Enlarge / Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw) and his loyal protector, Butler (Nonso Anozie), stumble onto the world of fairies while searching for his missing father.Disney

A 12-year-old criminal mastermind gets embroiled in the world of fairies in the first trailer for Disney's film adaptation of sci-fi/fantasy novel Artemis Fowl. And we're not talking Tinkerbell. These are badass fairies with neutrino handguns, capable of stopping time. It all makes for some spectacular eye-candy, and having Kenneth Branagh (Thor) at the helm bodes well for the film's success.

There are eight books in the Artemis Fowl series by Irish author Eoin Colfer, detailing the extensive exploits of the titular character. The debut novel received generally positive reviews and a few comparisons to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, although Colfer's books have never achieved the same stratospheric commercial success. Disney is betting there's an equally strong appetite for the Artemis Fowl series on the big screen.

Colfer describes his novels as “Die Hard with fairies.”

The comparison understandably irritates Colfer, who describes his novels as being more like "Die Hard with fairies." That's a fairly accurate description. Artemis is the anti-Harry Potter. He's a thief and a kidnapper, among other misdeeds, and he is largely untroubled by remorse. That's part of his charm.

In the first book, 12-year-old Artemis is living mostly unsupervised in the Fowl home. His father (Artemis Fowl I) is missing, and his mother has gone mad with grief. He relies on his loyal protector, Butler, for companionship. They stumble across a portal to the fairy underworld, and Artemis decides to kidnap a fairy and hold her for ransom to fund his search for his father. The fairies retaliate, and Artemis must pit his wits against their magical powers. It's fiction, so he naturally succeeds, plus his mother is cured of her madness.

  • Once upon a time, the fairies lived above ground. Disney
  • Human greed drove them underground "to escape from your rapacious appetite." Disney
  • The Fowl estate, home to 12-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis.
  • Artemis and Butler discover a portal to the fairy underworld. Disney
  • This alcoholic old woman is more than she appears. Disney
  • A glorious transformation. Disney
  • The fairies descend on the Fowl estate to recuse a kidnapped fairy. Disney
  • Artemis seems pretty handy with an innovative gun. Disney
  • Butler prefers a bow and arrow. Disney
  • Dame Judi Dench is Commander Root of the Lower Elements Police (LEP). Disney
  • Root unleashes her magic. Disney
  • Newcomer Ferdia Shaw beat out 1,200 other actors for the title role. Disney

Artemis goes on to rescue his father from the Russian Mafia in the second book and ends up in an alliance with the fairies he battled originally to help them defeat a goblin army. There has been some confusion about whether Branagh's film adaptation will incorporate the events of the first two books or just the first, but this past July, Colfer said in an interview that only the first book's events are included.

Branagh described the film to Nerdist as an origin story, comparing Artemis' character arc to that of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 masterpiece, The Godfather. "Please don't take that too literally," Branagh cautioned. It's the shape of the storyline that is similar, in that Artemis, like Michael, is initially only half aware of the extent of his father's line of work, because he has kept his distance from the day-to-day details. "I warn you, boy," a voice croaks ominously in the trailer. "You are not prepared for the truth behind what you seek." And like Michael, ultimately Artemis must decide whether or not to embrace that world.

In this case, it's a magical world that includes a Lower Elements Police (LEP) force, trolls, dwarves, and goblins, all located beneath the "real" human world. Branagh is a terrific choice to direct the film version of Artemis Fowl, given how adeptly he navigated the tricky middle ground between magic and science in the first Thor film for Marvel. Bonus: Dame Judi Dench plays a gender-swapped LEP Commander Root (the character is male in the novels) with her usual stern aplomb.

Artemis Fowl hits theaters August 9, 2019.

Disney's Artemis Fowl trailer.

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