Artemis Fowl. This evil little twelve year old was my childhood. It was the first fandom I was ever in. It was the first fanfiction I ever read and, yes, wrote. I learned the fairy language so I could decipher the lines along edges of the pages of the first book. I wrote in the margins of my notebooks using those weird little symbols. When I had the room, I’d even write it spiral like it was meant to be written. My favorite tea grew from the fact that I insisted on drinking Artemis Fowl’s favorite tea as a child. In fact, my entire love of tea may have started there. These books mean a lot to me.
It’s now 2020. I drink Earl Grey because it is familiar and I just genuinely like it, I’ve forgotten what the coded lines on the cover of the first book say, and my favorite childhood novel has been turned into a movie on Disney Plus. Hm.
I’ll be honest with you, as I always am, I’ve heard a bit about this movie, I’ve seen the trailer, and I am expecting not to like it. I try to be positive in all of my articles, I really do, but this will not be an unbiased review. I actually wasn’t intending on watching this movie at all, but I’m afraid that if I don’t, it will never leave me alone. It will buzz in the back of my mind like a dying fly on a windowsill, not really in the way of anything, but a persistent reminder of something you’d rather not exist in your vicinity. Such is my opinion of this movie going in.
So, with the same eager hesitancy one looks through their fingers at a particularly gory scene of a horror movie, I’ve pulled up Artemis Fowl on Disney Plus, fetched my old, well-loved book from home so I can double check things (it’s been years since I’ve read it), and settled down to live-write my experience. Spoiler warnings abound.
Deep breaths everyone. Let’s begin.
1. Why does Mulch just look like a man?
He’s kinda dirty, but mostly just a dude, and very disappointing. His teeth aren’t creepy enough. I vividly remember the tombstone smile of Mulch Diggums and this is NOT the smile that haunted my nightmares.
2a. Surfing… why?
No, I cannot phrase that question any more eloquently. I should have been more prepared, I saw it in the trailer after all, but the sight of Artemis fucking Fowl with a surfboard does me untold psychic damage. This little heathen has never done a goddamn jumping jack in his life. This is obscene. This is desecration. Hold on…
Ah yes, it’s on the first goddamn page.
I don’t know who this surfer is, but it is NOT Artemis Fowl II.
2b. Where the fuck is Butler?
This man’s sole duty and only purpose in life is to protect this boy and Disney thinks he’s just gonna let him go JUMP IN THE OCEAN.
3. Who wrote the line “Artemis loved Ireland”?
Because I’m pretty sure he loves gold and his mother and that’s about it. He MIGHT care for Butler and Juliet but would never admit it, and he cares for his father at least enough to want to find him. He opens up a little in later books, but he has to EARN that growth.
If you’re going to change the character and his arc that much… just write your own movie, don’t shove a book title onto a plot that doesn’t fit.
4. Why is his mother dead?
Again. If you’re going to write your own plot anyway, just do that. There’s no need to fuck up a perfectly good book like this. Look, I understand it can’t all be exactly like the book. I’m all for changing a work to better suit the screen/a visual medium, but that’s not what Disney’s done here have they?
5. Why have my eyes rolled so far I’m looking at my eyebrows?
All I really want… is to believe in you.
Oh, right. Like I was saying. It’s heartbreakingly clear eight minutes into this movie that Disney is trying to make it more “kid-friendly.” As they do. The problem with doing that here is that Artemis Fowl was already kid-friendly. It’s a children’s book. I read it in elementary school, and there was nothing in there that traumatized or even shocked me.
I don’t want to bog down the middle of this article, (and also, I would like to make it through this movie sometime today) so I think I’ll expound on this thought a little more at the end.
I’m giving up picking on the little things. This movie is lost.
6. Where was Butler’s dramatic entrance?
THIS is where the big screen could have been used to its full advantage while changing the source material a little. Butler should have walked in out of the shadows: menacing, towering. He could have come onto screen fighting. He deserved an ENTRANCE. Yes, it’s a scene we’ve seen a hundred times, the secret muscle appears and takes care of the enemy for the smug mastermind. But it’s fun. That’s what making something kid-friendly should mean: keeping something fun.
Instead the first scene we get of him is him on the phone.
7. Is that… Opal Koboi?
She was always my favorite.
8. I don’t… hate? Holly’s character?
At least so far. I was expecting to be annoyed at how young the actress they cast was, but she actually looks alright. She’s supposed to look sprightly, and as far as her interaction with Mulch went she’s pretty in character.
