Artemis Fowl - This Movie Does Not Rock
Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Colin Farrell, Nonso Anozie, Tamara Smart
First off, Kenneth Branagh is a remarkably adept film director, fluent, vibrant and commanding of form. Second – this shows that the kids movie is probably not his most suited metier. To be fair to the man, he’s pretty much stuck here with what is remarkably weak material. Despite its huge popularity, Eion Colfer’s source novel (one of several) is not a good book. A mash up of Harry Potter-isms and His Dark Materials-isms, it was never anything but laboured, and lacking a large degree of charm.
In an attempt to launch a new Disney franchise (the movie has lost its theatrical window due to Covid 19 and gone straight to Disney +) there’s a huge amount of world building to achieve here, and Branagh does his best to keep it moving, but Basil Exposition is all over this thing. It starts with Josh Gad’s Hagrid-like oversized dwarf explaining everything – and never really lets up. As faeries, goblins, trolls and more – as well as their impressive looking underworld – are introduced, everyone and everything stops to explain who and what they are. Similarly, Artemis senior and junior, and their place in the world, also need constant explanation. It’s a lot to achieve in what was hoped to be the start of a series, and unfortunately Branagh never overcomes such narrative issues.
There are some impressive set pieces – an Italian wedding ambushed by a troll is both funny and exciting – as is the climax at Fowl manor, but it is not enough to make this fly. The kids – Shaw and McDonnell - are a touch too wooden, and Colin Farrell is underused. Dame Judi however seems to be having a lovely time chewing her dialogue as a high ranking faerie officer.
It’s all serviceable – probably more so on a Disney streaming service than as a major release. But in terms of Branagh’s body of work as a filmmaker, it can’t help but disappoint.