It was about halfway through Artemis Fowl – a surprisingly short movie that is so confusing and so heavily edited it would be the equivalent if I cut every other paragraph of this review out and still expected you to follow what I was saying – where two things happened that caught my attention. The first was the movie had not stopped spewing information at me for a full 45 minutes. It felt like being in a western civ class and trying to catch up after missing the first four lectures. I felt like I should be taking notes. (Also, you know a movie has problems when it’s so confusing that literally being able to rewind doesn’t clear anything up.) Then it’s also right about this point that Josh Gad, playing a dwarf named Mulch, starts eating dirt, then shooting it out of his ass.
I would love to hear an explanation about why this movie is so bad. I mean, something happened. I love Kenneth Branagh movies! I thought his Murder on the Orient Express was a stellar return to the whodunit genre that Knives Out then cemented. But whatever Artemis Fowl is, it certainly doesn’t feel like a Kenneth Branagh movie. Something tells me he has a story.
Honestly, I could barely follow the plot of this film because it’s just nonstop exposition. The title character, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), literally doesn’t leave his house until the last scene of the movie. (Though, I guess in that way, maybe it’s a profound plot point that Artemis, too, is working remotely from home.) I mention all this because I don’t want a ton of people who read the book to start tweeting at me about the plot. I am assuming the book is coherent. This movie is not. And I can only go off what was presented.
When the movie opens, we first meet Josh Gad’s Mulch, who is doing a voice that reminds me of The Albino in The Princess Bride before he clears his throat. And Mulch, well, doesn’t do much of anything for the first half of the movie except explain things to the audience. Most of this movie feels like the book is just being read to us, only skipping over just enough details that nothing makes sense.
An unnamed villain who wears a hood (spoiler, we never learn who this is supposed to be) kidnaps master thief Artemis Fowl Sr., played by Colin Farrell, who is in this movie for about five minutes. The villain wants this device, which resembles a golden acorn, that is in the possession of Artemis Sr. The Fairies, led by Judi Dench (I look forward to seeing the pictures of the Artemis Fowl wing of her estate) who live in the middle of the earth and also want the golden acorn because, if humans use it, it would be disastrous. Other than that, we never really learn what this device does. So, Artemis Jr. goes on a grand adventure to save his father, which, again, never gets beyond his house because every enemy just winds up coming to the house.
This is a movie that doesn’t care at all about character development. There’s no emotional investment whatsoever. At one point, a friend of Artemis’s dies and the movie thinks it’s this emotional beat and all I could think was that I barely knew this person. Then, before I had even processed what happened, that character is revived and is alive again. Great.
(I realize now that my explanation of the plot of this movie doesn’t make much sense. I admit this because in the first paragraph I made a joke about removing every other paragraph. I’m just putting this here to say that I didn’t actually do that.)
There’s a scene in this movie where Josh Gad’s Mulch infiltrates the Artemis Fowl house, then, with no explanation, teams up with the heroes. I rewound this three times looking for an explanation. Then I texted a colleague asking about this and he couldn’t figure it out either. It’s like whoever had the final edit of this movie cared more about it being short than making sense. The last movie I can remember that was edited in this rushed, highly exposition filled way was The Dark Tower.
It’s funny, a few weeks ago (maybe months, who knows at this point) I made a half-joking, half-serious joke that there aren’t any bad movies anymore. I still live in a city that’s closed to all entertainment, so the prospect of any new movie is nice. I am very easy to please right now. But, it turns out, I was wrong. There are still bad movies. (The good news is, if you have Disney +, this movie will cost you nothing extra.) So, in a weird way (a very weird way), it was almost comforting. It felt like a step toward normalcy.
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