Review: 'Artemis Fowl' wasn't worth the wait after all

Ferdia Shaw stars in Disney’s “Artemis Fowl.”

Editor’s note: With movie theaters limited because of the coronavirus pandemic, Micheal Compton’s reviews will focus on films available for streaming or on demand.

It’s taken a long time for “Artemis Fowl” to finally get to the big screen – well, in this case your living room.

Stuck in development limbo for years and then delayed several times, this adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s popular series of YA novels finally gets its premiere on Disney’s streaming service Disney Plus.

This is a case of the final product not being worth the wait.

“Artemis Fowl” is a dreadful attempt at a franchise that will likely disappoint fans of the source material while frustrating everyone else. It’s a muddled mess that probably should have just been scrapped while in development.

The film, which actually covers the first two books in the series and is crammed into 95 minutes, tells the story of Artemis Fowl (newcomer Ferdia Shaw).

Fowl is a 12-year-old criminal prodigy who gets thrust into a secret world of fairies, goblins and dwarves after the disappearance of his jet-setting dealer father (Colin Farrell).

Fowl teams with an elf named Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) to navigate the secret world to hunt down his missing father and restore balance to the universe.

“Artemis Fowl” was directed by Kenneth Branagh, who knows his way around Disney fare having also directed the original “Thor” and “Cinderella.” But Branagh is saddled with a script that is so convoluted that most of the dialogue consists of explaining to the audience what they have just seen on the screen.

Most of this dialogue comes from the narration of a dwarf named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), whose look reminded me a lot of Hagrid from the “Harry Potter” films – thus reminding me what a good fantasy series actually looked like.

When Branagh finally gets to stage some action sequences, it’s way too late and the audience really isn’t that invested because these characters are undercooked. In an age where some adaptations take multiple movies to get through one book, the idea of ripping through two books in one film is just asking too much of Branagh and the cast.

Maybe with a more dynamic lead to carry the load, this could have been somewhat salvageable. But Shaw’s performance is so subdued it only emphasizes the craziness going on around him – a film too hyper to stay in place and actually make the audience care about anyone’s plight.

About the only interesting thing in “Artemis Fowl” is the presence of Judi Dench as fairy. When we last saw Dench on screen, she was part of the cast in 2019’s most abysmal experience, “Cats.”

“Artemis Fowl” might not be quite the disaster as “Cats,” but it is pretty firmly entrenched on the list of worst films of 2020.

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