The 400-Word Review: Artemis Fowl
By Sean Collier
June 12, 2020

Artemis Fowl

You gotta know when to fold ’em. The release of “Artemis Fowl,” the beleaguered fantasy adaptation from Disney, is as close as a studio will ever get to simply bailing on a $125 million production.

Based on a popular young-adult series published in the early aughts, “Artemis Fowl” spent more than a decade in development hell before production steam began to build at the beginning of the last decade. Eventually, Disney bought in; Kenneth Branagh agreed to direct.

Then the trouble began.

The movie was being shepherded by Harvey Weinstein, leading to delays (and an overall de-emphasizing) coinciding with the producer’s downfall. After completion, Disney acquired Fox and shuffled its schedule to avoid competing with scheduled Fox titles, pushing “Artemis Fowl” into 2020. Then, as you may have heard, every movie theater closed.

Knowing they’d have a large slate of films to reschedule when possible, Disney threw in the towel, moving “Artemis Fowl” to an exclusive Disney+ premiere. Even at that, they couldn’t catch a break; June 12th has emerged as the most loaded date in the brief history of theatrical-at-home, with new films from Spike Lee and Judd Apatow also debuting.

It’s a remarkable downfall for the project; what was once envisioned as a franchise launcher, potentially the equivalent of “Harry Potter,” is being unceremoniously dropped into the streaming cavern.

Anyway, it’s just as well: This didn’t work.

The short version of the story: A 12-year-old prodigy (Ferdia Shaw) seeks to rescue his father (Colin Farrell), a researcher of mythical creatures. A world of fairytale beings dwells beneath the Earth’s surface; Dad’s disappearance is tied into the absence of a magical doohickey in the underworld.

The resulting film has a plot that moves like an escape room, as characters uncover obvious clues and clear rapid-fire hurdles that are barely justified by the script. Much of it may be missing; the original listed running time was nearly two hours, but the credits on the final cut roll at the 88-minute mark, suggesting that plenty of connective tissue was excised at the last minute.

The best thing that can be said for “Artemis Fowl” is that it’s weird; 40 years hence, I can see it being re-discovered as a camp oddity, the way we look at “Legend” or “Xanadu” today. (No amount of time will redeem Josh Gad’s rudimentary Hagrid imitation.) Even looking at it as pure novelty, however, it’s paper-thin.

My Rating: 3/10

“Artemis Fowl” is available on Disney+.