You might not expect a fantasy film like Artemis Fowl to rely to heavily on practical effects. The story plunges a 12-year-old genius (Ferdia Shaw) into a race against a fairy police force to rescue his kidnapped father. The adventure involves trolls, dwarves and a mysterious item called the Aculos, which everyone needs to get their hands on.
But in choosing to adapt Eoin Colfer’s novels to the screen, director Kenneth Branagh tried to ground his action as much as possible with physical sets and props that helped his actors – from Shaw and Colin Farrell to Dame Judi Dench and Josh Gad – feel like they are in the world. When you watch Artemis Fowl on Disney+ beginning on June 12, pay attention to Fowl Manor, which was an actual set constructed from the ground up on a soundstage in the UK.
When we spoke with Branagh about his approach to the film, we asked about his reliance on the practical, and he explained:
When describing an example that came into play for Artemis Fowl, director Kenneth Branagh went back to one of the first days he had his young lead on set, and how the boy gravitated towards props because they meant something special to him:
It can only improve one’s performance if they feel like they actually are immersed in a story. All credit has to go to actors who make green- and blue-screen work succeed, because it requires far more mental lifting. Branagh has applied this practice to movies such as Thor and Murder on the Orient Express, where he played famed investigator Hercule Poirot. And he revealed to us that he’s using practical sets for his Orient Express follow up, Death on the Nile. And he says it’s having the same desired effect.
We asked Branagh about the construction of the Karnak, the boat that will house all of the potential murderers in his upcoming Christie adaptation. And he opened up about the sequel, telling us:
I’m curious if these extra efforts make a difference to you, as a movie-loving audience. Kenneth Branagh is correct in saying that technological advances currently allow filmmakers to paint in almost any location that they need. And Artemis Fowl certainly has to lean on select amounts of CGI when it enters the fairy realms. One’s imagination can only stretch so far.
But when you are watching a location like Fowl Manor, or the Orient Express train in Branagh’s murder mystery, do you stop and pay closer attention to the details of the set, or the construction of the props? They seem to immerse cast members into the scenes and create realism for the actors. What effect does it have on you as an audience member?
Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl was on track for a Memorial Day opening, but theater closing have shifted it to the streaming platform Disney+. You and your family will be able to begin watching it on Friday, June 12.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.