Last night, after being talked about as far back as 2003, Disney released the teaser trailer for the movie based on Irish author Eoin Colfer’s bestselling young reader’s series Artemis Fowl.
From what I've seen and read, there are three things I think this movie has going for it:
The Source Material
Finally, something new! Instead of sequel after sequel and reboot after reboot, there’s a new family film coming out based on a book series that hasn’t yet been tapped…and it’s a fun series. Artemis Fowl II is a 12-year-old boy genius that comes from a long line of criminal masterminds. He and his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler, kidnap a fairy hoping to ransom and take advantage of her powers to help get his father back from the Russian mob. Next thing Fowl knows, he and Butler find themselves in an underground fantasy world where fairies, dwarves, elves, and other fantasy creatures are fighting their own battles. And that fairy they snatched? She’s a high-ranking cop in that world.
I highly recommend reading — and having your kids read — at least the first three books in the eight-book series: Artemis Fowl, Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, and Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code. I’ve fallen prey to the trilogy monster, where I find three stories in a series is a good way to grasp the goings on of a world. The second book ended on a darker tone that the first, so you’ll want to keep reading to find out what happens.
Colfer has knack for blending the fantasy and science fiction genres with the film noir crime novel, and it makes for some addictive and interesting characters and plot twists. Read his books Airman and The Supernaturalist if you want just a couple more good examples of this.
A pet peeve in movie adaptations for me is when they don't trust the bestselling book enough to stick with the actual plot and characters that made it so loved in the first place. Colfer created a completely original world with Artemis Fowl. No need to try and “fix it” or dumb it down for audiences.
Disney Deep Pockets
I have to admit that teaser looks sleek. The casting of Fowl, a young Irish actor named Ferdia Shaw, look just about spot-on. I can’t gripe about the effects at all. They are beautiful. It appears once more, Disney spared no expense on this one.
However, we’ve all been burned before by recent book adaptations from The House of Mouse, haven’t we? A Wrinkle in Time was beautifully filmed, with talented big name stars in all the leads, but the story was so chopped up, and changed from the book, it lacked all soul. I always encourage my kids to have read the book before they see a movie so they at least know what it was supposed to be about.
If Disney goes the “we want to send a message with this film,” or “we feel there needs to be more representation for whoever-the-hot-demographic-is-this-week route, they will screw it up. If they concentrate on using their magic (aka budget) on just presenting a fantastic all-ages adventure, they’ll hit the jackpot.
I enjoy Kenneth Branagh’s movies. He did a tremendous job with the first Thor, and despite it not being nearly as good as the 1974 version, I enjoyed his Murder on the Orient Express, and am looking forward to his take on Death on the Nile. Branagh has proven his talents both on and off camera, and seems to love taking on book properties from comics to classic mystery. Branagh has directed movies based on the works by Shakespeare, fairy tales like Cinderella, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and a Jack Ryan story based on the Tom Clancy character. These have had varying levels of success, but you can’t say he doesn’t present a wide range for literary interests.
Branagh seems like he wants to do this right. According to a Nerdist interview, Branagh said he auditioned approximately 1,200 boys from around the world for the role to get Artemis just perfect. He also wanted to make sure the visuals and the “emotional content” work with the story’s humor and imagination.
If you read the first Artemis Fowl, you can’t help but like the little punk. There’s a pint-sized Godfather or Sopranos appeal to him. Branagh has said there’s a “Michael Corleone” aura about him, so if he can translate that attitude into a family-friendly story, it should be a hit. Just check out that kid’s cocky swagger towards the end of the trailer.
Here’s hoping these three creative forces behind Artemis Fowl play well together, and bring us a summer movie worthy of Colfer’s world and its likeable pre-teen antihero.
Artemis Fowl comes to theaters on Aug. 9, 2019.