9. Who in the name of God decided Root should be a woman?
Who are they? I just wanna talk. It’s just… such a major part of Holly’s character that she’s desperate to prove herself as the first woman captain in the LEPrecon. It’s so much of what drives her. I’m not as upset about this as I could be because I really do understand wanting to not do fantasy-misogyny so bluntly in a children’s movie. I still think it could have been done, but I get it. Still, I’m worried that in doing this, they’ve ruined Holly’s character arc as well.
Judi Dench is pretty fucking cool though, and she nailed the voice.
10. Actually I take number eight back.
Alone she looked pretty okay, but next to every other member of the LEPrecon she looks like an actual child. Why does everyone else look like an adult? Why is she the ONLY one with big doe eyes? This woman is 84 years old.
11. His Niece???????
What ACTUAL reason could they have had to change Juliet from sister to niece??? It’s so strange that I had to google it to make sure I wasn’t misremembering. I’m not. She’s his sister. I am CONFUSED. WHY? I also remember her being older than Artemis. This sure as hell better not be so they can end up together.
The fairies… They’ll help us. With a bit of persuasion.
12. You mean kidnapping and torture right? Like the real Artemis Fowl II? Please?
13. At least Foaly’s still pretty cool.
14. And the troll fight and time freeze were pretty fun.
15. Kidnapping! There we go. Maybe this movie is ramping up?
16. Why does this movie have the need to attribute everything Artemis knows to his father?
His father taught him everything? Really? Instead of having to working for anything, Artemis has been handed everything he needs in the form of his father’s journal.
17. Foaly is my favorite character in the movie, he is way cooler than everyone else. Not that that was necessarily untrue in the books.
Top ‘o the mornin’
18. Ok fine, that line made me laugh.
19. THERE’S THE SUIT. He should have been wearing it the whole time but whatever. At least Artemis is finally acting more like himself.
20. Question twenty: why does this movie seem intent on making me scream?
They say he was a criminal.
That’s what they say about my father.
But you know it’s not true.
YES HE DOES. HE KNOWS IT’S TRUE. HIS FATHER’S A CRIMINAL AND HE’S PROUD OF THAT AND HE WANTS TO CONTINUE THE EMPIRE. Just ignore me though. Oh look at that, oh great, they’re bonding. I suppose they’ll be friends now? You do know it’s okay to end a movie with not everyone friends, right Disney?
21. THERE’S THE MULCH I KNOW AND LOVE. Ok, Mulch is alright now. He’s right up there with Foaly.
I have pretty much accepted that Artemis’ character is way off at this point but come on. I can only take so much. Also, I went to check something about the troll fight in the book and stumbled across this.
Sigh. Butler could’ve been so much cooler.
23. Why am I not even surprised they took away Artemis’ most badass twist move?
The time freeze has ended.
Just like that? With no consequences? Sure. Fine. Okay.
24. Forever friends???
That’s it, that’s the question.
Carry me always, carry me well. I am thy teacher of herb and spell.
25. SO THAT’S WHAT THE COVER SAYS. I REMEMBER NOW.
26. Why didn’t I realize this until the end?
They wrote this like an origin story. Which isn’t the ONLY reason this story’s so fucked, but it certainly explains some things.
They keep the peace.
27. The bullshit’s not supposed to come out of Mulch’s MOUTH.
I’ve waited over a decade for this movie. I used to check fansites religiously for news of filming. It breaks my heart that it ended up in the hands of people who just didn’t care. I don’t mean to whine about “artistic integrity” or any bullshit like that, but I just wish they’d cared about the story they were telling.
Overall… it was alright. It was disappointing, but if I’m being fair, not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It was occasionally fun to watch, but they treated it like a kid’s movie, which isn’t necessarily a problem in and of itself. It is a story for kids after all. The problem lies in how kid’s movies are treated.
They robbed the story of any and all complexity: moral, emotional, plot. Children can handle moral grey areas, usually better than adults can. And maybe that’s the issue here, a bunch of adults looked at this character, this mastermind child, and in an effort to make him seem “adult” and therefore “in character” they took away that which actually gave him an advantage in the books: he believed in the fairytales from the beginning. He took them seriously, because he knew full well that that which seems childish could be deadly. He, as he was, was deadly.
Disney, more often than not, does not take children seriously. They don’t trust them to handle complex characters or relate to anyone who isn’t wearing jeans and riding a skateboard. I don’t think it’s pretentious to think children deserve simple things like character development and tension and real emotional moments in their films. I think that saying a story doesn’t need those things because it’s “just a kids movie” is severely underestimating children. Not every character has to save the world or destroy it. Not every character has to be either a friend or a bad guy.
My evidence that children can handle a story with a character who is morally gray: I seemed to like the Artemis Fowl books just fine when I was little, and I turned out alright… mostly.
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