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Review: Artemis Fowl (2020)

One of the most popular book series of modern times finally hits cinema (or streaming!) as the Kenneth Branagh directed Artemis Fowl debuted on Disney+ this week. Fans had been excited about this for a long time and expectations were high. Unfortunately what we got was yet another another Hollywood knows best interpretation that took a massive dump over what everyone loved about the book series.

Is it so hard for someone to make a film about a franchise without feeling the need to rewrite something that has already has an established fan base? This movie is clearly just a set up for a sequel, it is just a huge shame they did not bother to establish any of the characters so that the audience had characters they want to actually see in another film.

To start with Artemis (played by Ferdia Shaw) is in no way shape or form villain – kind of a key element in the books where Artemis was a ruthless dude who would do whatever it took to accomplish his goals. In the book Artemis kidnaps a fairy to get fairy gold to restore his family fortune. In one deleted scene you get a glimpse of what could have been as Artemis poisons a fairy and threatens to let her die painfully unless a magical book is revealed to him. Instead it becomes a run of the mill discovery movie where a generic AF Artemis is introduced to a new world he did not know existed.

Other characters like Holly Short (played by  Lara McDonnell) have her character arc (and skin colour!) totally changed and a new back story introduced, Instead of hating humans because of circumstances surrounding her mother’s death and battling to be taken seriously by her senior the male Commander Root. Instead we get Dame Judi Dench as Root wiping out that storyline and a Holly whose father was expelled from the fairy world as a criminal (but was he?).

Artemis Fowl has an immersive mythology that sprawls over eight books but instead of using that to construct a universe that could indeed spawn a franchise, the House of Mouse have instead arrogantly took the opinion that they know better than author Eoin Colfer and the fan base the books already have.

Verdict: 4/10. Whilst not a totally awful movie in every sense it is just another example of Hollywood buying a franchise, ignoring what made it successful and doing what they think is best. It fails in delivering the loved characters of the book to the screen and alienates the franchises original fan base. I wonder if anyone involved actually read the book! If there is a second movie some desperate course corrections are needed. I hope for some kind of directors cut can redeem this as the actors seem to be really trying in general. At least people might go and read the books now to see what could have been…

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