If you are in your early or late twenties, can label yourself a casual or eccentric bookworm, then probably like me you religiously read the Artemis Fowl series.
Even if you don't tick all those boxes, as long as you still read the series, you can understand my intense love for the young criminal genius Artemis Fowl and his loyal Butler and the headstrong Holly Short.
I was obsessed with Eoin Colfer’s vivid imagination.
I loved his witty characters and the fun interactions between them. I lived for their clashes with Opal. Every scene was always so thrilling and I remember waiting for each release of the book series and screaming with excitement when they came out.
That’s why when I heard the whispers of a film adaptation on the horizon I felt chills down my spine.
Adaptation isn’t copy and paste
Now don’t get me wrong, there have been some good book adaptations to film features. Harry Potter, The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games just being a few examples of some well-made film series that are adapted from books.
For years I have fantasized about a decent film version of the Artemis Fowl series with a fantastic real-life cast. However, more than often we see a book adaptation on the screen and we are left with this bittersweet taste of dissatisfaction in our mouths.
That is because too often film directors take the source material that people love and completely change the storyline, subvert the sequence of events and even entirely morph beloved characters to fit their own agenda and intentions.
It’s not wrong for a Director, such as Kenneth Branagh, to put their own creative spin on an adaptation. Hear me out, an adaptation shouldn’t be just a copy and paste, it should be adding to the source material. There should be a creative flair that the director gives which completely transforms the story and evolves it into something even more beautiful.
The art of adaptation has been going on since motion picture was conceived, as Walter Benjamin pointed out “Storytelling is always the art of repeating stories” and film has always been putting stories to the screen. An adaptation isn’t blatant copying, it is taking source material and personalising it, it should be about creation and re-interpretation that showcases the original material from a new perspective.
It should be adding a new perspective, but it shouldn’t be about destroying and replacing the original story. It shouldn’t destroy the characters and it shouldn’t completely subvert the world-building that so many of us love. Because at that point it is no longer an adaptation, it becomes a shell of the source material, a bad imitation.
At best it should be called an original piece since it’s only drawing inspiration from the source material. This can no longer be called an adaptation.
I say all this because when I watched Disney’s trailer for Artemis Fowl that’s exactly what I saw.
This wasn’t an adaptation of the story I’d grown up loving, those weren’t the characters I’d been bewitched by, this wasn’t the world that I had charmed me.
I watched the trailer and I found myself so intensely disappointed I almost started despairing. And from the videos, 18,000 dislikes compared to its 12,000 likes I realised I wasn’t the only person feeling this way.
The first thought that occurred to me was “How could they do this? How can they completely throw away such a brilliant story?” I felt like I’d received a big shiny gift-wrapped present and opened it to see nothing inside. All they had kept was the names of the characters and everything else was just some poorly regurgitated rubbish.
I have only seen the trailer but I can already tell what the film will be like and honestly I don’t want to see it.
For the layman this may not concern them, they can watch the film or the trailer and find it entertaining. I showed the trailer to my Mum and she thought it was fine “an interesting kids movie” she said. But to fans who had wanted a genuine adaptation that maintained the awesome integrity of the story while adding to it with original cinematic flair, this trailer was a kick in the face.
I wondered how Eoin Colfer could let this happen, had he had any creative control? I’d seen him advertising the upcoming movie on his Instagram for weeks, so when I finally saw the trailer I was confused. It felt so strange because it was so wrong.
The two main Problems with Disney’s Artemis Fowl (from the trailer)
The problem with Artemis Fowl’s portrayal in the trailer is best explained by a comment from YouTube user Wyatt Smith. Smith wrote underneath the trailer, “You know, Disney, a lot of these mistakes could have been forgivable, but the cardinal sin here is casting Artemis as a wide-eyed and surprised child. The fantasy of Artemis Fowl is, first and foremost, a savagely intelligent kid outsmarting the adults who underestimate him, wrapped up in sci-fi -high-fantasy-espionage. You’ve utterly decimated that cornerstone and, unfortunately, nothing else really matters with that damage done.”
