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The Real Reason Artemis Fowl Isn't A Villain In The Movie

At the end of Artemis Fowl, the title character declares himself a criminal mastermind ... but aren't criminal masterminds typically the bad guys in movies, with the exception of films like Robin Hood and Ocean's Eleven? Even then, "mastermind" seems to suggest something more sinister than stealing from the rich to give to the poor. You wouldn't know it from the film adaptation, now streaming on Disney+, but Eoin Colfer's young adult series actually frames Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) as a sympathetic villain. He's not your typical Luke Skywalker type of protagonist. Artemis is more like baby's first anti-hero, or Walter White for teens. 

Director Kenneth Branagh had his reasons for giving Artemis a more traditional hero's journey and making a major departure from the source material in his film version. "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," said Branagh in an interview with SlashFilm. "[Colfer] 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 thing to accept."  

Making Artemis Fowl a hero instead of a villain is about accessibility

"It seems to me that that is a way of potentially introducing a much wider audience who didn't know the books to the characters," says Branagh. Instead, according to the director, "We meet him in a story arc that resembles something like the Michael Corleone in The Godfather." Corleone, of course, is transformed from a morally neutral character who wants nothing to do with his family's organized crime to its ruthless leader over the course of Francis Ford Coppola's film. 

So, Branagh chose to portray Artemis as an innocent rich kid/genius at the beginning of his film, and then slowly draw him in to both a world of magic and a life of crime, rather than plopping us into a movie with a nontraditional protagonist and asking us to sympathize with him. If Artemis Fowl were to get a sequel, we would meet the character in his pure, miniature James Bond villain form, living his best Walter White life. As things stands, it's just a regular, run-of-the-mill origin story now that anyone can click on when they open up Disney+ and not need the books as context.