Review: ‘Artemis Fowl,’ starring Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad, Tamara Smart, Nonso Anozie, Colin Farrell and Judi Dench

June 12, 2020

by Carla Hay

Nonso Anozie, Lara McDonnell, Josh Gad and Ferdia Shaw in “Artemis Fowl” (Photo by Nicola Dove/Disney Enterprises Inc.)

“Artemis Fowl”

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Culture Representation: Taking place in Ireland and a magical underground world, the fantasy adventure “Artemis Fowl” has a racially diverse cast of characters (white, black and Asian) who portray humans, fairies, dwarves and goblins.

Culture Clash: A 12-year-old boy named Artemis Fowl , who must save his kidnapped father from an evil fairy, kidnaps a good fairy as bait for the ransom, setting off a battle between fairies and humans.

Culture Audience: “Artemis Fowl” will appeal primarily to fans of the “Artemis Fowl” book series who won’t mind watching a movie adaptation that is inferior to the books’ storytelling.

Judi Dench in “Artemis Fowl” (Photo by courtesy of Disney Enterprises Inc.)

The “Harry Potter” books and films have set the bar pretty high for what can be achieved in making young-adult fantasy novels into movies. By comparison, “Artemis Fowl” is a mediocre mess of a film that clearly spent a lot of time on visual effects but not enough time in doing justice to the kind of storytelling that author Eoin Colfer has in his “Artemis Fowl” books. Almost everything that happens in the “Artemis Fowl” movie can be predicted by people in their sleep.

The long-delayed “Artemis Fowl” movie was supposed to be released in theaters, but instead was released directly to the Disney+ streaming service, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Directed by Kenneth Branagh (who’s hit-and-miss artistically when it comes to his big-budget films), “Artemis Fowl” isn’t the worst fantasy film that someone can ever see, but it’s a disappointing movie, considering the level of talent involved. Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl wrote the clunky “Artemis Fowl” screenplay, which is supposed to be an origin story, but the movie is highly unlikely to get a sequel.

The story takes place in Ireland, in an alternate modern reality where humans live above ground, while fairies and other creatures live in a below-ground place called Haven City. The movie begins with the news media in a frenzy because several priceless artifacts from around the world have been stolen. The chief suspect is a reclusive businessman/art dealer named Artemis Fowl Sr. (played by Colin Farrell), who lives in a mansion called Fowl Manor and who has mysteriously disappeared.

However, a suspected accomplice has been arrested: an oversized, thieving dwarf named Mulch Diggums (played by Josh Gad), who’s self-conscious over the fact that he’s much taller and bigger than the average dwarf. Mulch is taken to the MI6 Red Fort Interrogation Unit in Thames Estuary, London, where he begins to tell the story of Artemis Fowl Jr. (played by Ferdia Shaw), a precocious 12-year-old loner who’s frequently left to his own devices because his father goes away for long periods of time on secretive trips.

The Artemis Fowl father and son have a close relationship, but Artemis Jr. feels hurt and left out that his father won’t tell him where he’s going on these trips and exactly when he’ll be back. (Artemis Jr.’s mother is not seen or mentioned in the story.) Artemis Jr. has a friend/mentor/bodyguard named Domovoi Butler (played by Nonzo Anozie), who tells people that he hates to be called a butler. Domovoi has a relationship with Artemis Jr. that’s similar to the “Batman” story relationship between Alfred the butler and Bruce Wayne/Batman.

As Mulch tells it, Artemis Jr. doesn’t like school very much. He’s considered “different” and has found it difficult to make friends. There’s somewhat of an unnecessary scene where Artemis Jr. is talking to a school counselor, and then Artemis storms out because he thinks the counselor doesn’t understand him and the session is a waste of time.

Considering that Artemis Jr. spends the rest of the movie fighting battles like an adult, going to school isn’t a priority to him. It also didn’t make sense to show him at school in this movie because a kid like Artemis Fowl would probably be homeschooled, considering his father’s secretive and reclusive life. Why bother with nosy teachers and students?

At any rate, Artemis Jr. soon gets a phone call from the evil fairy who’s kidnapped his father. Let that sink in for a few seconds and try not to laugh at how dumb that plot sounds. We’ll have to assume they have caller ID blocking in Haven City.

