Nearly a year after its originally planned release, Artemis Fowl—a Kenneth Branagh-directed film adapted from Irish author Eoin Colfer’s hit series — is finally coming to theaters this spring. And the latest trailer so far has not been well received by hardcore fans of the book, who loudly disapprove of what appears to be a significant departure from the novels’ evil boy genius in favor of a more “Disney-fied” heroic figure.
There are eight books in the Artemis Fowl series, detailing the titular character’s elaborate exploits. The debut novel received generally positive reviews and a few comparisons to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, although Colfer’s books never achieved the same stratospheric commercial success. Still, Disney is betting that there is an equally strong appetite for the Artemis Fowl series on the big screen.
That said, the comparison annoys Colfer, who describes his novels as more like “die hard with fairies.” As I wrote when the first teaser came out in November 2018, “That’s a pretty accurate description. Artemis is the anti-Harry Potter. He is a thief and kidnapper, among other misdeeds, and he is largely unfazed by remorse. That’s part of its charm.”
In the first book, 12-year-old Artemis lives largely unsupervised in the Fowl house. His father (Artemis Fowl I, played by Colin Farrell) is missing and his mother has gone mad with grief. He relies on his faithful protector, Butler, for companionship. They stumble upon a portal to the fairy underworld and Artemis decides to kidnap a fairy and hold her for ransom to fund his search for his father. The fairies take revenge and Artemis must face their magical powers. Artemis goes on to save his father from the Russian mafia in the second book and finds himself in alliance with the fairies he originally fought with to help them defeat a goblin army.
Branagh’s filming was originally scheduled for August last year, until Disney’s merger with 20th Century Fox led to a major reshuffle of planned releases. unlike The new mutantshowever, there were no rumors (confirmed or otherwise) about any new recordings requested Artemis Fowl. So the studio doesn’t seem to have any issues with the actual film, which Branagh has described as an origin story.
According to the official premise:
[The film] follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he searches for his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his faithful protector Butler, Artemis goes in search of him, uncovering an ancient underground civilization: the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father’s disappearance is somehow related to the mysterious, reclusive fairy world, the scheming Artemis concocts a dangerous plan – so dangerous that he ends up in a dangerous battle of wits with the almighty fairies.
The next criminal mastermind
Just like in the books, this is a magical world with a police force of the lower elements (LEP), trolls, dwarves and goblins, all under the ‘real’ human world. Bonus: Dame Judi Dench plays a gender-swapped LEP commander Root (the character is a cigar-munching tough guy in the novels). Colfer himself appears as an extra in one scene and has said the experience gave him “a new respect for actors.”
The trailer opens with a series of security cameras, then zooms in to reveal a voice interrogating a dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) to tell them more about the man he works for, Artemis Fowl I. “This It’s not about the father, it’s about the son,” Mulch grins. We see the senior Fowl praising his son for becoming stronger and smarter than he ever imagined, interspersed with a training montage.
When the elder Fowl disappears during a mysterious mission, our main character, Artemis Fowl Jr., gets a call from whoever is holding his father captive, instructing him to return a valuable artifact his father stole – or else. Butler (Nonso Anozie) reveals the father’s underground lair to Artemis, telling him that his father’s “complicated profession” involved protecting “powerful secrets” to protect humanity from the dangers of another world.
In the battle to get his father back, Artemis joins forces not only with Mulch, but also with a LEP elven reconnaissance officer named Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) – an alliance that suggests events in book two could be included in this adaptation. We catch a glimpse of the fairy realm, followed by several action-packed scenes of Artemis and his allies taking on an alien army. “Who do you think You Are?” an angry voice rasps. To which Artemis replies, “I’m the next criminal mastermind.”
I think the trailer looks promising. As for all the Artemis fans loudly trumpeting their displeasure online – well, it’s generally a good idea to see the actual movie before deciding that a much-loved series has been “ruined” based on a single trailer. Branagh is a gifted director who has shown he can handle mythical fantasy realms (Thor) and manages to create a ruthless yet vulnerable villain/anti-hero (cf. the huge popularity of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in the MCU). He is perfectly capable of doing the same for Artemis Fowl† Colfer has also told the Guardian“I’ve seen about a third of it and it looks pretty close [to the books]So what if we all take a deep breath and wait to see what Branagh has done?
Artemis Fowl opens in theaters on May 29, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Disney