Artemis Fowl II (i.e. the second) is a 12-year-old Irish genius descended from a long line of criminal masterminds. He is said to have the highest IQ in Europe (200). He isn’t as impressive physically, and to balance this out he is trained in numerous martial arts by Domovoi Butler, his trusted servant and bodyguard. Artemis has dark, “raven-coloured” hair, and deep blue eyes like his father.
His father’s past is mysterious. He travels overseas constantly and is away from his son for long periods. His activities are secret. The only thing he shares are the stories of the fairy folk, literal “fairy tales”. The Fowls live on a two-hundred-acre estate, the centrepiece being a mansion known as Fowl Manor. It has old time furnishings and decoration which disguise the advanced security and weaponry.
One day, young Artemis is contacted and told that his father, away on one of his trips, has been kidnapped. A ransom is demanded. Artemis and his servant Dom need to work out how to get the senior Fowl back. At this point, certain events transpire and it becomes evident that the fairy stories were real, and that it may become necessary to battle against a race of powerful Fairies who seem to be responsible for the father’s disappearance.
The Fairies live underground in a metropolis called Haven. It is completely hidden away by advanced technology. After a long war with humans, which the fairies lost, they retreated underground to stay away from the destructiveness of humanity. The Fairies are divided into Elves, Dwarves, Pixies, Gnomes, Gremlins, Goblins, Sprites and Demons.Centaurs and Trolls are also in existence and part of the underground world.
The Fairies have a group called the Lower Elements Police. And they are often engaged with tracking down fairies who make it onto the surface of the Earth. Artemis captures an elven reconnaissance officer called Holly Short and attempts to use her as part of a larger plan to get his father back.
The eight-book Artemis Fowl series was written by Irish author Eoin Colfer beginning in 2001. They are aimed at children, although many adults count themselves as fans. The book series has been tremendously successful, selling 25 million copies and translated into 44 languages. There have been numerous attempts to get Artemis Fowl onto the big screen. Now, Disney has finally brought it all together and offers the first movie in what will doubtless become a franchise, if the movie emulates the success of the source material.
Eoin Colfer’s fictional world blends science-fiction and fantasy with elements of Celtic mythology. The movie’s $125 million budget has gone into creating a visually spectacular underground city and building the sophisticated set that is the real-world Fowl Manor. The cinematography is dazzling, particularly of the clifftop and seaside locations in England and Northern Ireland. The CG and visual effects material is variable. There are creatures like a large people-eating, building-wrecking troll, a time-freezing dome and fleets of Fairy ships. This last element, which also involved a fairy army, felt and looked somewhat like the concept of the underwater folk in the AQUAMAN (2019) movie. But that’s one of the pitfalls of this kind of fantasy filmmaking; how do you keep your make-believe magic military from looking like anyone else’s?
The screenplay was written by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl and it packs in plenty of detail, but, at times, is short on both story and character development. There were moments that felt puzzling or unearned, where I wondered why the story had got to certain places. Kenneth Branagh directs and for the most part the action is well mounted (Holly Short’s first fairy mission is a highlight) and the performances solid.
Colin Farrell plays the senior Artemis Fowl, Nonso Anozie is Dom, Judi Dench is Commander Root the head of the fairy police and Nikesh Patel is Foaly the centaur. Mulch Diggums is an important character to the series and Josh Gad does an excellent and entertaining job with this rather tall dwarf. Lara McDonnell is very good as Holly Short. Ferdia Shaw is the junior Artemis Fowl and it seems he has done as required in portraying the character from the book, however that involves a certain degree of aloofness. He is supposed to be smug and detached intermittently. Then we see his more vulnerable traits. It will be interesting to see how this plays with audience members who don’t know the original material.
All up, Disney has assembled a talented team and made an entertaining family adventure flick that runs for 1 hour and 55 minutes. I’m giving it (7/10).
ARTEMIS FOWL streams exclusively on Disney+ from June 12.