One Problem Kenneth Branagh Has Encountered With Origin Stories Like Artemis Fowl And Thor

Kenneth Branagh's Artemis Fowl and Thor 2011

A fairly large number of origin-type movies come out each year as the major studios try to get people excited about new characters, worlds, and stories. In 2018 that means titles like Aquaman, Happy Death Day, Black Panther and others. In 2019, Disney will be introducing us to Artemis Fowl, a story based around a young genius who encounters an entire other world underground, filled with elves and trolls and more, and then decides to exploit it. But it's not always easy bringing new worlds to life.

Kenneth Branagh is no stranger to origin stories, having directed Thor back in 2011 and only recently having created a new introduction to famed detective Hercule Poirot with Murder on the Orient Express. The director revealed while Artemis Fowl was in production that there is a problem he often encounters with origin stories, from Thor to Fowl, which is getting the audience to not only love the story or the lead character but the total package. He told us:

[The story] provides a way I think for us to do what I feel is important in a first film, which is for us to -- aside from us admiring and being thrilled by his intelligence and his ability to think swiftly and imaginatively -- we've also got to like him and got to feel for him. In a way this is a, I suppose, who knows if we make another, but if it's an origin story, we had this issue with Thor when we did the first Thor movie. Just to try to find a way to offer a complete dish, that's all we were making. That's all we're making now.

Speaking with CinemaBlend and other reporters on the set of Artemis Fowl in London, Kenneth Branagh talked about how introductory stories have to hit a lot of key notes to be successful. For a movie like Thor, he had to get audiences to buy into the fact that a royal male god with a hammer and some familial problems from another planet ended up on Earth and then had to acquaint himself with the population and save the day. It's kind of a lot to do in two+ hours while also creating a lead personality who people like and can identify with and a tone that works for fans.

For Artemis Fowl, there should be a very similar setup. In the new movie's case, Artemis is a character from Earth, unlike Thor, but he's a bit of a fish-out-of-water himself. He's a young boy, but also a genius-level thinker, and most importantly, he's a criminal of sorts when we first meet the young man. Artemis Fowl will discover a whole world underneath that of the humans, occupied with all manner of fairy folk and his adventures will tie his world with the one below. How do you get that initial plot in and still make Artemis Fowl a character audiences identify with?

Not only does Kenneth Branagh have to give fans a complete look at this fantasy world humanity knows nothing about, he has to do so while making Artemis Fowl a memorable and empathetic character--a somewhat tough task when you are creating a kid criminal. All of this will be key to giving the audience "a complete dish" or as the director also put it:

We're planning for this one to feel like it has an emotional satisfaction and delivery.

Unlike the setup for a full series, the movie should be able to stand on its own. Regardless, will the Artemis Fowl origin movie turn into something larger for Disney? Kenneth Branagh isn't ruling it out the possibility of a franchise of movies yet.

We're trying to lay out what may be what skews into future stories. But essentially we're trying to serve this first one with I suppose an anchoring emotional pull that I suppose comes from the second book that is that Artemis' father is missing. So, you know, the search for father and the search for family and the reunion of family. So, if there are only six or seven stories every told, that's definitely one of them.

The new movie will mostly focus on the first book in Eoin Colfer's series, but according to Kenneth Branagh, some elements from the second book and beyond will also be brought in, including the fact that Artemis' father is missing. This becomes a critical plot point in the second Artemis Fowl-based novel The Arctic Incident. The first novel is a story about Artemis Fowl discovering a fairy underworld and then kidnapping a fairy police officer in the hopes of obtaining a ransom from the kidnapping. How much of that story is kept in the big screen version remains to be seen, but you can take a look at the new movie via the first trailer, below.

Disney has created a lot of fun new worlds in recent years. There's the obvious Marvel and Star Wars world-building, but also narratives that could have been expanded out through movies like A Wrinkle in Time. Creating a new world is always a chancy enterprise and it doesn't always pan out into multiple movies, but Kenneth Branagh seems to have a grasp on what it will take to make Artemis Fowl a successful movie. It helps that Disney seems to be pulling out all of the stops for Artemis Fowl.

In addition to a soundstage in London, the flick has built a lot of practical sets for Ferdia Shaw and the rest of the cast to act in, including Fowl Manor, a key setting in Eoin Colfer's novels. Kenneth Branagh also recounted a story to journalists that newcomer Shaw was in awe and totally "overwhelm[ed]" the first time he was able to walk around the set, noting set designer Celia Bobak worked on both large and small scale projects, like including books Shaw loves in real life on his character's shelves, if that gives you any idea of how much attention to detail there will be in the upcoming flick.

That's a sign there is hope for Artemis Fowl to turn into a full-fledged series of movies. We'll find out whether or not audiences turn up in droves when Artemis Fowl officially hits theaters on August 9, 2019. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more Artemis Fowl news and be sure to look at next year's crop of movies, check out our full movie premiere schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.