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Artemis Fowl film adaptation one step closer to becoming a reality

Artemis Fowl

The relationship between the film world and the printing world has never exactly been a completely harmonious one. Many people, upon finishing a novel will think to themselves “This would make a really good movie”, but most of us never get much further than that. Every now and again though, a filmmaker reads the same novel and has the same idea. The difference being that they might have the power to actually make it happen.

Sometimes this works out fine. Some of the greatest movie franchises from the last decade were based on best-selling books. Where would we be without the film adaptations of the Harry Potter series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or even the Twilight saga? These franchises alone have grossed approximately $4,781,000,000 between them, and are pretty much universally considered to have weathered the book to film transfer process really well. Other famous book to film adaptations include; Jackie Brown (Rum PunchElmore Leonard), Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric SheepPhilip K. Dick) and Schindler’s List (Schindler’s ArkThomas Keneally), all of which are now considered classics in their own right.

Other times however, the transition is not so smooth. Whilst some titles are praised for their handling of the source material, or their visionary interpretation of the author’s work, others seem to fall a little short of expectation. A few well known terrible adaptations from recent memory; Eragon, The Golden Compass and A Series of Unfortunate Events were all well-loved books that failed to capture audiences with their big screen incarnations.

So now the latest book series to try to capitalise on people’s need to see their favourite stories as told in moving pictures is Irish author Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. First published in 2001, Artemis Fowl is the story of a 12 year old boy who stumbles onto the ancient world of fairies, and attempts to seize and exploit their magic and technology for his own nefarious ends. The book was extremely well received, selling around 21 million copies worldwide. People saw the main character’s moral ambiguity and need to use this new found power for his own gain as an alternative to the much more clean cut ‘good vs evil’ feel of the Harry Potter story which had hit the market a few years before (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone first published in 1997). The full series now spans 8 novels.

Many people are excited about this latest announcement, but others are sceptical that this may just turn out to be another flop and ruin their image of the story. It’s a little early to tell for definite whether or not this will be good or not. Let’s take a look at what we do know:

* Movie producer Harvey Weinstein has owned the rights to the movie since 2001

* Originally, director Lawrence Guterman (Cats and Dogs, Son of the Mask) was attached to the project.

* Back in 2001 the original screenplay was written by the author – Eoin Colfer and Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot)

* The film has spent the last decade on the shelf, described as being in development hell

* Weinstein is now collaborating with movie giant Disney to get the film made

* Robert de Niro and Jane Rosenthal are listed as executive producers

* The new script is to be written by Michael Goldenberg (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Green Lantern)

Artemis Fowl 2

There are a lot of reasons why this could, and should be a good movie. For starters the fantasy/magic genre has produced some fantastic films in recent history; HP, LOTR as well as Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth, both of which proved that fairies weren’t just innocent twinkly things with wings that lived in the countryside and sprinkled a little fairy dust around now and then.

The announcement of Michael Goldenberg as director should also prove to be a positive, his screenplay for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix helped to place the movie near the top of many people’s lists of their favourite HP adventures, despite the original book being considered to be among the worst.

Sadly, the one major fact that has emerged from the announcement of this project which casts a little doubt over how well it might be received is that the aim is to combine the first two books in Colfer’s series (Artemis Fowl & Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident) into a single film. The two books deal with completely separate incidents in the AF universe, the first book deals with the introduction of the characters / worlds, and is about young Artemis attempting to hold a captured fairy to ransom for a ton of fairy gold and the ensuing siege of his home by the military arm of the fairy kingdom. The second book, having established the relationships between the fairies and the main character, deals with the kidnap and search for Artemis’ own father, as well as sub plots involving stolen fairy technology and a fairy rebellion.

It feels like it would be a mistake to attempt to combine two completely separate plots into a single film. Will they try and focus more on one book than the other, or attempt to cram as much material in as possible, therefore making the whole thing a miss-matched mess of continuity errors and overlapping storylines. The last film that attempted to combine the stories from multiple source novels was Brad Silberling’s 2004 adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which drew on plots from the first 3 books in author Lemony Snicket (pen name of American author Daniel Handler)’s 13 book saga about the adventures of 3 orphans and their evil relatives. The film was widely considered to be terrible, and as yet no further attempts have been made to film any further stories from the series.

In the end the success or failure of Artemis Fowl may come down to the writers / director and how much they respect the source material and ideals of the story. The three main big money franchises mentioned originally above were all praised by fans for sticking close to their respective books’ stories. In the case of HP, author J.K. Rowling was on hand throughout the filming process and it is well known that before setting out to film LOTR, director Peter Jackson was already a huge fan of the books and was always striving to be faithful to author J.R.R. Tolkien’s original material.

Only as time progresses and we learn more about the direction the project is taking will we be able to decide whether this looks to be leaning towards being a great film, or a flop. Hopefully the crew take notes from the more successful adaptations in recent history, and try to make something that preserves the original story whilst still giving audiences something spectacular to watch.