Why Artemis Fowl Isn’t A Supervillain In The Movie, According To Director Kenneth Branagh

Artemis Fowl wears a suit and sunglasses as he walks away from rubble in a scene from the film.

When Kenneth Branagh set out to adapt Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl book series into a film, he decided to take an unexpected approach. Rather than keeping the essence of the title character and his villainous ways, he made some significant revisions to the source material -- and created a character that was much more nuanced. He didn’t make that choice by accident, either.

Of the many changes Kenneth Branagh made in Artemis Fowl’s journey from page to screen, the most notable is probably the way in which he approached the title character. The director said that rather than telling the story of a boy “marooned by a privileged life,” he wanted to find the sense of humanity within Artemis Fowl and bring that to light:

It was a decision based on a sort of inverse take on what I saw in the books, which was Eoin introducing Artemis gathering a sense of morality across the books. He said that he had him preformed as an 11-year-old Bond villain. It seemed to me that for the audiences who were not familiar with the books, this would be a hard, a hard kind of thing to accept. And that one-way of mirroring what he did in the books, was to simply in one film — and to some extent I had some experiences with this with Thor, in the infinite number of possibilities of presenting him — in order to have sufficient people root for him, because Eoin manages to do that the books but it’s very hard if you don’t have context, we meet him in a story arc that resembles something like the Michael Corleone in The Godfather.

The former Thor director went on to tell Slash Film that he worked with Artemis Fowl’s author to update a large number of key plot points. Among them, he changed the titular character’s school and his relationship with his father. All of these changes were key to helping make Artemis Fowl feel less like a supervillain and more sympathetic. The end result is that he ends up being more of a traditional hero than he is in Eoin Colfer’s novels -- not exactly a Harry Potter, but not an antihero either.

According to Kenneth Branagh, he had the author’s blessing to follow his instinct while he adapted his story. While he wasn’t always present during the creative process, the director said he was a willing and open collaborator.

It’s a bold move to make, one that could help hook new viewers but also alienate some of the series’ original fans. It’s not clear yet whether the changes paid off -- as far as critics are concerned, Artemis Fowl doesn’t seem to have landed quite where Kenneth Branagh hoped.

Artemis Fowl is currently available to stream on Disney+. Have you watched it yet? What did you think about the changes Kenneth Branagh made? Let us know in the comments!

Katherine Webb