The story delivers that precious combination of complicated and dumb. Based on a popular series of young adult novels, the filmmakers fatally assume that the audience will have a built-in appreciation for its mythology. That means we start this swim lesson in the deep end, drowning in waves of characters and subplots that swamp us without explanation. Let’s see if I can get my brain off the blue screen of death and break it down.
On some magical coast of Ireland, a dapper thief named Artemis Fowl (Colin Farrell) lands in a spot of bother with a mysterious villain (Hong Chau). It seems that Artemis has stolen the Aculos, a MacGuffin that could grant its owner unspeakable power. (Just once, I want the heroes to chase down a trinket, only to find it has some shitty ability–like, it can only get red wine stains out of carpet.) Artemis is abducted, and tortured to reveal the location of the artifact. This puts his precocious son, also named Artemis (Ferdia Shaw), in the unfortunate position of trying to free his father. In the process, young Artie learns that the fantasy world he’s spent his life reading about is real.
That hidden realm resembles some kinda Fifth Element riff on Harry Potter. Yeah, you read that right. Prepare yourself for faeries, dwarves, and goblins decked out in Minority Report gear and blathering technobabble at flatscreen monitors. They are led by Commander Root (Dame Judi Dench),a hard-nosed faerie determined to keep the Oculus–or, Azkaban, or Cialis…whatever the bloody hell it’s called–from falling into the wrong hands. Holly Short (Lara McDonnell), one of Root’s young recruits, is determined to do her duty, while also clearing the mystery surrounding her late father. And there’s Mulch (Josh Gad), a dwarf in full Hagrid cosplay. He serves as our narrator, in a ham-fisted framing device so hokey you’ll want to put your head through the TV. Put it this way, if this dude were trying to tell you a scary campfire story, you’d want to take away his hooch and put him to bed.
Oh, yeah–before I forget: The Artemis Fowls also have a loyal butler who was trained in the ancient art of ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Whoah, sorry. This movie put me down like one of those graduation night hypnotists. Good news is my urge for a cigarette is gone! Anyway, let me tell you just one of the many beefs I have with this movie. We’ll call it the Wesley Crusher Fallacy. (He was the know-it-all kid on Star Trek: The Next Generation.) There’s nothing more obnoxious than a snot-nosed little brat who always has the answers, and is always one notch better than the adults. Hell, I’ll go a step broader and say it’s downright boring to have a protagonist who’s never challenged by anything. It’s why Harry Potter is the lead character of his franchise, and not Hermione Granger.
And that’s just one beef. Oculus Finch obviously cost a shitpot full of money, and you can watch those dollar-dollar bills flutter across the screen. One problem with that is that the CGI looks more rubbery than Velveeta® cheese. Seriously, the troll in this movie isn’t as real as the one in Lord of the Rings, and that came out almost 20 years ago. (That’s depressing.) Maybe director Kenneth Branagh wanted all the action to look cartoony. In that case, he both succeeded tremendously and failed admirably.
I could go on and on, but that would be…*flips to the middle of the book* interminable? Hmm, that’s a weird-looking word. Well, whatever. Let me just say that Spartacus Prime is a pale imitation of the world-building in much better fantasy franchises. It’s like one of those computer algorithms that tries to spit out a hit song. The chords sound familiar, but the melody gets botched. I think trying to analyze it nearly broke my mind. And that just ain’t no good.
95 min. PG.