Artemis Fowl II (Ferdia Shaw) is a kid genius who’s bored by school but loves learning about fairy folklore from his father (Colin Farrell). One day, when his dad goes missing, Artemis discovers that fairies really do exist and that they’re holding Artemis Sr captive after he stole a magical artifact they want. Artemis captures an elven reconnaissance officer named Holly (Lara McDonnell) to use as leverage and prepares for battle against the fairies unless they set his dad free.
Kenneth Branagh’s directorial efforts of the past decade, spanning 'Thor', 'Cinderella', and 'Murder on the Orient Express' among others, have been generally positively received critically while box office receipts have left studios happy. In the wake of the current health crisis, his latest has gone straight to on demand. Would the big screen have loaned 'Artemis Fowl' more favour? Not if it’s a comprehensible plot and engaging characters that you’re looking for.
When Josh Gad – who plays a dwarf-giant in the movie (even more annoying than usual, he is dressed like Hagrid but attempting a Batman gravelly voice) as well as the narrator – talks of Ireland, it is accompanied by fiddle playing and sweeping establishing shots of the environs. The Irish audience will most definitely cringe, and on the subject of cringeworthiness, the acting of the cast is questionable, and not just from the kids but the adult actors too. On the bright side, Judi Dench’s Oirish accent is half decent. On the other hand, to one’s bewilderment, half the cast are English for some reason.
Anyone who has read the books will be familiar with the plot’s ambiguity as to who is good or bad. For a time, that’s a source of fun and keeps you guessing, but at a certain point the method just comes off as unnecessarily convoluted and conceited. It seems the film is trying to have its cake and eat it too with the anti-hero concept. Plus the description of Artemis and his father as “criminal masterminds” really feels like a stretch.
In terms of the fairy world, the design will recall something of an amalgamation of Harry Potter and the MCU, which is probably not all that surprising given Branagh’s background. The look of the film lacks anything fresh or interesting. Moreover, as far as set piece finales go, its conclusion is very lacklustre. By the end of 'Artemis Fowl', one has more questions than answers and it’s so obviously vying for a sequel, it comes across as pathetic. The movie feels like a massive set-up with no pay off and little to impress. Kids might not care that they can’t tell what the heck is going on, enjoying it simply for the “magic” stuff. Everyone else should just avoid it because you’ll end up bored, irritated and disappointed that Branagh let us down.