Ferdia Shaw is a young actor from Dublin who was cast as Artemis, he looks young and completely baby faced, but maybe he could have pulled off the part if he had been given the role of an evil genius.
Throughout the trailer, I was getting a Spy Kids level of innocence from Ferdia that I shouldn’t have been receiving. Artemis Fowl is an anti-hero, a twisted and intelligent youngster that always aims to be the smartest person in the room. If anyone’s watched Netflix’s Umbrella Academy then the character Five, played by Aidan Gallagher, (a young genius with a surly character) is more akin to what Artemis Fowl’s character should have been like.
We didn’t get to see much of Holly in the trailer.
From the book, her character is a no-nonsense fairy soldier from Haven. From the very first book, she has a hostile relationship with Artemis because he kidnaps her. Their hostile relationship only becomes more friendly after they encounter each other more often and save each other throughout the series. Eventually, that hateful relationship not only becomes a beautiful friendship but also romantic. Yet in this trailer I saw none of the fire and brimstone that made Artemis and Holly’s relationship so dynamic, I felt no pull towards the character, no chemistry, and I didn’t feel the strength that this fairy soldier should've had.
Butler is Artemis’s loyal badass bodyguard. He is Eurasian, meaning one parent is European and the other Asian, and he only cares about protecting Artemis. My main issue with Butler’s portrayal in the trailer is that they change the race of an already ethnic character. Butler in the books is Eurasian yet in the trailer they typecast the subservient Butler as a Black Man. This confused me on so many levels. As a Black woman, I am all about getting more Black representation in the film industry, but I don’t agree with this happening at the cost of another ethnic minority.
If a character is already designed to be a minority, i.e. Asian, then there is no need to change their ethnicity to appear more ‘politically correct or diverse’. There simply isn’t enough Asian representation in Hollywood as it is. Although this isn’t a huge issue I still don’t understand why they did it or the necessity of doing it, perhaps they were basing him on the image of Bulter in the comics but who knows.
Other than that you don't see enough of Butler in the trailer to get a gauge of the character.
In the books, Artemis is a criminal without conscience. He’s the heir to a dark criminal enterprise.
When his father disappears he’s not that distraught, in fact, his first thought is securing the family finances and he does that by kidnapping the fairy, Holly Short, and aiming to go to the underground Fairyland Haven and gain riches.
Disney completely throws away this storyline and sprinkles glitter all over it, not only is Artemis suddenly nice and caring, the Fowl family are no longer criminals but actually secret heroes that save the world from ancient threats. Umm what the hell? That’s not even similar to the original storyline.
They then further change the plot by making it out that Artemis Fowl has trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a protector of the world. This movie version of Artemis doesn’t want to increase the family fortune and make tons of cash, but to “save the world.” Something that Artemis in the books never cared about, all he cared about was money. Additionally, Artemis in the series was never friends with the fairies at the beginning they were enemies, yet this trailer shows them being fast allies, which makes no sense and completely destroys the groundwork for all future bonding and character development.
With all these changes this is no longer an adaptation it is an imitation. This movie shouldn’t even be called Artemis Fowl, it pays barely any homage to the books. It should instead be called “naive adventures of a wide-eyed boy with fun fairy pals.”
Overall, this no longer feels like Artemis Fowl just another rehashed Hollywood blockbuster that will probably be collecting dust in a couple of years. They could have made something amazing with the original story, and while I don’t think the film will be awful it definitely won’t live up to what it could have been and it most definitely won’t be an Artemis Fowl adaptation for me, just a whole other film taking inspiration from it.
I don’t believe this will ruin Artemis Fowl, so many just like myself will always love the books. However, for the younger generations that never read the books and see this film, I believe it will ruin the series for them.
Links to other articles about the matter:
Showbiz cheat sheet: Artemis Fowl trailer leaves fans unhappy
The Guardian: Evil or Genuis, what has Disney done to Artemis Fowl