This adaptation of the much-loved book series was already looking shaky quality wise when it was announced as being booted from cinemas and going directly to Disney + as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Then the review embargo lifted and it became clear that high fantasy story of an antihero child genius was looking like another legendarily terrible disaster. As someone who was unfamiliar with the property but he loves these kinds of famously awful films I watched it straight away. was it as bad as reported?
Yes and no. Don’t get me wrong Disney’s Artemis Fowl is exactly as bad as you’ve heard. A prime entrant in the Dolittle (2020) school of “let’s just get this thing finished and vaguely watchable” it’s horrifically paced feeling almost entirely like a second act. The performances range from generically bad to the sort of embarrassing career killers you only see every so often. Much of the story is told via extended narration from Josh Gad (one of the clearest sign of a production going totally off the rails) with his vocal delivery resembling if Chad Kroeger needed a Strepsil. it’s embarrassingly tryhard and is the sort of legendarily terrible roll that will be infamous in certain circles for years to come. This isn’t even mentioning the sequence where his “tall dwarf” narrator comes into the main timeline of the storey by burrowing down under the central characters house and it’s the sort of visual that will potentially amaze viewers that someone at Disney thought this was a good idea. Apparently, this is true to the books but some things just don’t translate,
The mention of the central house takes us nicely onto the presentation which simultaneously looks as expensive as you would expect for a 125-million-dollar movie but also shockingly cheap in certain ways. The one element of the film that’s worthy of some praise is that the sequences that focus on the high fantasy underground world clearly had some money spent on them and look impressive (even with the knowledge that 4K streaming will never look as good as an effective big screen experience.) That said the majority of the running time in the real-world sections (roughly about 65% of the mercifully short 94-minute runtime takes place exclusively at one location,the central families big manor house. It comes across like the film makers have access to this one location and are going to make the most cost-effective use out of it they can includes being the setting for multiple effects heavy action sequences. That said for all the films fascinating awfulness it’s mostly life threateningly dull outside of a few moments that will go down in history of so bad it’s funny cinema. That said the movies biggest crime hasn’t even been discussed.
On the performance front Josh Gad and Judi Dench have already been mentioned. their performances are definitely the most outwardly terrible from the moment they appear on screen. Colin Farrell also got roped into this disaster but he makes so little impact as Artemiss father that it’s barely worth mentioning. However, its Ferida Shaw’s central performance that kills any potential good qualities the film might have had stone dead. Good child acting is difficult to find but his central performance as the main antagonist reaches new levels of wooden previously unseen by the general public outside of furniture warehouses. It would make multiple chests of drawer’s quiver in fear. The kid might get some slack given that this is his first credited role but he delivers his lines with all the conviction of someone that has clearly been told if he gets this first performance out of the way there will be much bigger and better things ahead for him. Based on his efforts here I feel comfortable in saying this this will not be the case.
Artemis Fowl is simultaneously the sort of legendary embarrassment that Disney is hoping to bury away on streaming and the sort of life threateningly dull slog that you would not recommend to your worst enemy beyond the inevitable cringe compilations that will be appearing on social media for the next few weeks. Even if you are a loyal Disney + subscriber unless you were willing to waste 94 minutes of your time avoid like the plague.