ESP’s film critic Gavin Miller is keeping an eye on the small screen’s streaming delights for the time being so grab the popcorn and settle on the sofa…
This glossy big-budget family-friendly adventure was undoubtedly meant to be a major summer ‘tentpole’ movie for Disney.
But when COVID-19 put paid to that – and Disney decided to fire this straight onto their new streaming platform – you actually begin to wonder whether the pandemic circumstances was just an ‘excuse’ to cover up this blockbuster failure.
Because to put it simply, the start of a new Harry Potter-esque franchise that it obviously intended to be – Artemis Fowl definitely isn’t.
Despite some interesting ideas – with Disney obviously hoping director Kenneth Branagh was a ‘great fit’ due to his work on the likes of Thor and Cinderella – leads to a muddled mess that is ‘done and dusted’ rather quickly.
Rather like 2007’s box-office failure The Golden Compass as a comparable misfire.
It isn’t helped from the start with Ferdia Shaw coming across as quite the precocious Irish youngster as the ‘criminal mastermind’ lead character, but he’s helped out by likeable turns from Colin Farrell as his father Artemis Sr – and a standout performance by Lara McDonnell as elven officer Holly Short.
As you’ve probably gathered from the previous paragraph, this film has elves, along with goblins, dwarves and trolls, as a secret fairy world thrives towards the earth’s core in this adaptation of Irish author Eoin Colfer’s 2001 sci-fi novel.
And when Artemis’ (Shaw) father gets kidnapped – and his abductor (a pixie called Opal Koboi) demands that the youngster locates the magical artefact known as the Aculos to ensure his release – he teams up with loyal family bodyguard Dom (Nonso Anozie) to capture Short and unlock the clues to the location of the treasure.
Throw in Judi Dench’s commander Root and Josh Gad’s (Frozen) large dwarf thief Mulch Diggums, and what we have is a barely passable adventure, that despite its glossy production values, is all rather uninspiring.
Which is rubber-stamped by Joshua McGuire’s predictable turncoat switch as a power-hungry lieutenant late on – that has been ‘done to death’ a hundred times before.
With only the film as a yardstick – apparently fans of the novel would be angered by how it has been delivered on-screen – it can only be rated in that capacity, and despite a handful of decent fantastical elements, it quite evidently doesn’t live up to the promise of the source material.
It seems ‘rushed’ to fast-track completion with Disney seemingly giving up hope that this was going to yield a profitable franchise part-way through.
Which sadly leaves a Fowl-smell tarnishing what could have potentially been something special.
ESP Rating: 2.5/5
Cast: Ferdia Shaw, Lara Mcdonnell, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Nonso Anozie, Nikesh Patel, Joshua Mcguire, Adrian Scarborough & Judi Dench
Running Time: 1 Hr 36 Mins
Director: Kenneth Branagh