The Fishtank: Artemis Foul (or, How to Fix a Broken Movie)

Artemis Fowl was a bad movie. I never really got into Harry Potter for a variety of reasons, but instead felt that same passion and fandom for Artemis Fowl. Despite Kenneth Branagh being my choice of director for any adaption of the books (until recently, at least…) he has shown to have no love or respect for the source material. But that’s not to say the movie couldn’t have been good, with a few changes, both big and small.

First and foremost, fix the characters. In an interview with SlashFilm, Kenneth Branagh said: “It seemed to me that for the audiences who were not familiar with the books, this would be a hard, a hard kind of thing to accept.” In this humble MoshFish’s opinion, that’s bullshit. Ferdia Shaw was fine as the cast member to play Artemis, but turning him into a battle-active, sports-loving regular kid is as far from the source material you can get. The first line of the second paragraph of the first book is verbatim: “The sun did not suit Artemis.” Two lines from the film in particular stand out, both conversations between Butler and Artemis. In the first, Butler asks Artemis if he is scared, to which Artemis replies, “A little.” Book Artemis would have flatly said no, even if that was a lie. The second is when Butler asks Artemis if his plan will work, to which Artemis replies, “Who knows.” Book Artemis would have flatly said yes, even if that was a lie.

While Artemis was the main offender (the movie is named after him, after all), almost none of the characters were true to the source. Holly’s newcomer attitude, was almost opposite tot he jaded officer she was in the book. “Domovoi” flat-out stated to not want to be called Butler was the first major red flag, coming only a few minutes into the movie –  even learning his first name is a relatively big plot point in the third book of the series. Foaly was far more scatter-brained and on-edge than the sarcastic, holier-than-thou nerd he was written as. Overall, no matter what you think of the actors themselves, this lot of characterisation was a massive failure.

Nailed it.

Regarding the story that was told, there is almost nothing on offer that I liked, so let me just say what I would have done in broad strokes. Much like the movie, I am using some plots from the first two books, but in my version at least they are teases for a sequel.

We begin with a cold open, where an unnamed man (Colin Farrell) meets atop the Hill of Tara with a mostly unseen character, eventually revealed in partial shadow to be a fairy, and a LEPrecon officer on top of that. For us, the audience: how whimsical – fairies are real and Colin Farrell has a dreamy Irish accent. Smash cut to the title screen. We then meet Artemis, who is a jerk of a kid, languishing in school because he feels it is all beneath him, and he’d rather spend his time making gadgets to play with. If you want to even include that stupid skateboard/roller dealio from the movie as it was then fine, but show him making it. Introduce Butler (and maybe Juliet, though I’d almost save her for the sequel), and play up Artemis being an arrogant jerk.

For the faeries, follow Holly as she arrives at work for the day, crossing paths with Mulch (who is revealed to be a thief) and Holly’s relationship with Commander Root, as Holly arrives slightly late (because of Mulch, who is again shown to be important for later). Show a wanted poster for Opal Koboi in the background. Have Root lambaste Holly handling of an off-screen troll capture (a troll? See, it’s a Chekhov’s gun). In the human world, show Artemis trawling through family journals (but don’t say why, just yet) and come up with the plan to see if faeries are real, which leads to the capture of Holly. You can basically follow the book from here, with the LEPrecon teams storming the house (and show off Artemis tech skills and Butler’s bodyguard skills) before Mulch gets introduced for some stealth comedy – and to show his skills as a thief – and finally the release of the troll as the big action piece.

Eventually have the first interaction with Artemis and Root, where you can get the double reveals: Colin Farrell was actually Artemis Fowl, Sr; and Artemis only wanted the gold for Holly to pay off Opal Koboi (see, Kenneth Branagh, Artemis isn’t actually a big jerk). Personally I’d end this movie roughly here, with the confrontation between Koboi and Artemis saved for the sequel.

Have a look at my fan casting on page two!


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