What exactly is Artemis Fowl about?
Basically, it opens with news reports about the home of millionaire businessman Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell) being raided by the police and the discovery that Fowl has apparently been stealing ancient artifacts from across the world. A bearded man named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) is arrested at the house and is interrogated by …. someone. I guess he’s being interrogated by an intelligence agency, I don’t know. Mulch explains that he’s a dwarf and that he’s about to tell a story that will prove that magic exists which …. okay, I guess.
The story is about Artemis Fowl’s 12 year-old son, who is also named Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw). The younger Artemis Foul is a criminal mastermind, just like his father, and he wears a suit and dark glasses and basically, he looks like a 12 year-old who dressed up like one of the Men In Black for Halloween. Artemis Fowl the younger is investigating the disappearance of Artemis Fowl the older which leads to a search for a missing magical object. Somehow, it all involves faeries and other magical figures. Judi Dench pops up a few times, looking stern. There’s a lot of chase scenes and a few fight scenes, none of which really make much of an impression.
The plot of Artemis Fowl is pretty much impossible to follow, especially if you haven’t read (or, in my case, recently reread) the books on which the film is based. A huge part of the problem is that the film itself doesn’t really develop any sort of individual personality. For a film about a 12 year-old wearing a suit and concocting criminal schemes, Artemis Fowl is surprisingly bland. It feels like a collection of scenes from other YA adaptations. We get the slow motion fight scenes. We get the magical scenes that feel as if they were lifted from a lesser entry from the Harry Potter series. Indeed, a huge chunk of the film seems to be made up of discarded scenes from director Kenneth Branagh’s previous excursion into the world of fantasy and vaguely defined magic, Thor. The film moves quickly but since nothing interesting or unusual is happening, you find yourself wishing that maybe the film would slow down for a just a minute or two and spend a bit of time exploring the world in which the two Artemis Fowls live. It’s a remarkably undetailed fantasy world that Artemis Fowl presents us with. I spent the majority of the movie wondering whether Judi Dench was supposed to be an elf or a faerie. One of the great actress, Dench spends the entire film wearing pointed ears and looking rather annoyed.
Much like Dolittle, Artemis Fowl ends with the promise of more cinematic adventures, though it’s doubtful that promise will actually be fulfilled. Also — and again like Dolittle — it’s hard not to feel that Artemis Fowl would have worked much better as an animated film than as a live action spectacular. Unfortunately, Artemis Fowl is just too bland and borderline incoherent to really make much of a lasting impression.