CHENNAI: Kenneth Branagh, well known for directing Shakespearean plays including “As You Like It,” “Henry V” and “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” has now come up with another literary adaptation, “Artemis Fowl,” now streaming on Disney+. Based on Eoin Colfer’s best-selling novels, the story follows an Irish teenager who has the power to mingle with magical forces, like fairies and dwarfs. The film is faithful to the books in some ways but takes the liberty to make major changes.
Initially, “Artemis Fowl” seems to bear some similarities to “Harry Potter,” but Branagh’s work falls short of the adventures of the boy wizard created by J.K. Rowling. In fact, Branagh, who gave us excellent works earlier, falters with this plot.
Artemis Fowl Jr (played by Robert Shaw’s grandson, Ferdia Shaw), the movie’s title character, is a 12-year-old genius, but he is not unethical as he is portrayed in the novels. He is a schoolboy, who loves to surf and hang out with his father (Colin Farrell) in their breathtaking Irish manor. When his father is kidnapped by evil pixie Opal Koboi, the young Fowl Jr learns that the fairytales he grew up on are real. Opal wants the Aculos, a glowing gadget considered dangerous to mankind. With the help of young fairy Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) and his own personal bodyguard, Butler (Nonso Anozie), the boy sets out on a perilous journey.
Some decent performances lift an otherwise disappointing work. Farrell is superb as a father keen on teaching his son about a world that most of us do not believe exists. Judi Dench as Commander Root (to whom Holly reports) is a fantastic actress, but she is still weighed down by M’s legacy in the Bond series.
“Artemis Fowl” seems a drag, even with a 93-minute runtime, and it comes maybe 20 years too late, in a period overcrowded with movies in the fantasy genre. The CGI is too garish, and the movie was first optioned by Miramax but was delayed innumerable times before it fell into the Disney basket. Even the screenplay by Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl is confusing at times. All in all, the movie has its merits, but it falls short of the expectations viewers might have of its talented director and cast.