Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Colin Farrell, Nonso Anozie, Tamara Smart and Judi Dench
Run time: 1h 35min
Fowl. Artemis Fowl. Criminal mastermind, thief and kidnapper all by the ripe old age of 12.
Created by author Eoin Colfer, Artemis and his young adult adventures span several books and after many delays have finally been brought to the big screen by Disney. Well, if you have a 50” plus TV then that last statement stands. Denied its cinematic release due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenneth Branagh’s version has found its home on Disney+ and will be available to stream from Friday 12th June.
Taking a hugely popular book and transferring it onto film will always cause anxiety and apprehension from its loyal fan base. Sometimes they work (hello, Harry Potter), sometimes they don’t (goodbye, The Golden Compass).
Artemis Fowl won’t please all the purists, as there’s plenty of artistic license in play and quite significant changes to the source material, but there’s still a lot to enjoy. Josh Gad, Colin Farrell and Judi Dench bring the pulling power, but the responsibility of playing the eponymous antihero belongs to newcomer Ferdia Shaw.
Reclusive antiquities dealer Artemis Fowl Snr (Farrell) is kidnapped and it’s left to his son, the brilliant yet misunderstood Artemis Fowl Jnr, to investigate his disappearance. His search leads him to discover a hidden, technologically advanced world of fairies, trolls and magic. The ransom demand centres around a MacGuffin called the Aculos, an artefact full of mystical power and potentially lethal in the wrong hands that was recently stolen from the fairies.
Teaming up with a reluctant fairy police officer (Lara McDonnell), Artemis’s determination to save his father leads the human world into a deadly conflict with the fairies and one which threatens to destroy them both.
No stranger to the fantasy genre, Branagh keeps the pace zipping along nicely and at only 95 minutes, it could be argued a little more time should’ve been spent on character background and development, but also making the occasionally confusing story less-so. The underground world he’s created is spectacular and it needed exploring in more detail.
Regular Branagh composer Patrick Doyle’s score is a Celtic influenced triumph, with violins and pipes atmospherically soaring in the background. Another Branagh stalwart is cinematographer Hans Zambarloukos and he takes full advantage of Ireland’s picturesque landscape to produce magnificent shots of its countryside.
Josh Gad well and truly lets Olaf go and has a blast as an oversized dwarf whilst Judi Dench brings her usual class, but flirts with various accents and never settles on any particular one. Both enjoy playing with gravelly voices and, thankfully, a throwaway quip makes light of this although there needed to be more self-aware moments throughout.
Colin Farrell isn’t on screen as much as he should be whilst Tamara Smart and Nonso Anozie are underused sidekicks. Ferdia Shaw is certainly likeable as Artemis and showcases his cool, calculating genius with ease, but he’s often outshone by McDonnell’s spirited and feisty fairy.
Although there are flaws, Artemis Fowl is full of potential and is an exciting adventure for all the family. A smart, stylish introduction to what could be a new and dynamic franchise. If there is another, it needs to be wittier and not afraid to delve into more detail to flesh out some of the characters.
Artemis Fowl will be streaming on Disney+ from Friday 12th June.