The evil fairy tells Artemis Jr. that his father will be killed unless the fairy (an unnamed androgynous creature who’s in disguise with the creature’s face obscured) gets the ransom: a magical object called the Aculos, which has the power to open portals across the universe. The evil fairy tells Artemis Sr. that he’s been kidnapped as revenge for causing the deaths of some other fairies.

Artemis Jr. then comes up with a somewhat convoluted plan to get the good fairies of Haven City to help him find the Aculos. How? By kidnapping a fairy named Holly Short (played  by Lara McDonnell), an enforcement officer who’s supposed to be 84 years old in fairy years, but she looks close to the age of Artemis Jr. (All of the fairies are human-sized.)

The good fairies, led by gravel-voiced Commander Root (played by Judi Dench, in yet another no-nonsense, unsmiling role), then descend upon Fowl Manor to rescue Holly. The fairies have the magical power of creating a force field around a certain area, where everyone in the force field can be temporarily frozen and have their memories erased.

This power is demonstrated in a scene where a giant troll crashes a wedding reception in Italy and attempts to kidnap a child and the good fairies come to the rescue. It’s an example of how this unfocused movie literally jumps all over the place.

But apparently, having magical powers isn’t enough for the fairies, because they also have a massive technology center at Haven City, complete with huge video monitors and computers. How very Earth-like. Except it’s not, because their chief technology officer is a fairy centaur named Foaly (played by Nikesh Patel).

And who else has teamed up with Artemis Jr. and Domovoi to help them fight off this large army of fairies? Domovoi’s 12-year-old niece Juliet Butler (played by Tamara Smart), who’s got martial-arts combat skills. The three allies are outnumbered, but they have some tech gadgets and guns for their battles—although the guns don’t seem to actually kill anyone, because Disney can’t have a movie with 12-year-old kids on a murder spree.

Mulch’s narration comes and goes in the story, which includes a scene of Mulch in a prison cell full of goblins who are hostile to him. It’s an example of a poorly written scene that seems to have no purpose other than to show Mulch in an uncomfortable situation and the visual effects of when he uses his magical ability to over-expand his mouth.

All of the actors do a serviceable job in their roles, although McDonnell frequently outshines her co-stars in her scenes. There are a few lines that might give people a chuckle, such as when a gruff Commander Root barks to subordinates, “Get the four-leaf clover out of here!” The way she slightly pauses before she says “four-leaf clover” makes it clear she could have said another “f” word, and then it would definitely not be a Disney movie,

The visual effects and production design of “Artemis Fowl” are good-enough, but they won’t be nominated for any major awards. Because there is so little character development in the movie, the action scenes are really what bring the most appeal to the film. Kids under the age of 10 might enjoy “Artemis Fowl,” but people with more discerning taste in fantasy films won’t find “Artemis Fowl” very impressive. “Artemis Fowl” might just make people want to watch an old “Harry Potter” movie instead.

Disney+ premiered “Artemis Fowl” on June 12, 2020.

Harvey Weinstein scandal: Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet and more celebrities speak out against sexual harassment

October 10, 2017

by Colleen McGregor

Harvey Weinstein at The Weinstein Company party in celebration of “Wind River” at Nikki Beach in Cannes, Frances, on May 20, 2017. (Photo by Dave Benett)

Meryl Streep, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Mira Sorvino and Judi Dench—five actresses who have won Oscars for their roles in movies distributed by Harvey Weinstein-founded The Weinstein Company (TWC)  and Miramax Films—have joined the growing list of celebrities who are speaking out against the sexual harassment and sexual assault that TWC co-founder Weinstein is accused of committing for more than 30 years.

Streep has publicly praised Weinstein over the years, but on October 9, 2017, she issued a statement saying, in part: “The disgraceful news about Harvey Weinstein has appalled those of us whose work he championed, and those whose good and worthy causes he supported. The intrepid women who raised their voices to expose this abuse are our heroes.  One thing can be clarified. Not everybody knew … Each brave voice that is raised, heard and credited by our watchdog media will ultimately change the game.” Other stars—such as Glenn Close, Lena Dunham, Judd Apatow and Mark Ruffalo—have also made public statements condemning Weinstein. (Click here to read many of their statements.)

