It occurred to me that most of the great Hollywood screenplays were written on old-fashioned manual typewriters.
Back then, you would roll in a clean, blank piece of typing paper and let your imagination and creativity take flight. You just struck the keys and typed.
Back then, you couldn’t copy and paste.
Computers and word processing software have changed everything forever. And not necessarily for the better.
Why would anyone invent the ability to cut and paste in the first place if not to freely “borrow” ideas here and there. Right?
Apply that thinking and you have Disney’s new fantasy adventure Artemis Fowl.
It’s a movie made up of very identifiable parts borrowed from other successful movies.
Having seen a half century of movies in my lifetime, I can’t help but spot borrowed scenes and story elements. It’s a curse, really.
I want to just enjoy the movie, but find myself saying, “Oh, man, that’s from this movie” and “This is from that movie.” It’s uncontrollable.
And it seems to be happening with more regularity.
As mentioned earlier, I’m blaming it all on computers, which could be argued are the bane of our modern existence on a colossal scale.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that I never worked in I.T.
Having gotten all that out of my system, let’s turn back to Artemis Fowl.
It’s the story of a wealthy, genius-level, more-than-slightly-obnoxious, 12-year-old boy named Artemis Fowl (Ferdia Shaw), living in a stunning Irish mansion on the seacoast with his father (Colin Farrell) and their odd-looking butler (whose last name is Butler).
One day, the dad, a likeable, loving, criminal mastermind, mysteriously disappears, leaving his son Artemis the task of finding and saving him.
It’s a magical journey, and before it’s all done, Artemis will encounter fairies, trolls and a host of other imaginary creatures that turn out to be real.
Including a giant, bearded dwarf (you heard it right) played by Josh Gad.
It would be unfair to give away major spoilers about the characters or plot, but I can at least point out where some of the borrowed elements came from. What was copied and what was pasted.
Let’s start with the biggest thematic element of a boy with special powers in a magical world (Harry Potter or Percy Jackson). With regard to Harry Potter, there are, let us say, “identical cousins” of the characters Dobby and Hagrid the Giant who are easily recognizable.
The leader of the underground world of the fairies (which bears a strong resemblance to undersea worlds depicted in Star Wars or Aquaman) is overseen by a gravelly-voiced elderly matriarch played by Judi Dench, a famous actress who portrayed a virtually identical character in several of the more recent James Bond films.
Her second in command also looks strikingly familiar despite his equine form.
It would appear that one of the screenwriters of Artemis Fowl is a 007 fan, paying further homage by adding an escape scene taken right out of Thunderball (1965).
It’s lifted, amazingly intact.
The butler character is right out of any Batman movie.
A secret underground room looks like one in Kingsman: the Secret Service (2014).
At one point, Artemis and the butler don matching black suits with thin black neckties and dark glasses (Men in Black).
There are point of view shots of the helmet display of a flying character (Iron Man).
There is a scene where the action freezes as the camera continues to move three dimensionally (The Matrix).
There are vehicles bearing a strong resemblance to those in any number of Star Wars movies. At one point, there is a powerful energy blast from the palms of one of the characters reminiscent of The Evil Emperor in Star Wars.
It doesn’t stop there. There is a scene of two characters silhouetted as they fly past a gigantic full moon (the signature scene in E.T. ).
Even The Beatles can’t escape being pulled into the creative vortex of Artemis Fowl. One character answers a question with the line “with a little help from my friends.”
You might think that all this is a lot of fun.
There are a lot of references to a lot of famous movies.
If you’re a movie nerd, you may have a field day.
But on another level, Artemis Fowl is yet another movie disappointingly made of spare parts.
What’s surprising here is that it’s a Disney movie made of spare parts.
Sure it’s lavishly shot, just what you’d expect from Disney.
But you might also expect a fresh new story that didn’t look like the result of movie story elements dropped into a Waring blender.
Artemis Fowl is a great example of style over substance.
The mere thread of a plot line is just enough to allow for non-stop chases and action.
If that’s all you came for, you might have an enjoyable time.
Just be prepared that the experience might unexpectedly turn into a movie version of Trivial Pursuit.
Artemis Fowl premieres June 12 and can be found exclusively on Disney+.