Artemis Fowl: 4 Ways To Make The Film Franchise Worthwhile

Art by Giovanni Rigano

The film adaptation of the mildly popular series Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer, has been in development hell since way back in 2003. Since then, the series has expanded to eight books and even got a few graphic novel adaptations. Thanks to Disney and producer Robert De Niro, the twelve-year-old criminal mastermind might be making his way to the silver screen in the next few years. A fun series about a pre teen criminal mastermind and his quest for fairy gold seems like a fun family film. While Artemis was initially intended for children, the books got darker and more complex just like its protagonist.

If Disney plays their card rights they could have a major franchise on their hands. Could being the key word here. These days film franchises, young adult film franchises in particular, crowd our theaters. Many attempts at franchises have failed due to taking too much from other franchises in hopes of replicating their success. Others have failed due to copying too much from the source material. But how can avoid these clichés? Listen up Artemis producers, I’ll tell you how!

4. Eliminate Fillers

Far from a perfect series, Artemis Fowl sometimes suffers from lack of focus. It becomes clear, particularly in the first book, that Colfer did not have a set plan for the series. Maybe he didn’t know if it would sell or maybe he just didn’t think it all the way through. But whatever the reason some books seem like a filler and not a continuation of the story. For example, Artemis doesn’t really begin to change until the third book, The Eternity Code. Likewise the fourth book, The Opal Deception, delays his change even further. A film adaptation could easily remedy this. The overall arc of the series is Artemis gaining a conscience and little by little discovering friends and family are far more important than gold. And it becomes clear that is greatest enemy is none other than himself. In the last few books, the guilt of his past crimes begins to haunt him, literally.

It becomes obvious that the only way for him to rid of his guilt is for him to start all over again. Unfortunately, this isn’t addressed until the last book, The Last Guardian. With this arc in mind producers and writers could easily cut story lines that are merely cushion and do little to service the characters. The first two books of the series, Artemis Fowl and Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, could easily fit in one film. Artemis’s first adventure sets up the world and the characters but does not fully set the bar for the rest of the series. It’s a fun story, but it lacks the substance we really need for us to care about these characters. The Arctic Incident introduces a primary antagonist and gets Artemis in on the action.

In the first book Artemis is introduced as the villain. Although the title character, he is the one causing the problems for everyone. It starts with twelve-year-old Artemis and his bodyguard/butler/friend Domovoi Butler searching for and later interrogating a pixie. The pixie gives Artemis the blueprint to find and later kidnap one the fairy people. Artemis’s goal is simple kidnap a fairy, hold it for it ransom, and get a substantial amount of gold to keep his family’s criminal empire a float. He also wishes to find his father who went missing in the Arctic. With his father gone and his mother bedridden with grief, Artemis is a lonely child. And with a mind as brilliant as his what’s left to do but scheme?

When his scheme comes to fruition he kidnaps Captain Holly Short, an elf and member of the Lower Elements Reconnaissance Squad (LEPrecon.) Holly tries to outwit the criminal mastermind, while her fellow officers back home and a kleptomaniac dwarf named Mulch Diggums try to get her out. The book ends with Artemis’s mother cured by fairy magic and Holly safely returned home. Artemis does get his hands on some gold but nearly at the cost Butler’s life. Any other boy would give up a life of crime but not Artemis.

The Arctic Incident reunites Holly, Artemis, and Butler and three of them forge a reluctant friendship. While Holly, despite her dislike for the boy, finds herself chaperoning Artemis on a trip to find his father, a goblin rebellion occurs back home which Holly believes Artemis is responsible for. This book introduces the primary antagonist Opal Koboi a pixie with a mind to rival Artemis’s own. Mulch Diggums even makes an appearance. This time around Artemis emerges as hero or rather anti-hero. With this as the ending to the first film we have established a world, established a villain, and started Artemis on the track to being a hero.

