Before I even decided to write about film adaptations of novels, I promised myself I wasn’t going to talk about the pandemic or the “new normal” (whatever the hell that means). It’s tiresome and there’s enough official information out there, so don’t come here for it.
Having spent the bulk of my time at home, I’ve watched a lot of films and TV series. I’ve revisited many of my favourites, but I also caught newer films—such as Artemis Fowl.
On paper, it appeared like the perfect adaptation of Eoin Colfer’s beloved book. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Colin Farrell, Josh Gad and Dame Judi Dench, and with a $125 million budget, it had everything going for it. Disney put the cash and the big guns behind it, so it had all the potential to become the NEXT BIG THING.
Well… It sounded good on paper.
For some reason, the studio and film-makers decided the source material wasn’t worth adapting, as the film feels nothing like an Artemis Fowl novel. I mean, logic would dictate that if you’re adapting a book for screen, you’d try to at least keep some of the main narrative beats, characterisations and tone. Not here. It’s like Disney loved the name and bought the rights solely for that while chucking Colfer’s novels into a fire.
While the movie wasted 95 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, it made me think of all the other times Hollywood butchered books because it could. For me, it doesn’t make sense. Sure, there are artistic liberties and a director might want to change certain things for stylistic and story reasons, but when the movie and novel are completely dissimilar, it feels pointless.
It’s no secret that studios buy rights to prevent other studios from getting them. It’s a ruthless industry where people build tall towers to show off to their competitors and measure whose is bigger. Unfortunately, because they’re so high up sometimes, they forget their heads are in the clouds and the air isn’t so easy to breathe up there.
Colfer described the first Artemis Fowl book as “Die Hard with fairies”—it’s an interesting concept, but one that feels strange for Disney. If the studio is censoring butts and cleavage on its streaming platform, was it ever going to release a film about a 12-year-old mastermind thief who’s like John McClane in a fantastical world? Of course not!
If you’re buying the rights to something, it’s because you see value in it. Yes, the wheel of fortune at any studio spins more erratically than anyone could imagine and things change, but if your vision is to massacre the source material, rather pass on the film adaptations. Disrespecting it only disrespects the authors and fans of the material.