Once upon a time a talking pig decided to prove himself, so he went on adventures after he soared above the competition in a sheepherding competition. This story of a pig who did a dog’s job became a sweet little kid’s story nominated for several of the big Oscars, not something commonly said in a sentence. As strange as it may be, it proves that even an innocent, whimsical product can achieve such honors from the most prestigious movie club in the nation, and proves why Artemis Fowl has no excuse to be such a boring kids’ book adaptation with a confusing plot.
The boredom hits most ironically during the magical underground world, which was intended to be the most memorable part of the film. It’s boring because it follows the typical tropes of every modern fantasy film: an establishing shot is first shown of the CGI city, some of the architecture is seen in midair, the camera sweeps through the streets to show the diverse zany citizens coinhabiting together, which includes fairies, goblins, dwarves, and centaurs, all doing tasks that are familiar but in extraordinary ways. The digital world is made out of perfectly shiny architecture without a flaw, just like every other live action Disney Channel original movie. It’s lazy enough to the point one could not even name this film if looking at a single freeze-frame of it out of context.
The whole story is told by Josh Gad as a way of convincing the audience that fairy tales are real (because the bad special effects are TOTALLY going to convince people of that), which truth be told, is a bad message to teach kids. Really, when the theme of trying to prove the existence of fantasy life includes the title character joyfully breaking the law, clearly there’s harmful consequences to consider. Parents: take careful note! As Gad tells this story, his character is arrested and put under interrogation on an island while the image turns black-and-white, which in full honesty is a clever choice to structure the events under an aura of mystery. Yet Josh Gad is far from the best thing about the feature, especially with the one thing he does with his mouth that lands straight into the uncanny valley.
Some things though are enjoyable for the wrong reasons. The lead actor, Ferdia Shaw, gives some laughably underwhelming line deliveries when trying to sound distressed, which gets especially noticeable throughout the exposition-heavy scenes. But for the most part, his lifeless eyes that lack a child’s awestruck wonder render the humor in his lack of talent not worth searching for. Shaw can’t really be blamed though, as his character has no quirks besides having a big brain; it seems he’s intentionally written without personality as to be a placeholder for young viewers to imagine themselves in his spot and fantasize how they would respond to the given situations. Think of it as a “choose your own adventure” narrative, except each path is already pre-chosen.
Artemis is much less of a character than the big attractive house he lives in; in fact, it’s so big and attractive, that the movie would have worked better if it was entirely set within those walls as opposed to going outside into the land of magical creatures, as the design of each room tells his entire family history. Well, those details would be noticeable, that is, if they didn’t play second banana in spectacle to a ludicrous troll fight scene inside that very house.
The lack of life in characterization applies to the rest of the cast, Josh Gad of course rambles on awful attempts at humor, but there’s also the teen actress Lara McDonnell who lacks any pacing to her performance. She’s expected to be seen as a heroine, except she never does anything heroic besides build up her own pride. Remember when Disney’s version of Hercules taught kids that a true hero is measured by sacrifice, not fame? No positive morals like that here! Instead, nothing is sacrificed by the spoiled heroes. The kids are indeed bland as rubber, though the adults at least show a few somewhat distinct stereotypes to be identifiable. There’s the evil queen archetype. There’s the wily troublemaker. There’s the shady faceless baddie. There’s the goblin-type prisoner creature who picks fights. Sorry, that’s the only positive thing to say about the characterizations.
Also, while talking about the wasted cast, what the heck, Judi Dench?! She already played the most horrifying of the horrifying in that furry fever dream Cats, and now she assumes the role of an underacting commander?! What happened to you, Judi?! You’re better than this.
It doesn’t feel like the production crew responsible for this mess wanted to make a genuine movie, or even make money (they already knew there was too little of an audience for this to make a profit), and more like they just wanted an excuse to visit Ireland. Can they be blamed though? The setting off the stunning Irish coasts feel tailor-made to ignite many travel bugs! If only there was any sign of respect to the country from these filmmakers in their creative process, the closest they get to that is a line that calls Ireland “the most magical place on earth.”
All this ranting now makes me ponder, “Should I travel to Ireland someday?” Honestly, I shouldn’t let other filmmakers decide my major life choices for me. However much I loved a movie in the past, none has ever made me want to travel anywhere specific, thus, my answer to my question is not anytime soon. Sorry Artemis Fowl, even in what little you wanted to achieve, you blew it; all you’ll be known for is being a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, (takes deep breaths) very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, (almost dies from lack of oxygen) very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very bad movie! (Whew!)
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Lee, Zachary. “Ode to ‘Artemis Fowl’.” Digital image. The Cornell Daily Sun. 16 Mar 2020. Web. <https://cornellsun.com/2020/03/16/ode-to-artemis-fowl/>.
Movies. Disney. Web. <https://movies.disney.com/artemis-fowl>.