3. No Need for a Love Story

Everyone loves a good a love story but is a love story always necessary? In Artemis Fowl the only necessary love story is the one between Artemis’s parents. As their love and dedication to one another is something Artemis admires.For most of the series there is no real romance. Even when Artemis is old enough to think about romance it’s not something he concerns himself with. In the sixth book, The Time Paradox, there is a bit of romantic tension between Artemis and Holly. They kissed but that was about it, and for good reason. Holly is an adult and the only reason that kiss was acceptable was they had gone back in time and Holly had become fifteen again, the same age Artemis was then. By the end of the book, when they are back in the present, they resolve to put the kiss behind them and forget about it.

In book five, The Lost Colony, there is a possibility of romance between Artemis and human girl named Minerva who share his intellect. But she never appears again and was more of enemy than a love interest. For Colfer, romantic love is not always necessary to tell a good story. And in any case, Artemis has much bigger things to worry about than rather or not the pretty elf girl likes him.

US Edition of The Time Paradox
US Edition of The Time Paradox

The major conflict Artemis is powerless against is his guilt over what’s he’s done. He slowly begins to realize that his criminal activities only serve him and manages to get the people he loves hurt. Finding a way to reconcile his past self and his current self is far more interesting than any love triangle. Thankfully, Colfer seems to agree and spends the majority of the series trying to get Artemis realize his heroic potential. A love story could overwhelm these aspects of the character and that would not service the character at all.

2. Think Animation

Fantasy films are always striking visually and Artemis Fowl should be no different. If the film were live action it would be striking for sure but the animation medium could give so much more. The graphic novel adaptations gave us an idea of what it might look like. Drawn by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna, Artemis and his cohorts are drawn in over top but gorgeous manner. Holly and other fairies have an other worldly look about them. But they don’t look so outlandish that you can’t imagine them in the human world. Artemis looks like young a Bond villain with his slicked back hair and expensive suit. And Butler looks intimidating but lovable. All these characters would look darn good in animated feature. But if there one was character that is ripe for animation it would be Mulch Diggums.

Diggums is a dwarf with a unique skill set. In Artemis‘ world dwarves have enormous jaws good for burrowing into the earth and use flatulence to propel themselves through the earth. In a live action situation this would be off-putting. In an animated setting this could be seen as humorous and less disgusting. But perhaps the best reason to go the animation route would be for humor purposes.

Artemis, Holly, and Butler
Artemis, Holly, and Butler

If there is one thing you are guaranteed when reading a novel by Colfer, is you’ll be chuckling through it. Part of the humor comes from the wise cracking dialogue and the other comes from his witty description. In a visual medium, description is unnecessary as everything is already right there in front of us. So we would lose some of the humor there. But through animation, we can design the characters in such way that would suit the humorous tone. Animation also leaves room for a wider range of slapstick humor. This way the kids have something to laugh at visually. The adults can look to the wise cracking dialogue to get a laugh of their own.

1. Make Artemis & Holly the Heart of the Story

If there is one thing an Artemis Fowl movie will need, or any movie for that matter, is heart. Many films fail because of the lack of humanity. Film and art in general is meant to represent humanity in all its forms. By ignoring that and instead focusing solely on humor and visuals, the film will not call for any sequels. The source of humanity in the books is embodied in both Artemis and Holly. Holly is one of the major players in helping Artemis form a conscience. So much so that in the last book Artemis as good as tells her by saying, “I was a broken boy and you fixed me. Thank you.”

Its Holly that reunites and saves his family on many occasions. But more importantly, she awakens a compassion in him. In their first meeting as Holly is about to be knocked unconscious, Artemis has doubts but let’s his darkness win and knocks her out anyway. As important as Holly is, Artemis is twice as important. Its him we have to compassion for if we want more than one film.Its his character that changes the most.

