$120m cursed movie took 20 years to make

 

If there was ever a movie that was cursed, it's the film adaptation of Artemis Fowl.

No one in the production died or anything, but the movie had a tortured path to release, a 20-year journey from before the book was even released to when the finished movie finally lands, with a crash, on Disney's streaming service today.

Optioned as early as 2000 by Harvey Weinstein, the screen rights bounced between writers, directors and studios for 15 years before Kenneth Branagh was signed on to direct. Filmed two years ago, it's been sitting in a vault since then waiting to be released.

First it was meant to be in cinemas in 2019, then that was pushed back to 2020 - never a good sign - and then the COVID-19 pandemic laid waste to the release plans of so many movies.

In April, it was announced Artemis Fowl would now be released for subscribers of Disney's streaming service - a bizarre end for a movie that reportedly cost $US120 million to make.

Was the two-decade wait worth it? No, it really wasn't.

 

Men in Black Junior. Picture: Disney via AP
Men in Black Junior. Picture: Disney via AP

 

The resulting film, starring newcomer Ferdie Shaw, is an disjointed, disappointing and deflated movie which confuses more than thrills.

The movie has clearly also been butchered at some point because it very much feels like there are whole subplots missing, which likely included a sequence reportedly shot in Ho Chi Minh City and a character played by Hong Chau that was present in the first teaser trailer released in late 2018 and is absent in the film.

The film departs significantly from its source material which follows Artemis, a 12-year-old genius "criminal mastermind" who belongs to a family of crooks. In the books, Artemis is a naughty, naughty boy who kidnaps a fairy named Holly to ransom her for lots and lots of gold from the secret magic world beneath Earth's surface.

Maybe the whole child criminal thing didn't fly with Disney's family friendly ethos, because the character and the plot bears little resemblance to the children's fantasy novels that were released in the wake of the Harry Potter phenomenon.

 

Gang of thieves. Picture: Disney
Gang of thieves. Picture: Disney

 

In the film, the mini Men in Black-donned Artemis (Shaw) still declares himself a "criminal mastermind" (though he isn't), and is actually the son of an antiquities dealer Artemis Snr (Colin Farrell) who may have stolen some precious items such as the Rosetta stone from the British Museum, but all for good reason.

When Artemis Snr disappears, Artemis gets a ransom call from a mysterious voice demanding a magical MacGuffin. It sets off a quest that mostly takes place at Fowl Manor but with the incursion of an army of creatures led by a gruff-voiced Judi Dench's fairy commander whose uniform looks like something out of a Cronenberg movie.

Artemis is aided by allies including fairy Holly (Lara McDonnell), dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), bodyguard Domovoi (Nonso Anozie) and Dom's niece Juliet (Tamara Smart).

Juliet barely rates mentioning because she's introduced as another kick-arse 12-year-old with extraordinary jujitsu skills and then is given absolutely nothing to do, her character completely inconsequential to events and with no dimension. Is that cynical tokenism or bad writing?

 

Still better than Cats (Disney via AP)
Still better than Cats (Disney via AP)


For a movie that relies on spectacle and chaotic set-pieces involving magic and otherworldly creatures such as fairies and trolls, Artemis Fowl feels very small and low-stakes.

The perfunctory script from Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl gives you no reason to emotionally invest in any of the characters or what happens to them, framed by a clumsy voice-over narration by Gad's dwarf character.

Some of the set design looks quite cool, Fowl Manor is architecturally wonderful and Farrell can do no wrong since his post-In Bruges revival.

But Artemis Fowl is movie that never takes flight.

Rating: 2/5

Artemis Fowl is available to stream on Disney+ from 5pm AEST on Friday, June 12

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

Originally published as $120m cursed movie took 20 years to make



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