There’s a new movie playing on a TV near you and it’s called Artemis Fowl. And if you’re reading any of the reviews online, you’re probably planning to stay far far away.
But fear not, Artemis Fowl is not as foul as you might be reading – with a few caveats.
Artemis Fowl is the latest from Disney Studios, based on a series of wildly popular fantasy books by Eoin Colfer. The stories, from what I’ve read, feature the criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II. He’s a 12 year old genius, the son or Artemis Fowl I, and the next generation in a long line of criminals.
Here’s a quick synopsis of the first book in the series to better understand who he is and what the original story was all about:
Artemis Fowl is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series. It follows the adventures of Artemis Fowl, a 12 year-old criminal mastermind, as he kidnaps a fairy for a large ransom of gold with the help of his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler, and his sister, Juliet Butler, to restore the Fowl family fortune. After multiple attempts by the Lower Elements Police (LEP) fairy police, including sending a criminal dwarf called Mulch Diggums, it concludes with Artemis finally releasing Holly Short, the elf fairy, whom he kidnapped, and having his mother cured of madness (in exchange for half of the gold that he had stolen from the fairies).Wikipedia, Artemis Fowl
The movie roughly follows the same story. as told from the point of view of Mulch Diggums (played by hardly recognizable Josh Gad), who is being questioned by MI6. We see a swarm of agents ushering Diggums off to a top secret location for questioning about his role in the discovery of many stolen artifacts at the Fowler manor.
His retelling starts with a quick snapshot of Artemis Fowl, who we quickly understand is a pompous little snot. At least with the rest of the world. At home with his father, the senior Fowl, he’s a quick-witted curious little fella that just wants to follow in his father’s footsteps.
When his father leaves on a business trip, young Artemis is left in the care of Butler. Not THE Butler, but the family manservant named Butler. Soon after, his father disappears and we find that he’s being held prisoner by some dark, ominous figure and young Fowl is determined to hatch a mastermind plan to get him back.
The story plays out the way most modern Disney live action movies do these days. A lot of action, a LOT of CGI, a few underdeveloped characters, a few inconsistent storylines, and a happyish ending.
If you’re looking for a light, fluffy(ish), family-friendly movie that you won’t have to think about too much, you’ll get it with Artemis Fowl. So why are the reviews so bad? I have a few thoughts on that.
If you read the books (which, for once, I did not), you’re probably going to be super annoyed. I’ve heard this from friends who have kids that read the books. Be prepared for a lot of “that didn’t happen in the book!”
But the biggest complaints come from the biggest fans who are saying that the movie changed the entire characterization of Artemis Fowl. In the books, he’s the antagonist for many of the stories with the fairies as the clear protagonists. As a book character he’s described as “cold, cynical, and often outright ruthless.”
It would appear that he’s been Disney-fied. He’s practically a hero in the film.
Other complaints are of Disney “whitewashing” the film. Holly Short, the fairy who co-stars in the story, is described as having nut brown skin, yet she’s the picture of a nice white pixie. Butler, is described as being of Asian descent but it played by a black man with bright blue eyes.
Again, the chief complaints seem to be coming from devoted fans who take issue with the complete bastardization of the characters. And Disney had plenty of time to rectify the situation.
I received the teaser/trailer back in November 2018 with a promise of an August 2019 release date. When 2019 came and went, the film was slated for a 2020 release due to a “change in release schedules.” Rumor has it there were reshoots and probably rewrites as director Kenneth Branagh admits it was challenging to translate the book to the screen. In fact, much of this teaser trailer wasn’t even in the final cut.
As someone who hasn’t read the books, I felt it was a perfectly benign film. Totally suitable for a family movie night that you’ll forget about the next day. While it’s clearly designed to set the stage for future installments, chances are pretty high that fans will say no thanks.
ARTEMIS FOWL was released on Disney+ on June 12, 2020.
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