Hotel Artemis has everything most would think a movie needs to be successful. It has an intriguing premise; a secret, member’s only hospital for criminals set in the near future. It has an eclectic group of very talented actors, Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista, Brian Tyree Henry, Sofia Boutella, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto, Charlie Day and Jeff Goldblum. It had a good trailer, decent marketing and even had a short run time of an hour and thirty-three minutes. All of this usually amounts to a good movie, but this time it didn’t. The reason why is, in the midst of all of those other great things, one thing was left out, the story. All of the problems with Hotel Artemis can be found in the screenplay, which is a shame because that overshadowed some really good things.
A good premise often times leads to a good story. Hotel Artemis has an incredibly compelling premise. Jodie Foster (Nurse) and Dave Bautista (Everest, her assistant) running a secret hospital for criminals is an excellent hook. Having it all set in a near but more advanced and hostile future is a great addition. The problem is nothing surrounding this makes any sense. There are riots in the streets, nobody seems to trust the government and the world seems to be falling apart, but why? How did we get here? There doesn’t need to be a long drawn out explanation but some sort of explanation would have been helpful. That is the big problem with this movie, it doesn’t take the time to try and explain anything. We are thrust into a world that doesn’t make any sense, in a time that doesn’t make any sense and it doesn’t seem interested in bringing us up to speed.
This lack of explanation stretches past the world and into the characters. There are a lot of characters in this story and we spend a decent amount of time with most of them. However by the end of the movie there isn’t much that you have learned about any of them. Most of them are given arcs but those arcs don’t really work since we don’t know anything about the characters. A good example of this is Waikiki, played by Sterling K. Brown. He is the first character we meet in the movie and one of the last we see at the end. Throughout this time his character goes on a journey. He robs a bank, loses his brother, meets a lost love (I think) and helps to save the Artemis. He does a lot but in the end his arc falls flat because we don’t really know anything about him. He has a brother (Honolulu, played by Brian Tyree Henry) and usually that is a tight relationship but why is theirs so tight? There is a bit of exposition where he explains why he isn’t more ambitious, because his brother is holding him back, but how is his brother holding him back? What does that have to do with this particular night at the Artemis? This is a huge part of his story that doesn’t get any background and therefore lacks what it needs to land. This extends to the character Honolulu. We never learn anything of substance about him and because of that their whole relationship falls short.
Most of the other characters were subject to the same lack of development. They would show up, basically define themselves through exposition and that was it. This is incredibly unfortunate and a huge misstep by writer/director Drew Pearce. There is some serious talent in this movie, most of which never got a chance to show that talent. The exception to this was Nurse and Everest. Most of the movie is spent with these two characters. Their relationship was developed and we got to understand them as characters. They have a working relationship but it clearly stretches beyond that to something deeper and more personal. It is hinted at throughout the movie but you can also see it in how they talk to each other. You can especially see it in how they talk about each other. There is a bond there that has been built and established. Nurse needs Everest. If he’s not around, then the Artemis won’t work the way it needs to. Everest needs this relationship, also. The affirmation and appreciation he gets from Nurse is something that drives him. It’s that development and attention to detail that made their relationship work. If there were more relationships like this one and more character development across the board, Hotel Artemis would have been a much better movie.
The last big storytelling error in this movie is the story itself. Taking place over the course of one night in the Artemis, it starts as a normal night until all hell breaks loose. This story is not unique or original; it’s also not a bad one. It’s how this story should be told, and yet the problem is, nothing really seems to be happening. Characters are doing things but these actions aren’t tied to anything, so it comes off as several (underdeveloped) characters doing things separate from a larger story. There are a few thin ways Pearce tries to tie the characters together but none of it works, so ultimately this is a movie that ends up being about nothing.
In spite of a bad screenplay, there are things to like about Hotel Artemis. There are several compelling performances, the production design is well done and the premise is really good. In the end all of those good things end up making this movie all the more disappointing. Hotel Artemis should have been good. Sterling K. Brown is giving a good performance, so is Dave Bautista. This world that Drew Pearce developed poorly is an interesting one that is a good setting for a movie like this. Jodie Foster gave one of the more compelling performances of this year. This alone should have made the movie great but you can’t overcome bad storytelling. No matter how many compelling parts there are, if the story isn’t one of them, then the movie will fall flat. As disappointing as it is to say this, Hotel Artemis falls flat and makes for a hugely disappointing and even frustrating watch.
2 out of 5 stars
Director: Drew Pearce Writer: Drew Pearce Starring: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Dave Bautista, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, Zachary Quinto & Charlie Day Release Date: June 8th Rated: R Run Time: 1 hour and 33 minutes Image Credit: Hotel Artemis Movie