REVIEW: ‘Artemis Fowl’ is atrocious

I’ve been doing this for nearly 12 years, and every so often there’s a movie so bad it tempts me to walk out of the theater or hit the stop button. “Artemis Fowl” has joined that club.

Ferdia Shaw plays the titular character Artemis Fowl (Jr.). He’s a certified child genius who still has to go to school for some reason, and lives at a mansion with his father, Artemis Fowl Sr., and his butler, Domovoi (Nonso Anozie).

One day, his father goes missing, and is blamed for stealing several priceless artifacts. Artemis soon learns that his father has also been kidnapped by a mysterious figure. The antagonist tells Fowl he has to get an artifact to get his dad back. As it turns out, a civilization of fantasy creatures including fairies also want the same artifact. As a result, Artemis needs to deal with both entities to save his father.

There was so much exposition being thrown at me in this movie I thought my head was going to explode. I didn’t ever really get a chance to learn who Artemis was, how he interacted with the world, or responded to certain people, because every minute was being narrated over.

The film has absolutely no breathing room. An audience can never just be immersed in this world or with character interactions because every damn thing in this setting is being explained to the audience.

The whole film feels convoluted, too. There’s way too many things going on to the point where it gets hard to care. For example, with the fairies in this movie, there’s some politics going on where the leader of the fairy police force has issues with other leadership. Like, that can’t be saved for a later time? Why was this needed to be stuffed in here?

It’s hard to even know what the main objective is here, also. Obviously everything revolves around a certain item, but the execution in linking this to the characters’ actions is so botched and the storytelling is done with no cohesiveness, that it just makes it hard to care about what’s going on.

What’s also noticeable is how contained the movie is. For a film trying to develop this big, fantastical world, it all feels so small. Almost 50% of the movie seems to take place at this one mansion, and it leads to the setting just becoming repetitive. There’s a lack in any sense of adventure because of how long they’re staying at this one location.

Courtesy Walt Disney Pictures.

Artemis Fowl is one of the most boring protagonists I’ve seen on film, too. The movie already makes it hard to get to know him considering the boat load of exposition that comes in waves. But even without that element, there’s just nothing to this kid. All a viewer really knows is he’s a genius.

The movie at first makes it seem like he isn’t able to connect with people his own age, but this is later proven wrong when he meets Domovoi’s niece, who he seems to talk to just fine.

It’s also noticeable that other than maybe being hard to get along with at times, Artemis doesn’t really have flaws, and as a result, the character doesn’t have much of an arc. He learns to trust a fairy, but it was never really shown that he had a prejudice against them, but rather saw them as an obstacle in his way.

Shaw is a young actor, and I don’t think this movie’s failure is all on his shoulders. It seemed more like Director Kenneth Branaugh and the writers provided a muddled idea of what they wanted portrayed.

The absolute worst performance in this picture comes from Josh Gad. I don’t know who thought it was a good idea for Gad to use a raspy Christian Bale Batman voice, but that’s what audiences get from Gad. He is absolutely miscast in the role of this outlaw type character who’s supposed to be some kind of badass. Also, remember the mention of narration in this movie? Yeah, it’s all narrated through that annoying voice from Gad.

Want more of that voice, though? You’re in luck! Oscar and Golden Globe winner Judi Dench does a raspy, gravel-sounding voice too, and it’s just as grating on one’s ears. Also, as previously stated, the film introduces these politics around her character, where apparently her leadership is called into question, and it just makes the movie more bloated.

One character who seemed completely useless to this film was Domovoi. It’s not like Artemis needs a father figure since his dad is still around. It’s also not like Domovoi is the only person he can connect with, either, since Artemis seems to get along just fine with Domovoi’s niece. So in terms of being connected to character development, Domovoi offers nothing. He’s just there to be a right-hand man.


The only character who seems even a bit interesting and likable is Holly, a fairy who’s seeking justice for her father and believes in her cause. Most of the movie, though, she’s sidelined.

But hey, this is a movie with the Disney logo stamped on it. At least the action must look great, right? Wrong. The CGI looks awful here, especially in what happens to be the climactic battle.

The whole second half of the film where Artemis is defending his home from invading fairies is so lame visually, it makes an episode of “Power Rangers” look like “Saving Private Ryan.”  At the end of it all, I just hoped they wouldn’t add something so overdone and ridiculous looking like a slow motion walk toward the camera. And then they did just that.

“Artemis Fowl” is an absolute disaster. It makes other young adult novel adaptations like “Percy Jackson” actually look competent by comparison. The film fails on every level, from characters, to story to the execution of its adventure and action. 0.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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