movie might be a good introduction to the franchise. Then the reviews came out.
So yeah, deliberately avoided this so that when I eventually get to the books my experience won’t be tainted by envisioning them as anything like this. This review confirms the wisdom of that decision.
So… the books are Superman, and this movie is Bizarro, a lumbering, mishapen, shambling defective clone made by evil industrialist super science only to destroy everything it touches by virtue of being stupid?
“…we see Artemis Fowl Jr surfing…” Great summary of how they got the character wrong right there.
When I saw the commercial I decided I made the right decision in not getting Disney+ (Basically I they have is also owned by either me or the library).
Speaking as a fan of the books here…oh *jesus* no. They were Baby’s First Urban Fantasy, high-tech cloak-and-dagger with fairies and magic, and I just ate them up.
Excuse me, I need to get a lot of screaming out of my system right now. What was wrong with a straightforward adaptation of the first book?!
Haven’t seen this one but your experience with the books and movie basically mirrors my own. Absolutely love the books and was incredibly excited for a movie but as soon as the first trailer hit I lost all excitement. It seemed like they completely misunderstood basically every single thing that makes the books so good. Incredibly disappointing that it joins the likes of Eragon as a truly excellent book that was turned into a movie where it seemed that no one who was involved had even actually read the book and understood why anyone liked it or what was important to the story!
Got to admit the thing which I found myself just groaning over most was the casting choice for Butler. (From the trailers. I have refused to put myself through this and my god it’s even worse than I thought).
I mean fair does diversity and all that, but I was just sitting there and going ‘oh Execs, so you had two choices for where to add more ethnic casting. The underground city of magical creatures forming a hidden global society where, for example, there’s no reason you couldn’t have had Idris Elba playing Commander Root and still basically kept the character the same. Or the group comprised of an ancient Irish family and their staff. Oh you went for the representative of the family who have been essentially hereditary servant/bodyguards of family of the main cast for hundreds of years.’
It’s just… literally anyone who read the book could tell you why that was an atrocious idea.
I did a review for this on my own blog and was pretty disappointed. Not to the same level as you Mouse, I never read the books and don’t really have the strong desire to.
Kid-genius-billionaire-supervillain that’s always right and knows more than everyone else doesn’t appeal to me that much, I know he’s supposed to get better with the series but from what I’ve heard they basically try to make him Xanatos from Gargoyles without any of the charm.
This movie exemplifies lazy screenwriting with it’s constant telling rather than showing and forced character connections.
Anyway, shamelessly plugging myself with my own review: https://mattthemediahunter.home.blog/2020/06/12/new-in-review-artemis-fowl/