Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Artemis Fowl (2020)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Artemis Fowl (2020)
Genre:  Adventure, Family, Fantasy
Length:  95 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Tribeca Productions, Marzano Films, Disney+
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Conor McPherson, Hamish McColl, Eoin Colfer
Actors: Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Colin Farrell, Ferdia Shaw, Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Nikesh Patel, Adrian Scarborough, Jake Davies, William Moseley, Sally Messham, Grace Molony, Molly Harris, Matt Jessup, Joshua McGuire, Michael Abubakar, Arian Nik

Blurb from IMDb: Artemis Fowl, a young criminal prodigy, hunts down a secret society of fairies to find his missing father.

Cat’s Point of View:

I feel I must open my review with the disclosure that I have not yet read the Artemis Fowl book series. My love of the fantastical and all things Irish pulls me towards the books; however, my to-read list grows by the day. What a problem to have, though, right? I digress.

The general consensus I’ve noticed from far and wide is that if you love the books, you might not enjoy the movie quite so much. There were evidently some big changes. From what I’ve gathered through various online sources and even IMDb’s Trivia section for the film, I can’t say that I blame fans for being a bit miffed.

The movie rights were gained before the books hit the shelves, however, and it’s been knocking about development hell since 2001; so one could generally expect a few hiccups along the way. Then you add into consideration Sir Kenneth Branagh (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Cinderella, All Is True) at the helm, directing, and you get a little inkling of where things went a hair sideways.

Branagh’s work is known for being visually stunning and cinematically complicated – if a bit eccentric. One example of his hand in some of the changes that likely have die-hard fans up in arms is the casting of Nonso Anozie (Zoo, 7 Days in Entebbe, The Laundromat) in the role of Dom Butler. Apparently, the character in the books is supposed to be of an ethnicity where it’s hard to determine where he’s from and thus makes it easier for him to blend in. Anozie is certainly not someone that blends in easily. Added to that, there were some rather interesting aesthetics used for his character in the movie that would make it even harder to do so.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Anozie’s work and I loved him in this role. He’s just not likely who anyone was expecting.

Considering the series author, Eoin Colfer (Prodigy, Half Moon Investigations, Poison Pen), took an active role in the film, quite literally, as a cameo character; one would think he was on board with this vision of his work. He’s stated in interviews that he found watching the film surreal due to the amalgamation of his imagination and Branagh’s, but that he was ultimately happy to be involved with the project.

Aside from those issues, the film had an unbelievably talented cast, for the most part. Dame Judi Dench (Skyfall, Tulip Fever, Red Joan) was outstanding in her role as Commander Root, delivering the serious and gruff, but motherly, touch harkening back to her role as M in the Bond movies. Colin Farrell (Widows, Dumbo, The Gentlemen), who is known for being a little eccentric with his own movie choices, knocked the role of Artemis, Sr. out of the park – even though he didn’t get nearly as much screen time as I would have liked.

Josh Gad (Beauty and the Beast, Murder on the Orient Express, Little Monsters) was probably my favorite of all with his character’s wit and sleight of hand mastery. Even relative newcomer, Lara McDonnell (Love Rosie, Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters, The Delinquent Season) gave a rousing performance. I completely bought into her character’s inner conflict and desire to clear her father’s name.

Of course, we have to address the elephant in the room – the fact that this movie simply didn’t live up to its potential.

My heart soared with the lilting Irish whistle in the film's score. The effects and costumes for the fairies and their kin were also well done. Some of the scenes, however, were a bit frenetic – having a few too many bells and whistles when something a little simpler would have been fine. Instead, it felt a bit like Branagh had borrowed a few notes from Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers, Pain & Gain).

That, by itself, wouldn’t be enough to steer me away from the movie. When you add it to a lackluster performance from the movie’s main and title character, however, there’s something amiss in Denmark.

To be fair, this is Ferdia Shaw’s first and only acting credit in IMDb. He’s got raw talent that he likely hasn’t had a chance to tap into yet, much less refine. In time, I’d like to see where his career takes him – but for now, this wasn’t entirely the part for him. Visually, he was believable as the young Artemis. He hit all the right points aesthetically. Unfortunately, he lost me in his rather wooden delivery of the dialogue.

I wanted this movie to be good. It was at the top of our lists for this month. It’s not horrible, though. The good elements certainly outweigh the iffy ones. If only those same iffy bits weren’t glaringly front and center. All told, I’d say this was generally at or below par for a standard Disney Channel movie. The fact that it premiered on Disney+ rather than the global box-office likely worked in the film’s favor. If you have kids to entertain on a summer day, this movie wouldn't be a bad choice.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 10%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 21%
Metascore – 31/100
Metacritic User Score – 3.2/10
IMDB Score – 4.0/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 3/5

Movie Trailer:

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