“All I really want is to believe in you.”

Not 12 minutes into this hopelessly ill-conceived adaptation of the beloved Eoin Colfer books, Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) speaks for us all. It’s a schoolboy error to ask a movie to slavishly represent a book—indeed, some of the most critically acclaimed (like Howl’s Moving Castle) merely sniff at inspiration from the source material. But it’s also a mistake to launch into an adaptation without understanding what it is that draws people to the text. And this clunky, incoherent reimagining misses almost every mark.

Reduced to little more than a whiny brat, Artemis is immediately undermined as a reactive bystander. It’s just as well, since a barely-drawn Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) is instantly forgettable. The pulse is handed to the over-present narrator, Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad). And that would be fine—considering Gad’s engaging performance—if he wasn’t a condensed mass of problematics. It’s hard to know whether the running identity politics gag about being an unhappily “giant dwarf” is more or less awkward than the bizarre boomer humour (“most humans are afraid of gluten, how do you think they’d handle goblins?”). It’s almost as if, realising they couldn’t literally show this character leaving a trail of excrement behind him… well, I’ll spare you the colouring in.

That’s before we even delve into the question of making Butler (Nonso Anozie)—a physically intimidating presence described as “Eurasian” on paper—a Black man and Foaly (Nikesh Patel), the IT mastermind centaur, British Indian. All in the service of a garbled plot around a poorly defined mystical McGuffin. 

Sadly, Artemis Fowl is everything its much-criticised trailer promised. From the muddled premise to the truly hokey, tin-whistle tweeness (the Irish Blessing forms a central plot point), it’s hard to know what anyone thought the point of it all was.


Available to watch on: Disney+


CAST: Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Judi Dench, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozie, Tamara Smart, Nikesh Patel, Colin Farrell

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

WRITERS: Conor McPherson, Michael Goldenberg, Hamish McColl, Adam Kline (screenplay), Eoin Colfer (novels)

SYNOPSIS: Artemis Fowl Jr (Shaw) gets a crash course in his dad’s (Colin Farrell) literal underworld connections when he discovers he comes from a long line of criminal masterminds connected to the fairy world.