Troll took Netflix audiences by surprise and quickly became a hit. One of the biggest releases of the month and the year, it cracked the service’s top ten and stayed there for a few weeks. That being a good sign, I had to see what the hype was about and if this unexpected kaiju flick lived up to it.
Maybe my expectations were set too high by it all because the way I responded to it was different. I’ll get to that but there are good and fun things about Troll too that justify a mild recommendation. You just have to know what you are getting into and when it’s a monster movie you’re dealing with, you know where to start.
A giant beast — specifically a troll — awakens from his slumber when his resting place in a Norwegian cave is disturbed by an unknowing crew tunneling in the Dovre mountains. After it emerges, it lays waste to the countryside and soon the city of Oslo is under threat. As such, Norway’s government has to do something while the world realizes monsters are real.
They assign a kooky but eclectic group of scientists and bureaucratic flunkies led by a Paleontologist named Nora (Ine Marie Wilmann). She thinks the only hope is her father Tobias (Gard Eidsvold), a disgraced professor who always believed the Norse myths he shared during Nora’s childhood. He blames humans for the mess more so, causing Nora to contemplate saving the Troll over killing it.
Troll, despite bearing the same title, has nothing to do with Empire Pictures’ 1986 film or its unofficial sequel, the “Best Worst Movie” Troll 2 — thankfully. It also has nothing to do with its found-footage countryman Trollhunter. It’s not a sequel to that, as sometimes reported, but it does borrow the 2010 mockumentary’s gigantic troll trope and that’s where the parallels end.
Otherwise, director Roar Uthaug does his own thing with the idea that is more of an homage to King Kong and Godzilla — which are good acts to follow. Adapting their tropes to fit the folklore of his native land, he creates his own confused and tragic monster of a very detailed design with a soul to match.
However, it’s the soul and depth of human characters a monster movie depends on most. Ine Marie Wilmann is appealing as the lead but the odd-duck supporting characters of her father and a Prime Minister’s assistant, Kim Falck-Jørgensen’s character, shine a bit brighter as amusements. They are stock and archetypal in many ways but come across well in both the original dub and the English one.
The latter doesn’t mar any performances or clash with the story flow so you’d be good to go watching with either soundtrack. Everything else is aided immensely by the gorgeous cinematography and the variety of locales the heroes find themselves hunting the Troll through. The film is big-budget for Norway and whatever the price tag was, Uthaug made good use of his kroner.
Yes, Troll is entertaining but it didn’t grab me the same way it seems to have grabbed others. I suppose I’m not part of the general audience raving about it and how well the film is paced. I paused it and stepped away for a bit and not because it was dull. “Dull” isn’t the word I’ll use and my appraisal isn’t intended to be harsh.
The movie was just too familiar for my blood, like I’ve seen it before, which I have — many times over. Troll closely follows a formula, the kind Roland Emmerich swore by with success during the ’90s up until he ran up against Godzilla fandom and lost his wunderkind aura. Even if you like his work, he has never recovered from that misstep.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the 1998 Godzilla and it’s a part of my childhood I cherish (yeah, I’m of those G-Fans who doesn’t completely eviscerate Zilla, sorry — not sorry). It’s just that Troll reminds me a lot of an Emmerich film that doesn’t try anything new — except use a giant troll instead of a giant lizard but that isn’t original either.
But lacking originality was not what bothered me the most about Troll. Like its noted antecedent it’s confused with, Trollhunter, Troll has an anti-Christian bias it’s not afraid to flaunt. However, unlike Trollhunter, the script doesn’t utilize this bias for satire nor does it know how to frame it in such a way that doesn’t pass the blame on Christians.
You see, we’re made to feel sorry for the creature and his man-eating kin being driven to extinction despite the fact they were a threat to everyone. That is secondary while conversion and modern civilization are impugned as the worst things ever to happen to Norway. Similar sentiments irked me about Peacemaker and they took me out of this story too.
But all told, Troll isn’t terrible. It’s fine and probably less woke than what entertainment gets away with by and large; it’s just that the film doesn’t do anything unique and plays it safe. That’s adequate to tide over a Netflix audience starving for content but won’t move the needle against Tokusatsu and MonsterVerse offerings to come.
- Creature design
- Kaiju action including car chases and military battles
- Nora's father Tobias as the eccentric loner
- Sympathy for the monsters comes with reproach for Christianity
- Formulaic plot
- Not compelling enough for one sitting