Stemming from a long line of criminal masterminds, a 12-year-old boy concocts a get rich quick scheme to save his nefarious family from destitution. Rather than hatching the usual heist, the kid gets it in his head that he could capture a genuine fairy and hold it for a ransom of gold. That old chestnut.
Artemis Fowl is another entry in a long line of YA adventures that capitalizes on the “What If” fantasies of childhood. The books tap into those daydreams all children have in which they are descendants of knights, wizards, or billionaires; honorable defenders of the realm instead of the normal blah kids that they actually are. The twist here being that young Fowl is a bit of a scamp with a morality bent in a direction Harry Potter would never dare to turn.
The first novel written by Eoin Colfer was published in 2001 and spawned seven sequels. Disney acquired the rights to the series back in 2016 and we’ve personally been anticipating the adaptation ever since Kenneth Branagh came on board as director last year. The question is whether or not there is still a hunger for this material besides that of Disney’s greed.
A Wrinkle in Time was not a total disaster at the box office, but its reception was less than enthusiastic. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald also didn’t fan the flames of its franchise much either. The cinematic space for another eight-film YA fantasy franchise is dwindling.
For Artemis Fowl to snatch a significant audience, the adaptation must embrace its utterly Irish mythology, visually set itself apart from the usual kiddie fantasy fare, and showcase the anti-hero sensibilities of its protagonist. The worst thing the film could do is attempt to be another brick in the crumbling wall of young adult fantasy. This new teaser trailer will go a long way in grabbing our attention:
The first aspect of the teaser that piques my interest is the brief inclusion of Radiohead’s “Decks Dark.” Hey, what works for Suspiria should work for a childhood wish-fulfillment fantasy, right? Thom Yorke is your gateway vocals into upsetting and dangerous magic. Harry Potter can have his John Williams, Fowl struts with the confidence that only alternative rock can give you.
The second aspect that got my attention is the crude, gnarly sounding narration that kicks everything off. “Human greed is what drove us underground…” There is a war brewing underneath our feet. The same fantastical creatures that yearned for recognition in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army are ready to push back against Artemis Fowl’s intrusion. The kid is but a tiny sliver of that rapacious greed this voice chastises, and it won’t take much for the audience to empathize with the villains of the story.
Once the trailer goes underground to Haven City, Branagh reveals a technological wonderland akin to a mashup between The City of Ember and the Divergent series. I get a little lost when the action kicks off with pulsar rifles and bows and arrows strung together by beams of light. The final hero shot of newcomer Ferdia Shaw is a bit too Agent Cody Banks for my tastes as well.
Recently, Branagh has shepherded several blockbusters into franchises. He carefully found a way to incorporate a rather silly concept like Thor into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and his take on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express was a surprise smash. The director has the ability to find the most ostentatious angle on the seemingly ridiculous. Nothing is just a paycheck for him.
If anything gets me excited about his latest grand vision, it is the bizarre comparison Branagh made between Artemis Fowl and The Godfather’s Michael Corleone that he expressed when Collider toured the set. This kind of bold talk is easy to dismiss as absurd, but you have to appreciate the dark headspace Branagh is navigating for a fantasy of elves and leprechauns:
I think Artemis has by the end of the picture, has to face up to well, shall I do some of this as well? Do I believe in it? Am I behind it?
Huh. Yeah. Ok. The trailer I see here looks to be more of the same, but if Branagh can honestly coax such grandiose notions from the text then I am all there for it. Hopefully, those aren’t just the lies he tells himself to get through the workday.
Artemis Fowl hits theaters on August 9, 2019.