There are two things to consider when looking at Artemis Fowl. Firstly how does it do as a film? Secondly how does it work as an adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s work?
Well there isn’t much great to say about Artemis Fowl as a film. It’s bland, empty, naff, and despite only being 90 minutes long it feels like it’s twice that. The performances aren’t great, although Judi Dench is passably entertaining, but no one else makes any real impact at all, failing to add any depth to the characters. The villain is even more a non entity than anyone else, which given they cast Hong Chau is incredibly disappointing. The effects are poor and the action sequences not much better.
It just doesn’t really work as a film. At least something like Percy Jackson was a solid film, even if it was a bad adaptation. Because when you come at this film from the view of a fan of the Artemis Fowl books it somehow gets even worse. The story has been absolutely butchered, and pretty much every character bears zero resemblance to their book counterpart.
Starting with Artemis. Gone is the intelligent young criminal with a perfectly worked out plan, instead he’s just a random 12 year old. You knew it was going to be bad when his first appearance starts with him surfing. SURFING. This is meant to be someone who spends his life indoors on intellectual pursuits, a thinker and planner, not a man of action. In this film he doesn’t seem to have meticulously planned anything, rather is making it up as he goes along. On top of that, he is portrayed as a good kid just trying to do what’s best for his family, and that just strips him of what made him so unique and interesting.
Holly likewise gets all semblance of personality removed from her, and it’s replaced with a generic story about her father‘s past. She was one of the coolest heroines out there. Extremely capable, but flawed thanks to her temperamental and impulsive nature, something that again made her completely different from Artemis. All gone.
Characters like Foley and Butler have pretty much had their entire story removed, even Butler’s great heroic fight with the Troll has instead been turned into a slapstick run away from the monster sequence, and rather than showing his exceptional resilience and ability he just pushes Artemis out of the way, and spend the rest of the film trying not to cry. In fact the only character I’d say they get even close to right is the Goblin who is in jail with Mulch, and he’s got about a minute of screen time.
Honestly I hate everything about Artemis Fowl. Films like Eragon and Percy Jackson are rightly derided for their terrible adaptations of great YA book series. But Artemis Fowl might just have topped them all. And it is in serious consideration for my least favourite film of all time. I don’t think there is a single thing that this adaptation got right. That could be stomached if they at least gave us a good film, but none of that led to the making of anything approaching good, which just makes those decisions unforgivable.