Disney's teaser trailer for Artemis Fowl finally arrived last week, promising what looks to be an epic sci-fi/fantasy adventure. For fans, it's long-awaited, as the adaptation of Eoin Colfer's popular series of novels has been mired in development hell for nearly a decade. Miramax snapped up the film rights in 2001, with the release of the first book. Son of Mask director Lawrence Guterman was originally attached to the project, but that task (thankfully) passed to Kenneth Branagh.
Despite having accumulated sales in the tens of millions, the eight-novel Artemis Fowl series doesn't have the name recognition as its Young Adult fantasy contemporaries like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games or Percy Jackson, which obviously Disney is looking to change. You might not be familiar with the 12-year-old criminal mastermind and his techno-magical exploits, but if the surprisingly intriguing trailer has piqued your interest, here's what you need to you know and why the 2019 film could be the next big thing for YA cinema.
WHO IS ARTEMIS FOWL?
Artemis Fowl II isn't your typical young-adult hero. In fact, he's not a hero at all. The inspiration for his creation came from Colfer's brother, who always reminded him of "a little James Bond villain." Mix that with a dash of Bruce Wayne, and you're pretty much there. The name-choice isn't just an inherited one from his father, Artemis Sr., it's also a clue to the plot of the first book -- Artemis being the Greek goddess of the hunt, which we'll come back to later.
He comes from a family that has acquired vast wealth, through both legal and nefarious means, for centuries, reflected in their maxim: "Gold Is Power." They've long been supported by another family, the Butlers, who are ... well, butlers to the Fowls. They're highly trained in most forms of combat, but butlers nonetheless. For Artemis, the absence of his parents turns his Butler into something of a father-figure.
Artemis is shrewd, dry-witted and mischievous, with a genius-level IQ to ensure he always gets out trouble. While he gradually makes the shift from villain to antihero over the course of the book series, he never truly gives up his underhanded ways.
WHAT IS THE FILM ABOUT?
The upcoming film is based primarily on the first book, Artemis Fowl, in which Artemis is left without his parents or their fortune following his father's disappearance in the Arctic sea at the hands of the Russian mafia, a venture into which he sank a significant portion of Fowl family money. Artemis' mother, while still alive, is a shell of her former-self; confined to her bedroom in the Fowl estate after her husband's apparent death slowly ate away at her sanity.
Taking his family motto as literally as possible, Artemis sets his sights on a seemingly impossible dream: acquiring fairy gold. His research into "The People" leads him to find and kidnap one of them, fairy policewoman Holly Short, who he holds to ransom. In the second book, Artemis and his fairy acquaintances join forces; Artemis helps Holly and the LEPrecon forces quash a goblin rebellion in exchange for their magical assistance recovering his father.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
The Disney dollars are splashed all over the teaser trailer. The biggest payoff is the tantalizing glimpse we get at the richly rendered subterranean world that fairy society inhabits. Colfer's world-building and diverse and solid characterization in the supporting cast are on par with J.K Rowling's in the Harry Potter series, something that this adaptation will live or die by. The fairy world is akin to the lost city of Atlantis -- an ancient, mystic people whose technology is vastly more advanced than our own, and whose now secretive existence has passed into human myth. Like Rowling's Wizarding world, magical folk live alongside and sometimes among us, but bleeding the boundaries is thought to have disastrous consequences for both species'.
As a selfish and sneaky antihero, Artemis' appeal lies in his opposition to your standard YA protagonists who tend to be pure-hearted, world-savers. Artemis will save a world in peril only to make sure that he owns a good chunk of it when the dust settles, like a budding Lex Luthor. Though he later develops a humanitarian streak, Artemis' initial villainy -- if undiluted by Disney -- should ensure he shines through in an over-saturated market.
Arriving in theaters Aug. 9, 2019, director Kenneth Branagh's Artemis Fowl stars Ferdia Shaw, Lara McDonnell, Tamara Smart, Nonzo Anozie, with Josh Gad and Judi Dench.