As stated earlier, Artemis is a lonely child. With his mother insane from grief and his father missing there is no one he can really turn to for comfort. When we are first introduced to his mother, Angeline, we have to feel for the boy. Her mind is practically shattered and she is unable to recognize her son. She screams at him and throws a vase, unable to see her son’s heart breaking. At the end of the first book, when he’s making negotiations with LEPrecon to let Holly go, it would be easy to see Artemis as a hard-hearted brat. But when he asks for Holly to cure his mother and Butler, who was wounded by a troll, we catch a glimpse of the child inside. In the closing pages, Artemis reunites with a mother who loves him. By the end of the series, Artemis makes the ultimate sacrifice. But how can we care if we don’t see any heart in him before hand?

Film franchises will always be in our theaters. They are surefire ways to make a studio money. But is it too much for them to be entertaining and worthwhile? Artemis Fowl has the ability to be great film franchise. The question is will the filmmakers take the hint?

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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  1. Jemarc Axinto

    I loved the Artemis Fowl series but I’m still off by two books. I had no idea a film was in progress either! Great article and excellent points.

  2. Joye Banda

    The movie will be great… IF you stick to the book…. so many fans will be enraged if you don’t.

  3. malinda

    i hope they cast it right and do not mess the story line up

  4. Do not screw up Artemis Fowl. Love this series and have read through it about five times.

  5. patrick

    I don’t know… don’t think Disney will be able to portray the real butler since some of the things he does are pretty violent and disney hasn’t been known for there action films

  6. I literally jumped for joy when I saw this on Facebook when they announced the adaptation. If this isn’t done well there will be hell to pay 😐 but either way I’m gonna watch it about a hundred million times

  7. mccartyj

    It seems strange to me that now is the time for an Artemis Fowl film. Perhaps I’m just out of touch with the series, but it feels as though the heyday of these books have long since passed. In any case, I enjoyed your article and I’m curious to see how the movies do!

  8. if they make this as bad as Eragon was made I will not be amused…..

    • Kecia Devlin

      The movie Eragon was really not that bad with very good actors and very good performances but it did stray too far from the book which had its own problems. The Eragon trilogy although thoroughly enjoyable had rough edges indicative of new author (dead ends, superfluous characters, unnecessary transitions, etc.).

  9. I’m an adult but this is still one of my favorite series that I reread every year.

  10. One thing I have found about movies made out of books lack key part and details that would have made the movie amazing. The Twilight Saga movies stuck closer and closer to the books with each movie released. I thought the movie Eragon very disappointing when comparing it to the book. So some word of advice from a fan of the series: stick as close to the book as you can. The more successful the book, the movie, depending on how close to the book it is, is sure to be just as successful.

    • Bo Coles

      You are totally right Susan. I believe that you can make a great movie based on a book, if you stick to the book as much as you can, I know it’s not easy to put every single detail, but something as simple as the eye color (for example, Harry Potter’s bottle green eyes) can make a huge difference. The little things that make you remember the book in simple ways, are the things that should (MUST) be on the movie

  11. follow the books!!! its as simple as that!

  12. Tiffany

    We loved this series so much we named our son after him. Hope Disney does a good job!

    • Roxanne Weldern

      Oh my goodness, how drama! It’s the most cute idea I’ve thought, but never actually think someone would do so. As I get it, you mean both you and your spouse loved the books… Aw that’s a fine example of a dramatic story! I wish you and your son the best! Sure you would suggest him to read the series when he gets older, and imagine he would read the story of his namesake and whom he was named after! Oh my gosh… honestly it’s very sweat to me and. I couldn’t keep myselft from posting these nonesense! Forgive me!
      And as my own opinion, I’ll wait for the movie; no matter if it takes a decade more! But I severely hope they have something up their sleeves for the fans!

  13. I want to be excited but they’re mixing two books into one movie… that means they aren’t doing the entire series, just the one movie, and it’s going to be bad because you just CAN’T mix two books into one movie. It never works. I don’t understand why Hollywood insists on continuing to do that.

    • Drew Warner

      The first book alone would be thin and plodding for a 2 hour movie, so I understand why they are combining the two stories into one. Frankly, the first book is the weakest of the series. They can easily zoom through the plot of the first book in less than 30 or 40 minutes and then move onto the second books plot and devote 80 or so minutes to that. The later books have more action and plot development, so if the series is well received I hope they can then make one book/one movie for the following movies.

