Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it comes a time to admit to yourself that you really might not be the intended demographic for the movie you’re watching. This moment came for me about 20 minutes into Disney Plus’ latest feature length offering, Artemis Fowl when I realised that I had absolutely no idea who anyone in the story was or why I should care about any of them.
Based on the popular YA fantasy series by Eoin Colfer and directed by Kenneth Branagh, the film stars newcomer Ferdia Shaw in the titular role and tells the story of a young criminal prodigy, on the hunt for a secret society of fairies.
When his father, the suspected international criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl Sr (Colin Farrell) disappears without trace, 12 year old Artemis junior (Shaw) vows to find his father and bring him back home whatever it takes. Aided by his trusted butler Domovoi (Nonso Anozie), Artemis captures a rebellious young fairy (Lara McDonnell) to force her own kind out of hiding and into a showdown in the hope of getting to the bottom of his father’s disappearance.
Having neither read nor even been that aware of Eoin Colfer’s books, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but what I hadn’t expected was to be completely dumbfounded, confused and utterly bewildered by the film’s genuinely baffling plot. Two whole days after watching it, I genuinely couldn’t tell you what the story is about. This, you see, isn’t really Colfer’s fault, his books are I’m sure popular for a reason. That reason being that fantasy sells, and when it is well done, young readers will keep coming back for more with each new release. The problem here isn’t that the story doesn’t translate to the screen, but rather that those doing the translating have sadly failed to do it justice.
Branagh presents an admittedly handsomely made CGI heavy adventure, but Artemis Fowl is above all let down by a hugely muddled screenplay which fails to set out who we are supposed to be rooting for and why we should even care about any of the characters at all.
Dame Judi Dench does her best as Commander Root, the leader of the secret fairy society, but even the power of the Dench couldn’t save this from being a big ol’ mess. Elsewhere, Josh Gad is great as Mulch Diggums, the nefarious criminal with more tricks up his sleeves than Inspect Gadget.
Elevated by some brilliant performances courtesy of McDonnell and Shaw, Artemis Fowl will no doubt find a home with those who know these stories better than the rest of us. Having said that, what the film fails to do is provide any kind of coherent narrative to keep the laymen amongst us interested for long enough to care one way or the other.