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Eoin Colfer's 12-year-old hero takes to the big screen

Film review: Artemis Fowl (PG), 6/10. Released June 12 (streaming exclusively on Disney+)

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Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl II in Artemis Fowl

Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl II in Artemis Fowl

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Ferdia Shaw as Artemis Fowl II in Artemis Fowl

The luck and charm of the Irish carries Artemis Fowl, a bulging mouthful of whizz-popping eye candy scooped from the first two books in Wexford author Eoin Colfer's hugely popular fantasy series about a ruthless and callow 12-year-old criminal mastermind.

Directed at a lick by Belfast-born Kenneth Branagh and adapted for the screen by Olivier Award-winning Dublin playwright Conor McPherson and Hamish McColl, this breathlessly paced origin story is a valentine to the island which one character rhapsodises as 'the most magical place on Earth'.

Irish folklore and whimsy are drizzled liberally over every special effect-laden frame.

In one memorable scene choreographed to the bombastic thrum of Patrick Doyle's score, the gleaming hull of a spaceship opens to reveal a glowering Dame Judi Dench clad in green armour as an 802-year-old commander of the fairy police force's reconnaissance division.

'Top o' the mornin'' she growls straight-faced in a thick accent that skips merrily between its intended destination and Somerset.

Her only f-words, spat in fury, are 'four-leaf clover'. The eponymous antihero's cynicism and emotional coldness have been thawed several degrees for his sprightly introduction to the big screen, affording 15-year-old Kilkenny-based actor Ferdia Shaw - grandson of Jaws boat captain Robert Shaw - some warmer interludes in his feature film debut.

The script employs a kleptomaniac giant dwarf as wise-cracking narrator, recounting events as testimony to a faceless MI6 interrogator in a secure holding cell situated in the Thames Estuary.

'Most humans are afraid of gluten. How do you think they'd handle goblins?' chuckles the wild-haired interviewee as he spins his outlandish yarn.

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl II (Shaw) has been raised on stories of fairies, goblins and leprechauns by his father (Colin Farrell), a globe-trotting dealer in priceless antiquities.

When the patriarch is kidnapped, young Artemis learns the truth about his noble bloodline and a darkness that threatens our world.

From his family home on the wave-lashed Irish coast, the resourceful lad launches an ingenious rescue mission accompanied by trusted bodyguard Domovoi Butler (Nonso Anozie) and his plucky 12-year-old niece, Juliet (Tarama Smart).

The ransom is a device called the Aculos, 'a weapon so powerful and mysterious, it can barely be imagined'.

To locate the otherworldly trinket, young Artemis places his trust in rookie elf officer Holly Short (Lara McDonnell) and dwarf Mulch Diggums (Josh Gad), who can tunnel at speed by furiously gobbling dirt and expelling it violently from his back side.

Artemis Fowl confidently combines ancient mysticism and high-tech modernity at a relentlessly brisk pace.

Meaty character development is sacrificed at the altar of slickly orchestrated spectacle, including temporally disrupted set pieces involving a rampaging troll.

Key events and protagonists from Colfer's books have been altered or excised to facilitate a trim running time, neatly setting up future instalments without substantial emotional investment from the audience.

Online Editors