  14. Colour me excited, I love the books, and the guy doing the screenplay is pretty damned good at what he does!

    I just hope they get the casting right.

  15. Helen Parshall

    “Many films fail because of the lack of humanity.”

    I love that sentence so much. I find it incredibly compelling – as well as your work here! I have not read this series in a long time, but I do hope that they keep it true to the essence of what it was originally about. Excellent article!

  16. Adnan Bey

    I have not yet read the series but with as film coming out, something tells me I had better.

  17. No. Stop it. If you’re going to a adapt a book into a movie do the whole damn book instead of cramming multiple books into one movie. Does no one ever learn?

  18. Ehh. I’m nervous about them trying to put the first and second books into one film. If they just took the first book it could make a really great 90 minute film. Now I fear it will a 2 hour film with an awkward pace and story because they’re trying to put too much in. Either way we’ll get to see the underground city of all the magical creatures, so that should be cool.

  19. mr hunt

    hope it’s still set in Ireland, too many books are remade with american settings, the original Irish setting would be far more interesting imho

  20. I’ve been waitin’ on this for years. This better be good.
    The books were excellent. I probably liked the Eternity Cube the most.

  21. Ellis Hughes

    Artemis Fowl books are a great series but I am worried after the likes of Northern Lights (Golden Compass) and Stormbreaker (Alex Rider) have turned out poorly when adapted into films.

    Having a star studded cast does not necessarily make a good film.

  22. I’m interested to see who will play Holly, and if she lives up to my adolescent self’s *ahem* image of her.

  23. So agree with everythign listed in this article. I kinda remember the Artemis Fowl books to have its share of grim moments, kinda reminded me of ASoUE, I hope the “family appeal” and Disney means it wont be watered down

  24. This should just be the first book. The first book had more than enough content to be a good movie, and the importance of the first book was to show that our main character is actually the villain. He is an arrogant jerk. However, the second book makes him seem more like a good guy. This would ruin the atmosphere to start the series with the second book because the character development wouldn’t be as strong. Seeing him change throughout the series is what makes him a good character, but not seeing his selfish and arrogant ways at the beginning could entirely butcher the movie.
    I hope this turns out well, but I’m a bit nervous.

  25. Man,I remember doing a book report on these books in school. I drew my own bad ass cover page and everything. Had Butler kicking the hell outta’ the Troll. It looked terrible.

  26. They better not make this super “child friendly” as well. There were alot of gory bits in the book. Remember the troll ripping Butler? Remember Holly being stabbed by Abbot? There are a couple of bits like that and death too (Commander Root). They should put the gore down a little I guess but not too much. PG-13 or M at the least. Don’t make this another Eragon/Stormbreaker/Percy Jackson. Make it like Harry Potter. Yeah!

    • Aurelio

      I hope they do too. They MIGHT get away with it bc the kids that read the books when they came out are full adults now. AF hasn’t had as much media coverage as HP so it’s not like 8 year olds who have never read the books have heard of them. Idk why companies are scared to make movies PG13 now anyway. Kids nowadays watch stuff like that with no prob and I think lots of parents have figured out that the MPAA is pretty uneven and ridiculous in their ratings

  27. I love these books but I’m not sure I trust them to make a good movie out of them, especially with the events of two books rolled into one movie.

  28. I’ve heard of the movie in the pipeline for a few years now & followed it’s slow progress, wish it would happen a bit faster I read the books as a young teenager & now in my mid 20’s still excited for the film! I don’t mind the idea that they’re putting two books into one film as long as they do it right & I’ve thought for a while it needs to be animated I just don’t think even now with green screen they can get it right with real people. I think the best thing to do would be animated like rise of the guardians, that film was stunning!

  29. I don’t think the film has yet been created even now. Interesting in terms of development.

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