On October 7, 2017, Weinstein issued an apology that read, in part: “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” He also said he was in therapy for his admitted anger issues and “demons.” Through his representatives, Weinstein has denied the most serious allegations of sexual harassment and assault.

Weinstein was fired from TWC on October 8, 2017—three days after a New York Times article gave detailed accounts of these accusations, which included allegations made by actresses Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan that Weinstein sexually harassed them in the 1990s. The New York Times investigation reported that over the past several years, Weinstein had least eight sexual-harassment cases against him that were settled out of court; the most recently known case was in 2015.

Allegations published by the New York Times and the New Yorker on October 10, 2017,  give first-hand accounts by numerous women with various jobs in the entertainment industry (including assistants, producers, executives and actresses) who talk about being the targets of sexual misconduct by Weinstein. Angelina Jolie, Paltrow, Sorvino and Rosanna Arquette are among the other actresses who claim that they have been sexually harassed by Weinstein early in the actresses’ careers. Meanwhile, actress/filmmaker Asia Argento told the New Yorker that Weinstein raped her in 1997, and she felt pressured to have other sexual encounters with him over the next five years.

According to the reports, Weinstein’s main tactic would be to lure a woman to be alone with him in a hotel room or other private area, with Weinstein leading the woman to believe that it was a business meeting to help her career. The allegations often included salacious details such as Weinstein getting naked and asking the woman he was alone with to give him a nude massage, watch him take a shower and/or have sex with him. In some cases, Weinstein would allegedly masturbate in front of the woman or force the woman to touch his penis.

Lucia Evans, a former aspiring actress, told the New Yorker of a disturbing encounter with Weinstein in which she claims he forced her to perform oral sex on him during what she thought would be a business meeting with him in 2004.

Weinstein, who is 65, has been married to fashion mogul Georgina Chapman (co-founder of the Marchesa brand) since 2007, but she announced on October 10, 2017, that they have separated. Weinstein was married to his first wife, Eve Chilton, from 1987 to 2004. His has three daughters with Chilton: Remy (previously Lily), born  in 1995; Emma, born 1998; and Ruth, born in 2002. Weinstein has two children with Chapman: daughter India Pearl (born in 2010) and son Dashiell (born in 2013).

In 2015, Weinstein was investigated by the New York Police Department for groping actress Ambra Battilana Gutierrez during a private business meeting at TWC headquarters in New York City, but the Manhattan District Attorney declined to file charges. On October 10, 2017, New Yorker released a NYPD sting audio tape made at a hotel a few days after the incident that has Weinstein admitting to groping her breast and trying to convince Gutierrez to come into his hotel room.

Weinstein was a major donor to several progressive causes and Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Since the scandal broke, Obama and Clinton have issued statements condemning Weinstein. Some of the politicians, such as Senators Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren, have stated that they would take the amount of money that Weinstein donated to them and give it to charitable causes.

Over the years, Weinstein  earned a reputation for being a vengeful bully to many people in the industry, but he earned just as much praise and admiration from those who benefited from his help. He was considered one of the movie industry’s most powerful campaigners for prestigious awards. TWC’s Oscar-winning movies include “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Streep won an Oscar for her role as Margaret Thatcher in TWC’s “The Iron Lady,” while Winslet won an Oscar for TWC’s “The Reader.” Among the other celebrities who have won Oscars for TWC films include Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”),  Penélope Cruz (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”), Quentin Tarantino (“Django Unchained”), Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech”) and Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained”).

Weinstein co-founded TWC in 2005 with his brother Bob Weinstein. The Weinstein brothers co-founded Miramax Films in 1979, and headed the company until 2005. Miramax, which was bought by Disney in 1993, is the movie studio behind such Oscar-winning films as “Shakespeare in Love” and “Chicago.” Paltrow and Dench won Oscars for “Shakespeare in Love,” while Sorvino won an Oscar for Miramax’s “Mighty Aphrodite.”

In recent years, TWC’s power has been waning. The company, which also has departments for television and books, has not had a big movie hit since 2012’s “Django Unchained.” And although 2016’s “Lion” received six Oscar nominations, the movie did not win any Oscars.