Artemis Fowl trailer has some book fans up in arms over boy-genius portrayal


Ferdia Shaw stars in Artemis Fowl, the long-awaited adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s best-selling series of fantasy novels.

Nearly a year after its originally scheduled release, Artemis Fowl—a Kenneth Branagh-directed film adapted from the popular series by Irish author Eoin Colfer—is finally coming to theaters this spring. And the latest trailer has, thus far, not been well-received by hardcore fans of the book, who are loudly decrying what appears to be a significant departure from the evil boy genius of the novels in favor of a more “Disney-fied” heroic figure.

There are eight books in the Artemis Fowl series, detailing the extensive exploits of the titular character. The debut novel received generally positive reviews and a few comparisons to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, although Colfer’s books have never achieved the same stratospheric commercial success. Still, Disney is betting there’s an equally strong appetite for the Artemis Fowl series on the big screen.

That said, the comparison irritates Colfer, who describes his novels as being more like “Die Hard with fairies.” As I wrote when the first teaser dropped way back in November 2018, “That’s a fairly accurate description. Artemis is the anti-Harry Potter. He’s a thief and a kidnapper, among other misdeeds, and he is largely untroubled by remorse. That’s part of his charm.”

In the first book, 12-year-old Artemis is living mostly unsupervised in the Fowl home. His father (Artemis Fowl I, played by Colin Farrell) is missing, and his mother has gone mad with grief. He relies on his loyal protector, Butler, for companionship. They stumble across a portal to the fairy underworld, and Artemis decides to kidnap a fairy and hold her for ransom to fund his search for his father. The fairies retaliate, and Artemis must pit his wits against their magical powers. Artemis goes on to rescue his father from the Russian mafia in the second book and ends up in an alliance with the fairies he battled originally to help them defeat a goblin army.

Branagh’s film adaptation was originally slated for release last August, until Disney’s merger with 20th Century Fox prompted a major reshuffling of planned releases. Unlike The New Mutants, however, there were no rumors (confirmed or otherwise) of reshoots requested for Artemis Fowl. So the studio doesn’t seem to have any issues with the actual film, which Branagh has described as an origin story.

Per the official premise:

[The film] follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he seeks to find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his loyal protector Butler, Artemis sets out to find him, and in doing so uncovers an ancient, underground civilization—the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father’s disappearance is somehow connected to the secretive, reclusive fairy world, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan—so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.

The next criminal mastermind

As in the books, this is a magical world that includes a Lower Elements Police (LEP) force, trolls, dwarves, and goblins, all located beneath the “real” human world. Bonus: Dame Judi Dench plays a gender-swapped LEP Commander Root (the character is a cigar-chomping tough guy in the novels). Colfer himself appears as an extra in one scene and has said that the experience gave him “a new respect for actors.”

The trailer opens with a bank of security camera screens, then zooms in to reveal a voice questioning a dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) to tell them more about the man he works for, Artemis Fowl I. “This isn’t about the father; it’s about the son,” Mulch grins. We see the senior Fowl praising his son for growing stronger and smarter than he ever imagined, interspersed with a training montage.

When the elder Fowl disappears while on a mysterious mission, our protagonist, Artemis Fowl Jr., gets a phone call from whoever is holding his father prisoner, telling him to return a valuable artifact his father stole—or else. Butler (Nonso Anozie) reveals the father’s underground lair to Artemis, telling him that his father’s “complicated profession” included protecting “powerful secrets to keep mankind safe from the dangers of another world.”

In the battle to retrieve his father, Artemis joins forces not only with Mulch, but a LEP elven reconnaissance officer named Holly Short (Lara McDonnell)—an alliance that suggests events in book two may be included in this adaptation. We catch glimpses of the fairy realm, followed by several action-packed scenes of Artemis and his allies facing off against an otherworldly army. “Who do you think you are?” an evil voice rasps. To which Artemis responds, “I’m the next criminal mastermind.”

I think the trailer looks promising. As for all the Artemis fans loudly trumpeting their displeasure online—well, it’s generally a good idea to see the actual film before deciding a beloved series has been “ruined,” based a single trailer. Branagh is a gifted director who has shown he can handle mythical fantasy realms (Thor) and knows how to create a ruthless yet vulnerable villain/antihero (cf. the enormous popularity of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in the MCU). He’s perfectly capable of doing the same for Artemis Fowl. Colfer has also told the Guardian, “I’ve seen about a third of it and it does look pretty close [to the books].” So how about we all just take a deep breath and wait to see what Branagh has wrought?

Artemis Fowl hits theaters on May 29, 2020.

Listing image by YouTube/Disney



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