Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl.
Image: Disney

One could be forgiven for having forgotten about the long-rumored plans for a live-action, cinematic adaptation of Eion Colfer’s 2001 novel Artemis Fowl, considering that studios have been debating whether to move forward with it for almost 20 years at this point. But Artemis is finally making his way to the big screen, which means that it’s high time for a refresher about the series’ curious, magical world of fae folk.

The interesting thing about a story like Artemis Fowl is that there are infinite ways that Disney could draw from the source material, while also crafting a story that plays out somewhat differently than the books. Judging from the few snippets of plot-heavy footage featured in the first trailer, though, there are at least a few things from the first novel that seem to have been translated onto the big screen. For those not at all familiar with the story, or those who need reminding, here’s a brief breakdown.

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Artemis Fowl.
Image: Disney

Artemis Fowl

This one’s a bit of a given.

By the author’s own admission, the whole schtick of Artemis Fowl (portrayed in the film by Ferdia Shaw) is that he’s essentially a preteen Bond villain—meaning that he’s clever, creepy, and most importantly, complicated. Following the disappearance of his billionaire father who amassed their family’s fortune through criminal activities, Artemis and his mother Angeline find themselves on the brink of going broke.

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Distraught, Angeline suffers from a debilitating mental breakdown, leaving Artemis to figure out how he might be able to regain his family’s fortune and restore honor to the Fowl name on his own. Like the protagonist of any YA novel, Artemis is an extremely gifted child, but unlike most of his fictional peers, he’s keenly aware of his gifts. The kid is brilliant, excellent at creating forgeries of fine art, and a talented criminal mastermind in his own right. He’s also got a loyal manservant by his side, Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie), who has extensive combat training and is willing to risk his life to keep Artemis safe.

Artemis and Domovoi Butler witnessing a fairy’s true form.
Image: Disney

The Plan

After considerable research, Artemis reasons that the best way to restore his family’s status is...to steal it from the secret community of fairies and other magical creatures living beneath the surface of the Earth. The fairies of Artemis Fowl are an ancient, but now technologically-advanced, race of magical beings who use all manner of precautions to keep their existence secret from the surface dwelling humans.

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But Artemis and Butler are able to track down an alcohol-addicted sprite living in disguise as a human healer in Ho Chi Minh City and get their hands on her copy of The Book of the People, a sacred book all fairies carry with them that holds the secrets to their magic and society. From the book, Artemis deduces a plan to capture another fairy with the hope of holding them hostage until he’s guaranteed access to gold in exchange for the fairy’s freedom.

A glimpse of the fairy underworld and a ship heading for Haven City.
Image: Disney

The Fairies

What Artemis isn’t entirely prepared to deal with is the fact that the fairies he’s messing with aren’t the type to playfully frolic through forests in the moonlight. They’re more like battle-ready, tech-savvy Wakandans who are trained to handle threats just like him.

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Like many of Artemis Fowl’s magical creatures, Captain Holly Short (Lara McDonnell)—an elf and the first female captain in the Lower Elements Police Recon division (LEPRecon for short)—has to periodically return to the surface in order to perform a special ritual that replenishes her magical reserves. After having learned about the ritual from The Book of the People, Artemis ambushes and successfully captures Holly and the two enter into a steely game of wits as they wait to see how the rest of LEPRecon will respond. Down below in the city of Haven, LEPRecon Commander Root (who is played by Judi Dench in the film) leads the charge to rescue Holly with the help of Foaly, a centaur and the task force’s technical advisor.


What really made the Artemis Fowl books so engrossing was the rich world-building Colfer took the time to put into the book, and it’s the thing that’s either going to make or break the film. All the basic plot elements for an action-packed, magical franchise are there, but what Disney’s really going to have to nail is turning it all into the kind of spectacle that’ll draw people into theaters.

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Artemis Fowl hits theaters August 9, 2019.


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