Movies today seem to run into more trouble than I can ever remember. With politics, reshoots, budgets, fan pressure, and who knows what else, the art of making movies continues to be twisted into the former shelf of what it once was. With Covid 19 coming into the mix, the age of direct to streaming has opened up a new era of movie transformation and I shudder to think what the results will be given potential cuts to the film. Ranting aside, tonight’s review is another direct to stream movie, and one with a lot of delay history on hand, as another book series is brought to life in hopes of making money. Will it work or once more are we sunk? Robbie K here ready to give you his thoughts as he reviews:
Movie: Artemis Fowl (2020)
Some of the Comedy
Build For Family
The World Building
The Forced Acting At Times
The Special Effects
The Cardboard Characters
How Quickly Resolved Things Are
The Political Correctness
Too Family Theme/Inconsistent
A Massive Set Up Movie Instead Of Its Own film
Never having read the books, I went in pretty fresh thinking this would be Harry Potter meeting Men In Black with a bit of a family style added in. I believe on many levels my assumption was right and fortunately there were some heavy hitters leading the way. The stars for me were Dench and Gad, two actors who have their tricks for making the most of roles no matter how invested they are in the project. Dench’s old school tactics and pot shots at age mix well with the “charm” of those she commands, a case of sensitive caring meeting dutiful officer entertaining to watch as she engaged with the new generation. Gad on the other hand continues to play his bumbling oaf of a snowman in a different form as the tricky dwarf who lives above the law in more ways than one. He seems to have fun with the role, and it’s that energy that seems perfect for the character they developed for him. Gad acts as a focal point for the comedy, but Fowl’s band of “criminals” sometimes have some tact to them that had me laughing at times, be it a well time one liner or maybe a sarcastic comment from Dench’s character. It’s all well themed and much like the rest of the movie has many “family themed elements” that I think Disney was going for in its countless troubles and directions with the film to which the target audience should love.
However, the strongest elements for this reviewer are the fact the more technical elements of the film that brought the world of fiction to life. For one thing, the music is great, despite having an AC unit blaring, the cinema design for Artemis’ first journey is a splendid symphony of orchestral wonder that helps add excitement to the scenes at hand. More toned-down moments are complemented by a wonderful homage to Irish tradition with pipes, flutes, and the magical moor like tones bringing that fairy tale charm associated with Irish culture. This only further gets complemented by beautiful settings to which the cinematography captures beautifully and I for one was impressed with what they displayed on screen. As for the fantasy element, Disney continues to kick butt in this department as they always do. Computer design created a very elaborate world to get lost in be it the cramped halls of the Fowl manor with its hidden secrets, or the world of the fairy that dwells below the earth where science fiction and magic turn into a hybridized world that is both mystical and new edge. Add the costumes and character design into the mix, and you get that unique flare that Disney’s money can make… when used right of course. I think many of your little ones will have some new trick or treat costumes this coming fall.
Yet where marketing and splendor succeed, the movie fails for me at other parts. Like much of Disney’s new family themed movies, the pace seems off for a typical Disney film as Artemis’ journey sort of contorts to odd angles in an attempt to put everything into a journey to inspire every person under the sun. It’s too fast for yours truly, giving many of the emotional moments a blunt edge that fails to tug at the heart strings it wants to pull so badly, the way Disney movies like to do. It does not help that the characters they tried to create are poorly developed, many having any dimension effectively ripped from them to make paper thin pawns for kids to aspire to be like. There are some redeeming qualities, I won’t lie about that, but in terms of characters as a whole Disney’s band is set for the adolescent minds instead of all families in general. It may also suffer from the fact that the actors are also still coming into their forte on this film. The young cast sort of has one or two dimensions and have not mastered the spectrum of acting that other actors have. Throw in some of the performances feel forced or not involved enough leading to less character utilization and the selling of this movie becomes harder and harder for me to do.
Maybe the plot and adventure aspect will be better and offset those limitations? After all Twilight has enough romance and fighting to make the film worth it right, right? No, the movie did not succeed on this aspect either for me. Artemis Fowl’s limitations above carry over to this aspect of the film as well, leaving it a very skeletal framework with little sustenance for me. The adventure again is rushed, tense moments reduced to dry bouts of conversation, little build up, and action that has that modern-day family approved stamp that seems to plague so many films. Again those moments to grasp on to characters and worry about their fate become quick fix problems, where thirty seconds of an impasse show up and then resolves in some of the simplest story telling I’ve seen in a while. The action scenes start showing some pizazz, building up to Fowl’s genius taking on this new world, only to quite in less than a minute. What happened to that magic we saw in Mulan, the lion king, Tarzan, and Toy Story, where the franchises were still to family, but were not afraid to add some darker elements to the mix. Fowl only does it with a few disturbing visuals, namely Gad dislocating his jaw, which would be more impressionable than a good action scene that actually uses its characters. An even weaker element is how some of these fights sort have had technical jerkiness to it, like a DVD skipping, the scene would pause and then quickly speed up. While cool at some moments, it got overused and annoying for me, and felt like a distraction to the already limited scene.
The point this rambling makes is that the movie lacks intensity and connection to a majority of the audience, again too centered on the juvenile atmosphere that PG movies seem to have become. I also felt there was a little too much political agenda in this movie, not in the manner/degree we’ve seen in other films like Star Wars, Captain Marvel, and Charlie’s Angels, but more like the Dream Big Princess campaign you see on Disney channel. It gets in the way of the storytelling for me and while inspirational, fans like me may lose faith in Disney putting plot development aside to stay politically relevant. Finally, this movie’s inconsistencies sort of amplify that this rushed tale seems much like an intro chapter or installment to the book (which I do know enough for it to be the case), but in series like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, those first stories also felt contained to their own tale as well. For Fowl though, the first installment focuses too much on the promise of a new series or movie coming in, perhaps another attempt to hypnotize into more toy sales. Had the other flaws not been so magnified in my eyes.
Artemis Fowl is cute and definitely the family friendly adventure theme that seems to be the new age of acceptable to many new parents. For this reviewer though, it gets in the way of bringing these young adult books to life, sheltering the intended audience from darker moments just to make a buck. Sure the acting will be good for the intended audience, and the music and visuals may be just the thing to hook you in to the film as you watch your children’s eyes light up in delight (after all mine did for much of this film). However, the rushed plot, the forced acting, the lack of suspense, buildup, and intensity and trying to play too much in safe politics threw this film into disarray for me. While it certainly fits better on streaming rather than the theater, I can’t help but wonder how much was lost to the numerous issues this film had with release. Yet, I worry even more that the studio I know can make out of this world films is losing their ability to story tell due to playing to the public interest movements. Nevertheless, I recommend this film for viewing at home of course, but take caution as some scenes may in fact be scary for those who are sensitive to the darker, more disturbing visuals.
My scores overall are:
Family, Fantasy, Adventure: 6.0
Movie Overall: 4.5