Movie: Artemis Fowl (2020)
WARNING! SPOILER ALERT!
This review contains spoilers for the Artemis Fowl movie and the book series.
This is my first movie analysis, and let me start out by saying the movie sucked…but had a couple of positive qualities. And by a couple I literally mean two, and that’s it.
First of all, decent special effects. Haven City looked appropriately fairyish and high-tech. It all had this blue tinge to it that made it look otherworldly. And the device that sentenced Mulch Diggums to prison was creative.
The troll looked much more human than in the Artemis Fowl graphic novel, but whatever, it looked fine.
Also, the therapy session scene near the beginning of the movie was pretty good. In it, Artemis Fowl acted like his usual pain-in-the-neck, prideful self like he was in the book series. The scene was pulled straight out of book 2 (The Arctic Incident). Artemis insulted the therapists chair with poise and intelligence.
Okay, there you go. That was all that was decent about the movie, in a few sad little paragraphs.
As a fan of the Artemis Fowl series, I was mortified by how Disney mutilated what had been an enchanting story into an awkward compilation of multiple books’ plots with some entirely new random stuff thrown in.
They also managed to mangle the beloved characters of the books series and make them…a bunch of goodie-goodies! The horror!
The movie starts out with the media converging on the Artemis Fowl case, revealing that Artemis Fowl Sr. is suspected of stealing relics. This sounds promising. (Now if he really was a criminal in the movie, that would be accurate.)
Mulch is telling this story under interrogation, so he butts in with his dull narration. Who’s Mulch? Well, the movie doesn’t tell you that yet, so stay tuned. The only thing we know about him is that he looks oddly like Hagrid from the Harry Potter movie.
We get to know Artemis Fowl Jr., who loved Ireland.
Yeah…I don’t think the Artemis Fowl in the book loved anything…or at least would never admit to it.
Of course, the movie has to prove he loves Ireland. Cue surfing scene and outdoorsy activities.
That was the moment I knew they were going to ruin the movie. Artemis was a pallid, inactive boy in the book series. The first book literally said, “Sun did not suit Artemis. He did not look well in it. Long hours indoors in front of a computer screen had bleached the glow from his skin. He was white as a vampire and almost as testy in the light of the day.”
Artemis is no outdoorsman. If this was the Artemis from the book, he would probably fall off the surfboard and drown. What am I saying? He would never get on a surfboard in the first place.
We get to know this new-and-not-improved Artemis Fowl better in the therapy session scene, which seems to exist mostly because it gives the viewers background information such as the fact that Mrs. Fowl is dead (instead of mentally unstable and hiding away in her room like in the book). Also, that his father is frequently away on business trips.
But it is the one good scene in the movie, so it gets an excuse for its obvious purpose of exposition.
Now for a series of affectionate father-son bonding moments. Based on the book series, it’s hard to imagine Artemis Fowl showing actual affection. In the graphic novel, he hugs his mother once and it’s touching (but kind of out of character). But in the original series, Artemis showed very little affection toward anyone. Ever.
After the father-son scenes, Artemis Fowl Sr. leaves on a trip and is kidnapped by Opal Koboi. Good old Opal, who made her first appearance in the second book.
She should look like this:
In the movie, she looks like this:
Don’t ask me why Disney made her look like a Sith Lord. I guess to make her creepier than a pink-haired pixie, but it backfired.
I guess they thought giving her a grating voice would help with the scare factor too, but no…it was hard to take Miss Sith seriously.
Apparently Opal Koboi is after the Aculos, which is a fancy-looking upside-down acorn…I mean, fairy artifact…with mysterious and dangerous powers.
Wait, what? What’s the Aculos? That wasn’t in the book series. Where did that come from? And why is it at the center of this movie?
Anywho, Opal threatens Artemis Fowl Sr.’s life if Artemis Fowl Jr. doesn’t get the bedazzled acorn (fairy artifact, sorry) for her.
Butler takes Artemis down to the basement, where Artemis Fowl Sr. has kept his years of research on fairies. Only…in the books Artemis Fowl Sr. was not the one who researched fairies, it was Artemis Fowl Jr.
But, okay, sure. I mean, this movie already made him the good guy, even though as soon as he goes missing he is accused of stealing artifacts. Artemis Fowl Jr. is indignant. His father, a criminal? Of course not. So he has some interest in clearing his father’s name.
And Butler is not the man he was in the books. He goes by Dom in the movie, and man, if you dare to call him something else, he will snap you in half.
Seriously? Dom? In the books, you called him Butler if you valued your life. Even Artemis called him Butler. Artemis didn’t even learn Butler’s first name until Butler thought he was going to die and revealed it later in the series.
Butler has a little sister named Juliet in the books who is a niece instead in the movie. Juliet was a teenager in the books, but is another 12-year-old in the movie.
In the meantime, Holly Short is in Haven City. We get to see the other main character, finally. They didn’t mess her up at all.
Just kidding. They ruined her.
First off, she looks like a twelve-year old of average height. In the book, she was a 3-foot tall woman. Second, in the book she specifically had nut-brown skin. Why did they choose a white actor to fill this role? I guess they tried to make up for it by making a couple of secondary characters black, but why not just have a main character with brown skin? Also, the secondary characters they made black were in the role of servants.
