Throw up the metal horns and pay attention to your online streaming screen, people, because this week’s Netflix review comes from Norway, the home of Vikings, pioneering Black Metal, and… TROLLS! The much discussed and highly reviewed film Trollhunter takes you into the domain of modernized fantasy, bringing the creatures from fairy tales and folklore into a modern setting, and providing them with a film platform in the manner that vampires and zombies have had for years. The principal selling factor of Trollhunter is its breathtaking visual effects, making it an amazing eye-candy experience.
Presented in “found-footage” format, Trollhunter shadows a group of film students creating a documentary examining mysterious bear deaths across the country. Their investigations lead them to a man known only as Hans, who turns out to be a long-time experienced trollhunter employed by a government who wants to keep the existence of trolls a secret.
Hans reluctantly consents to the film crew tagging along, much to the dismay and vocal resistance of his employer appropriately named Finn. The journey they take is one into unbelievable adventure, as Hans tracks down and destroys the trolls he comes across – repeatedly landing in situations that could only be described as dire and dangerous.
The performances in Trollhunter are of a respectable standard, but the stand-out is most definitely Hans, played by Otto Jespersen. The actor manages to avoid too much emotional diversity, with Hans being a dead-serious individual, worn by experience and weary from the ongoing hunts, often deadpan and straight-to-the-point. His moments shine during a couple of interview scenes where he allows his guard to slip – but only a little – revealing a microscopic tone of emotion. The impression is entrancing, as his performance through the whole film allows these very small moments to feel more amplified than what they are.
Generally, the writing of Trollhunter is reasonable throughout, though the format of “found-footage” causes the end result to be more of a recount than a narrative. The structure comes to a tilted result, showing more of a framework of events, rather than having a meaningful overall context. Despite its content, there are many moments during the movie of lost or misguided logic; or plot holes that, when spotted, take you out of the movie entirely.
The mythos of trolls is explored in the film in a number of ways. At first there are references to folklore and fairy tales, and later some further exposition is made in areas resembling science. The key word there is: “resembling”. Despite this, the exposition within Trollhunter is actually arresting and highly effective at establishing the ground rules for the monsters in this particular film.
Character development, on the other side of the spectrum, is virtually non-existent. We learn very little of our film students, which comes across as a lost opportunity in many ways. The context of the story could have been enriched with a little more back story, and empowered the audience to create more of an emotional attachment to them. As a result, during key turning points for individual characters in the movie are far less powerful than they could have been – resulting in viewers possibly feeling a little uncaring or nonchalant about what happens to them.
On a side note and as an Aussie, I also cannot help but mention the Ned Kelly homage in the film. During one sequence, Hans the Trollhunter dons armor as protection from his prey…
…the armor strongly resembles the armor worn by the outlaw Kelly Gang. The combinations of the outfit with the scene in which I discuss make for an impressive sequence.
Which leads me to the design elements of this specific film: the creature effects in this movie are magnificent – and truly make the movie worth watching for this reason alone. Much attention is placed on the design of the trolls, with careful focus on differentiating the distinctive sub-species, with many elements highlighted and exaggerated. The end result, along with high-end CGI, is pure magnificence – every time a troll is on screen, the effect is mesmerizing, highly energized, and incredibly exciting. The careful work placed on the visual effects truly enhances this movie, and while they don’t make up for some of the writing issues; they do make Trollhunter an extremely enjoyable experience.
The camera work in Trollhunter is similarly good overall – however the stereotyped filming techniques used in “found-footage” movies becomes overpowering, especially during the first half. Shaky camera, overreliance on green tinted night vision, boom mic appearances, and so on – it becomes slightly annoying after a time. The overreliance on these effects are disheartening, for it makes the first part of the movie feel more like a Blair Witch Project duplicate than anything else. On the other hand, during the more steady moments of filming, the crew manage to capture some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenery on camera – providing a beautiful perspective of the setting. It makes me want to don a leather-clad black metal outfit complete with spikes, smear greasepaint on my face, and visit Norway!
While it does have some minor failings, Trollhunter is one of those films worth seeing for the visual effects alone. It is exciting, and mesmerizing; and the effects will have you glued to the screen. It’s a worthy viewing experience, and I highly recommend checking it out.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Norwegian Black Metal to blast at high volume.