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  • Writer's picturePierre Eustache

The 'Artemis Fowl' movie is DOA


I originally happened upon the Artemis Fowl book series around 2007, while working at Barnes & Noble. I found the premise alone to be intriguing enough: The story centered around 12-year-old criminal mastermind looking to exploit a secret, high-tech race of fairies. I thought, A child criminal is the central character? I have to check this out! After beginning the first book, I was instantly hooked. I found Artemis to be so devious and cunning, and seeing him outsmart everyone around him was a delight. He was unlike anything I had read in a young character before. Going through the subsequent books in the series was just as enjoyable, as I watched Artemis's relationships with the fairies, and Captain Holly Short in particular, very slowly develop and become stronger and more amicable. I was so engaged, I ended up reading the entire fourth book in one sitting.

Naturally, I had wanted to see these stories eventually turned into films for the longest time. I would fantasy-book the characters in my mind. (I wanted The Good Doctor's Freddie Highmore to play Artemis for quite some time before he got too old.) I followed news of the film's development, which had been optioned for years before I even picked up the first novel. Sadly, many years went by without anything coming of it, and I figured it might be something that would never happen. Finally, when the original film rights expired, Disney picked up the option and began anew with the development process, and I allowed myself to get excited again. When the teaser trailer dropped I was, I imagined the possibilities. It felt like there was no one more excited to see the film than I was, and I hoped big.

Of course, the saying goes: The bigger they, the harder they fall. And man, did my hopes fall pretty hard. The end result turned out to be quite the disaster. Not only was the film a total mess from start to finish, but almost nothing about it resembled anything from the book series I loved.

Normally, I don't mind when films make drastic changes from the book. I understand that a lot of times, a movie can't logistically do everything that a book can, and the other way around. When the Ready Player One adaptation was released, I knew there was no way that it would be exactly like the book. But that was okay, and the movie ended up still being fun, because the makers kept the feel of it. Its themes remained, and tonally, it was the same story. However, in the case of Artemis Fowl, for whatever reason—perhaps in an attempt to make it more kid-friendly and approachable—Disney stripped it of its core and took away everything that made the title character interesting.

Gone is his menace, the cold, calculating nature of his personality. Gone is his criminality, replacing the book's heist of the fairy race's large stash of gold with a quest for some vaguely defined magical MacGuffin. Worst of all, Artemis's criminality has been all but erased. I can't stress this enough, but when I finished the film, my internal thoughts were screaming, He didn't even do anything! In the book, Artemis achieved everything on his own. Through extensive research, he discovered the existence of the fairies and plotted how to manipulate them in order to steal their gold. But in the film, his father, Artemis Fowl I, tells him everything he needs to know. Then, when the elder is kidnapped, Artemis is suddenly shown a hidden room filled with convenient clues his father left behind for him to easily solve like some beginner's version of Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code. By the time he kidnaps Short, he doesn't even know what this magical device he needs is supposed to do.

I could keep talking about the weird-looking action scenes, or the film's tendency to over-explain too many elements of the book's world into a 90-minute runtime. But honestly, how can anyone expect the movie to make any sense when the main character's motivations don't even make any sense? The Artemis Fowl of the books had savvy, intelligence, and an emotional maturity that belied his young age. His film version didn't even know his dad did crime. Later in the film, he shouts at someone, "He's not a criminal! He's my dad!"At that point, I knew my hope for this film was just as dead as its chances for a sequel.


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