Also, in the books, she’s a snarky, rebellious woman. In the movie, she is a kind of rebellious, sweet and dumb little girl.
Mulch picks her pocket, making his first appearance as a giant dwarf. In the books, he was just a normal dwarf. Kind of reminds me of how Hagrid is half-giant.
We meet Commander Root and…what the heck…he’s female! Why? Did they just feel like they didn’t have enough female characters? Cause Commander Root was definitely a dude in the book…one that came off as sexist at first, until it was revealed that he really was hard on Holly because he wanted her as the first female LEPrecon officer to be better than his other officers. That way she could prove females could work in a job like that.
Anyway, I guess they really didn’t want him to come off as sexist toward women, so they made him female. And made the team of LEPrecon officers consist of several more female characters for good measure.
Now, if they wanted this film to represent women more, they should have had better female characters. Not boring and painfully unfunny Commander Root, childish and consistently helpless Holly Short, and the combatant who never shows her skills, Juliet.
It turns out the fairies do not have the Aculos either, because of the treachery of Beechwood Short, Holly’s father. Holly maintains that he is innocent. Don’t worry, Beechwood is a good guy too.
We meet Foaly shortly after Root, when they receive news of a troll that has escaped to the surface world. Now, in the books Foaly is a centaur with an affinity for tin hats. He is snarky, witty, and hilarious.
So of course in the movie he has absolutely no funny lines, and barely appears.
The only funny thing about him is the way he gallops around the room, looking like a prancing pony. That was the part of the movie that made me laugh.
So anyway, Holly is sent to the surface to deal with the troll in Italy. The troll attacks a party. Unlike in the book, no human gave Holly an invitation to enter the party that the troll attacked. This makes the rules of the movie inconsistent because fairies require human permission to intervene in situations like this.
The troll is defeated and Holly Short goes off to Tara because there is a clue to how she can clear her father’s name there. This is unlike the book because in the book she goes there to replenish her magic by completing the Ritual.
Artemis and Butler manage to kidnap her. The fairies find out and are dismayed. They retaliate by stopping time around Fowl Manor.
Artemis and the fairies attempt negotiations, which end in Artemis refusing to allow the fairies inside while he lives. The fairies decide to send in Mulch because they say he is a dwarf, not a fairy.
This is where the creators of this movie made a critical mistake. In Irish mythology, and in the Artemis Fowl series, dwarves are fairies.
The real reason Mulch was able to go inside the Manor in the book was because fairies technically can enter dwellings without permission – at the cost of their magic. Mulch lost his magic in the past breaking and entering into human dwellings, so he had nothing to lose by entering Fowl Manor without permission.
Mulch finds the Aculos located in a safe in Fowl Manor.
Artemis has a heart-to-heart conversation with Holly, where they bond over both having falsely accused/slandered fathers. Holly asks if they are friends, and Artemis says, “Forever friends.”
I almost died of laughter and indignation when he said that. It was like something straight out of My Little Pony. The Artemis in the books wouldn’t be caught dead saying something that sappy.
Under new management, the fairies send in a troll and turn off all magic in the house. The heroes of the story engage in a pathetic battle that consists mostly of the troll smashing things and Holly shrieking at people to untangle her wings from a chandelier where she is hanging like a pinned butterfly. Juliet is equally useless. Artemis and friends winning the battle seemed like a big accident.
In the book, Butler managed to take down the troll on his second try with some advanced martial arts. In other words, he was scary competent in the book, but awkward in the movie.
Butler almost dies after the battle, but Holly is able to heal him when Root regains control and turns the magic back on in the house. At this point, Butler cries. Yeah, this is not the Butler fans of the book know and love.
The whole dying scene was completely ruined by the creepy dolls that were all over that room. The whole time Butler was almost dying I was thinking, yikes, those things are freaky, why are they there?
Rather than give the Aculos to Koboi, Artemis asks Holly to bring back Artemis Fowl Sr with the power of the Aculos. She gladly complies (Stockholm Syndrome?), and it works because the movie needs to end soon I guess. Kind of anti-climactic, but whatever.
Artemis Fowl Sr. gives Holly a list of traitors to the fairies, which Commander Root orders her to investigate. She’s happy with that, and even gets some applause from the rest of the LEPrecon officers. For what exactly? Getting kidnapped and assisting the kidnappers?
Artemis Fowl calls himself a criminal mastermind at the end of the movie. That doesn’t make sense for multiple reasons. First, they already established him as the good guy. Second, he was horrified when his father was accused of crimes and wanted his name cleared.
So why would he be proud of being a criminal at the end? Also, he did very little that was criminal compared to in the books. In the first book, he kidnapped Holly just so he could get his hands on fairy gold. In the movie, he only kidnapped her to save his father.
Overall, this is a movie that fans of the original series will hate, and it is unlikely to win over any new fans.
It is not good as a standalone movie. For people to understand it, they have to have read the book. Yet it deviates so far from the book that those who have read the books will not enjoy it. At the same time, the movie’s so confusing that people who have not read the book will be turned off by it.