Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) has a plan for keeping the world safe. While posing as a collector of fine art, he steals magical items to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Though his “work” often takes him away from his son, also named Artemis (Ferdia Shaw), the two bond over a shared love of Irish mythology and folklore. The younger Artemis is brilliant, the sort of kid who pokes holes in Einstein’s theories with smug satisfaction.
One morning Artemis stumbles out of bed to see on the morning news that his father, accused of stealing some of history’s greatest treasures, is at the center of an international manhunt. Almost before he can process that, the phone rings. Artemis Sr. is being held ransom. To save him, Artemis needs to turn over something called the Aculos. Still reeling, his bodyguard (don’t call him a butler) Domovoi Butler, shows him the Fowl family’s secret library where it’s revealed that all the fairy stories are true.
Getting the Aculos will take some planning. No problem. Artemis will just capture a fairy to get a dwarf to unwittingly get the ransom. What’s an Aculos, you ask? It’s the thing everyone in the movie wants and the audience doesn’t care about.
Artemis soon has a fairy named Holly (Lara McDonnell) in a cage and a giant dwarf (yes, that’s correct) named Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad) en route. In doing so, he ends up with a fairy army led by Commander Root (Judi Dench) launching a full assault on his island mansion. But that’s OK, because it’s all part of the plan.
Like Artemis, Holly is also on a mission to vindicate her father, while Mulch just wants to be normal-sized for a dwarf. If there’s a sequel, expect this trio to be at the center.
For all the talent in front of and behind the camera, Artemis Fowl is mostly forgettable. Though I wish I could forget the way Mulch Diggums dislocates his jaw to tunnel through the earth by eating then immediately—ahem—expelling it.
Real life often does not go according to plan. Artemis Fowl has been around for nearly 20 years, when the first book by Eoin Colfer was published in 2001. Movie deals were immediately batted around, with agreements signed and then never coming to fruition over and over again.
When a movie finally did get made, now with Disney footing the bill, the theatrical release was planned for summer 2019, then spring 2020, and then all plans came apart with the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of going to theaters at all, Artemis Fowl has gone directly to streaming on Disney+.
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand,” indeed (Ps. 19:21).
Sometimes plans do work out the way we hope. Spoiler alert! Young Artemis’ plan does. Disney’s plan for a popular new franchise, however, has likely failed. (Disney+)