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‘Artemis Fowl’ a bland, poorly-structured mess

A good movie adaptation has to do two things well. It has to capture the spirit of the work being adapted and represent that in a way that the fans of said work can get behind. It then has to translate and transmit what makes said story so cool in a way that people unfamiliar with the source material can relate to and enjoy.
Unfortunately, Disney’s new “Artemis Fowl” film misses on both counts.
Based on the popular series of fantasy novels by Eoin Colfer, “Fowl” tells the story of the 12-year-old title character (Ferdia Shaw), a kid with a genius-level intellect and an absent father (Colin Farrell). When a mysterious black-hooded figure contacts him and tells him she has his dad imprisoned, Artemis finds himself drawn into a conflict between his world and the world of fairies that exists beneath the surface of the Earth.
Meanwhile, fairy law officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) struggles to clear her father’s name and prove herself to her superior, Commander Root (Judy Dench). Artemis and Holly must come together and trust one another in order to accomplish their goals and save the day.
This movie is a mess. The pacing is lumpy and inconsistent. The story jumps from one location to another in ways that don’t make sense or help the flow of the narrative. Shots are placed in sequence in ways that disrupt scenes and make you ask yourself why they are placed where they are.
Some story elements are brought to the forefront but then are never given a payoff. Consider a sequence where Artemis says he’s putting on his suit. We get a big close-up of the suit in question, indicating that this is something important for the viewer to take note of. Then? Nothing. No explanation of why the suit matters or if it’s special or why he needs to wear it. There’s so little payoff, one could be forgiven for think Artemis just wanted to run around looking like a “Blues Brothers” or “Men in Black” cosplayer.
After watching “Artemis Fowl” I have a theory on why it ended up being as much of a garbage fire as it did. I think this movie was meant to be a longer story than it currently is. Disney wanted something shorter, something that wouldn’t demand kids’ attention for too long. That meant a lot of the connective scenes that deepen the characters and tie the story together in a way that makes it flow more organically hit the cutting room floor.
The resulting movie is a disjointed mess, but that wouldn’t necessarily be a death sentence if it was at least interesting or stood out from other standard-issue family films. But it doesn’t stand out in any way. The action scenes aren’t especially exciting and visually arresting. The dialogue isn’t embarrassing but it’s also the kind of boring, push-the-story-forward shoe leather that doesn’t really get you inside that character’s heads.
The acting is similarly tolerable but uninspiring. The child actors are fine. Josh Gad appears to be having fun with his role as Mulch Diggums but the rest of the cast is pretty lifeless. Dench looks especially uncomfortable in her scenes, as if her fairy ears didn’t fit her very well.
Now, I can hear you saying “Hey, man. This is a movie for kids, not a French art film.” And you’re right. There’s probably enough cool sci-fi/fantasy stuff here to hold a kid’s interest for 96 minutes. Music lovers will probably appreciate Patrick Doyle’s beautiful score. But if you’re looking for good storytelling, you’ll want to look elsewhere. “Artemis Fowl” is far more foul ball than home run in that regard.
“Artemis Fowl” is available to stream on Disney+.
2 Indy Fedoras out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG

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