Disney’s Artemis Fowl feels like it was better off being a Disney Channel show rather than a Disney Studios feature. The main reason is an episodic show allows you to develop characters properly and build suspense from episode to episode. Events in the film move way too fast to allow this to happen.
First, Artemis starts as an unlikeable character. He’s way too smart for a child and looks down on anyone who is not his equal…that’s everybody including us viewers. Sympathy is built by telling us about his dead mother along a single moment of tenderness between father and son. This is not how you make a sympathetic character. Show—don’t’ tell!!! In fact, this is how sympathy is built through the entire film. We’re told Domovoi has been with the family for a long time. We’re told Holly Short’s father was killed and framed as a traitor. We’re told about the criminal past of Mulch Diggums.
“…the cool elements in the story are just not cool enough.”
The other problem is the cool elements in the story are just not cool enough. When Artemis discovers his father’s secret underground lair, the moment of wonder is never exploited. This is your James Bond gadget moment, and it should be fun, cool, amazing, funny. The moment of discovering the underground world of fairies is visually spectacular, but we’ve seen this before, and Star Wars did it so much better. The power the fairies have is tremendous, but they seem convenient to the plot and not necessarily something you’d associate with fairies. Finally, Domovoi has a daughter Juliet (Tamara Smart), who becomes Artemis’ invaluable sidekick, but very little time is given to developing this character and his relationship with Artemis properly.
While I’m nitpicking, Judi Dench and Josh Gad have these annoying gravely voices, and thankfully Gad points it out halfway through the film. Josh Gad, to me, was the most memorable character of the film. First, my kid thought he was Hagrid’s son. Second, I didn’t even realize it was him as he sounded like Hagrid through most of the film. Though silly at times, he is that standout character a franchise needs.
I followed the Artemis Fowl story when it was slated for release last year, and it’s never good when the studio pulls it from the schedule and shelves it indefinitely. It usually means Disney knew what the rest of us would find out about the quality of the film. It’s a shame because so many excellent and talented people worked on this film. Thanks to the pandemic, it can see the light of day on Disney+ bypassing an expensive marketing push. Artemis Fowl is not a horrible film, but it had the potential to succeed, yet falls flat in the end.
"…it was better off being a Disney Channel show rather than a Disney Studios feature."