Besides being the leading force in animation and feature-length family entertainment for the past squillion years, Disney maintained the thankless task of giving parents hours of peace and quiet by just sticking their offspring in front of a screen and putting something on from the Mouse House to keep them occupied. That iconic castle and its firework display meant an assurance that the little’uns would likely keep schtum for the next few hours. However, it’s a matter of minutes into Artemis Fowl the film fails at this job in every conceivable way.
Initially set for the big screen before the pandemic, Disney worked damage control and stuck it on their streaming service this weekend for all the subscribing world to see. It’s the only right move they made with Artemis Fowl, short of not making this film at all. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who looks to have chucked lots of stuff from the source material at a wall, and seeing what the camera caught, the film follows super-genius and son of a world-famous antiques collector and thief, Artemis Fowl, played by Ferdia Shaw.
This kid is unlikeable from the off; less of the cocky hotshot you hate to love, and more just a smirking little gobshite who probably told at least one teacher how his Dad pays his salary. Everything goes otherworldy though, when Artemis Sr., played by Colin Farrell, is kidnapped by a hooded, raspy-voiced wrong-un by the name of Opal Koboi and held for ransom. It turns out father Fowl has pinched something of great importance that could cause trouble for both the human and fairy world that young Artemis has been educated on for years growing up. Now, only he can do something or other to get his Dad back and keep both the human and fairy world balanced and safe, or whatever.
Known for being at his best when The Bard is involved, Branagh has had averaging intervals with fantasy in the past, so it shouldn’t be new for him. Thor and Cinderella, while not the most esteemed of their respective trending categories, were nowhere near as weak as this CGI-infused, infuriatingly dull adventure. In what feels like a Potter-like world with magical beings living out of sight from ordinary human folk, there’s every chance this could’ve been the start of something special. Instead, what we get is bits and pieces of something that doesn’t feel whole. Branagh jumps around an array of dull locations with characters that feel bland and forgettable, with the cast being unable to elevate it.
Supporting stellar talent is majorly misused. From Nonso Anozie as Artemis’ stoic and lifeless bodyguard Dom to Dame Judi Dench as Commander Root, the head of the LEPRecon, a security force keeping the magic world in check. She and Josh Gad as the terrain-chewing dwarf, Mulch Diggums both compete to put on the best gruff, Dark Knight-like voices as their fantastical counterparts, the latter becoming even more infuriating given that he’s narrating this absolute bore-fest. There’s also the ongoing crime that makes us question if we will ever see a day where Colin Farrell will be used to full effect in a fantasy film? Well, will we?!
At the centre of it, all though is Shaw, trying to take on what’s an apparent attempt at a franchise opener and struggling. Unfortunately, he or any other bit of input has what it takes to recover what could’ve been Disney’s next big thing, and will instead fall in line with the likes of Stormbreaker and Eragon as a franchise that could’ve been.