While Troll might not be enough for viewers looking for something fresh, Roar Uthaug ultimately succeeds in developing a giant creature feature.
Thanks to Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse, colossal creature features have been making a splash in the West by hauling gargantuan box office bucks, so it’s no wonder other producers try to take a slice of the profitable cake. The issue with the concept of giant beasts leveling entire cities is that it costs a lot of money to make the violent spectacle look good. Fortunately for Netflix’s Troll, the titular beast is a sight to be seen, making it an easy recommendation for subgenre fans. That’s not to say Troll doesn’t have its issues, as the movie retreads the same path multiple versions of Godzilla and King Kong already walked by putting too much focus on its human cast and following a predictable story.
Directed by Roar Uthaug (2018’s Tomb Raider), Troll takes place in contemporary Norway, when a creature from fairy tales rises from the stone mountains and threatens to destroy everything on its way. From the beginning, we know how Troll will develop, as humans first try to understand what they are dealing with, then try to stop it at all costs. In that sense, Troll sticks close to Godzilla tradition, and until the credits roll, the script doesn’t have much more to offer than we’ve already seen in other similar films.
The novelty is in the creature itself, taken straight from Scandinavian folklore. It’s thrilling to see a rocky mountain rise and unleash its fury over insignificant humans, and it’s clear the biggest chunk of Troll’s budget went to bringing the monster alive. Besides that, at each new confrontation with the creature, humans must come up with new containment plans that involve Scandinavian fairy tales, and it’s curious to see child stories being used as weapons against an apparently unstoppable enemy. And since trolls are a big part of pop culture worldwide, even viewers who don’t know too much about Scandinavian folklore can quickly get used to the rules that govern the troll’s powers and weaknesses.
While Troll’s creature feels marvelously fresh, the same cannot be said of the movie’s human cast. There’s the wacky scholar who doesn’t wear pants but is actually right about everything (Gard B. Eidsvold); a trigger-happy Prime Minister consultant who thinks violence is the means to solve any issue (Fridtjov Såheim); and, of course, the renegade scientist who defy authorities to find out the truth (Ine Marie Wilmann). While Troll’s cast does what it can to salvage their characters, all the humans in Uthaug’s creature feature are too one-dimensional to shine. And while that would be somewhat acceptable if the story focused on the monster, Troll makes the same MonsterVerse mistake by wasting too much time with people we ultimately don’t care about. This is a shame since the movie teases a more extensive mythological background that we would love to get to know better.
Despite obvious flaws, Troll should also be commended for its environmentalist ethos. The first Godzilla is remembered as a manifestation of nuclear warfare, a beast that destroys the world after being awakened by human hands. Troll, however, updates the message to reflect modern concerns that human greed will become our collective doom as we destroy nature and seek control over a world that might become too eroded to sustain human life. This environmental concern is what guides the conflict between different characters in the movie, as Norway’s government tries to decide if they should face the monstrous threat with clenched fists or open hearts. Of course, at the end of the day, Troll is still about human ingenuity in face of adversity. And even if the movie flirts with an antiwar stance, Troll cannot escape a predictable ending.
Troll is not getting any awards for originality. Still, it delivers what it promises by telling a story about a giant creature that destroys cities in its waking and the humans who try to prevent catastrophe. And since a creature feature lives and dies by its monster, Troll has the clear advantage of conjuring a magnificent beast from Scandinavian folklore. Of course, that might not be enough for viewers looking for something fresh to watch. Even so, Uthaug ultimately succeeds in developing a movie that’ll most likely please fans of giant creatures.
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