MEETS GODZILLA STYLE MAYHEM
There have been many myths and folklore that have been passed throughout the centuries, drumming the identity of a wide variety of commonplace of fairy tale creatures, including witches, dragons, dwarves, tricksters, and countless other mythical beings of legend. The creatures known as Trolls are amongst the collective of fantasy creatures, with most origins of such monstrous beings deriving from Norwegian folklore / Norse mythology. Depending on the myths and accounts from various tales, Trolls are often living in isolated areas (rocks, mountains, forests, caves, etc.) as well as living in small units and are rather unkind to humans. Various stories of old can change on the actual depiction / appearance of such fantastic creatures, with some being shown as monstrous, ugly, and dim-witted and other times behaving in a similar fashion like humans (with some minor changes). Regardless, of their behavior and appearance, the folktales of trolls has been steeped in Norwegian history and has become a part of their culture’s myths. Given the nature of such fantasy-esque creatures and the palpable importance in Scandinavian folklore, trolls are depicted in a variety of modern popular cultures reference in different facets outlets, including literary books, role-playing board games, video games, movies, and TV series. Now, Motion Blur (as well as Netflix) and director Roar Uthang present the latest interpretation of such creatures from Norwegian legend with the movie titled Troll. Does this movie find merit within cinematic take on such monstrous beings or is just a messy and “run of the mill” giant monster movie?
A railway tunnel is under construction and looking to expand its line through the Dovre Mountain in Norway, with crews beginning to blast their way through the ancient rock. During this activity of digging, something primordial is awoken from the depths of the mountain. A troll, massive and dangerous in size, is released, bursting through the mountain and looking to destroy those who confront it. As the government scrambles to understand what’s going on and what exactly they are up against, paleontologist Nora Tidemann (Ine Marie Wilmann) is brought in to help decode this monstrous activity, quickly recognizing the work of a troll. Partnering herself with the Prime Minister’s assistant, Andreas Isaksen (Kim Falck) and military leader, Captain Kristoffer Holm (Mads Sjogard Pettersen), Nora begins her investigating, electing to find her estranged father, Tobias (Gard B. Eldsvold), who has studied the folklore world his entire life, driving a wedge of his obsession of fairy tales from both society and his family. Tobias as some answers concerning troll behavior and what they are capable, but the government isn’t interested in them nor the patience, with the huge monster making its way to Oslo, inspiring Nora and her companions to figure out a way to prevent catastrophic disaster from befalling the populace and for the troll himself.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
There is no doubt about it that I’ve always loved for all things fantasy. Of course, cinematic movies have been clear passion of mine since my childhood, but fantasy tales and of their creatures and being that are customary of populated such narratives, have always been a fascinate fixed point of interest of mine since my youth. Of course, trolls are part of this category of such mythical beings; something I would considered in the realm of giants and ogres. In my experience of viewing such creatures (throughout the legends and myths that I came across), trolls are often depicted as remote beings and can range in size and physical appearance (mostly monstrous and / or grotesque) and have been in a variety of opposition against numerous characters. Even in popular media outlets, the depictions of trolls has ranged, including helping Elsa in Frozen II, battling against the forces of good in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and guarding of bridges and other paths by blocking the entrance to a host of fairy tale heroes. Thus, it goes without saying that the depiction of trolls can be differ from one to the another. Perhaps the one I liked the most came in the form of 2010’s Trollhunter, a “found footage” style film, which depicts a group of students investigating trolls in Norway, who are more savage and dangerous beings and goes along the lines of cultural representation of the Norse myths, which I liked. In the end, while other and more popular fantasy beings and creatures might take center stage pop-culture references and storytelling, the existence and folklore of trolls still remains present throughout a wide variety of legends and will continue to do so.
This brings me back to talking about Troll, a 2022 Norwegian monster film and the latest movie project to feature trolls as a primary focus on a narrative. To be honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie nor when it was announced. In truth, I first heard about this giant monster film only a month or two before its release. I think did recall hearing about a movie titled “Troll” going to be released on Netflix in December 2022, with the feature being focused on a giant troll. Of course, the first movie that came to mind was 2010’s Trollhunter, a Norwegian film that told of a group of students looking into an investigation existence of trolls in Norway. When I saw the movie trailer for Troll, I was quite interested. Much like Trollhunter, I was intrigued due to the film being a Norwegian endeavor and being produced from a non-major movie studio, with Norwegian language being the original primary language for it. The footage shown in the trailer also looked good, with a sense of the classic “giant monster” movie vibe throughout, including military forces fighting against a gigantic being and a lot of rampaging snippets being presented. It had the reminiscent of an old-fashioned giant monster endeavor, something along the lines of a Godzilla / Kaiju one of which I’m always down to see. The visual effects looked good, and I did like how the troll was depicted in the project (huge, ancient and dangerous). So, it goes without saying that I was curious see what Troll had to offer in that film category and to see how the movie would ultimately shape up to be. Thus, I decided to check out the movie when it made its debut on Netflix on December 1st, 2022 (saw it late night one night after work). And what did I think of it? Well, I actually liked it. Despite some problems with its exposition several formulaic nuances of the giant monster variety, Troll delivers a clear and present tale that’s both fun and entertaining, especially thanks to the visual effects and cinematography efforts as well as the utilization of Norwegian folklore understanding helps build upon the myth of such beings. It’s not the best giant monster movie out there, but I think it did better than some other endeavors that were made by major Hollywood studios.
Troll is directed by Roar Uthang, whose previous directorial works include such films as Escape, The Wave, and Tomb Raider. Given his background in directing films as well as being a Norwegian himself, Uthang seems quite a competent director to handle such a project as a giant monster movie that blends the larger-than-life action sequences and mayhem as well as cultural depictions of Scandinavian folklore of such fantastical creatures. Plus, learning from his last project of remaking Tomb Raider (a 2018 film remake of the 2001 endeavor), Uthang utilized the how “Americanized” knowledge of blockbuster action and other nuances that probably did help his understanding of tackling such a tale of a huge monster encounter and the rampaging that follows. In that regard, I think that Uthang did a pretty good job, diving into the feature with a sense of cultural respect for his homeland’s passion and understanding for the folklore myths of trolls as well as making a movie that’s clear in the giant monster yarn narrative. Uthang plays around with a familiar sandbox and takes the disaster movie path, including the awakening of a big threat and creates a tale that has even broader strokes throughout the feature’s runtime. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, for a lot of giant monster movies, take this particular narrative route and come out the other side with a sense of precise objective complete. Naturally, I’m talking about the film’s action scenes, which Uthang delivers some good moments that are sprinkled throughout the picture. Scenes depicting the monstrous Godzilla-sized troll stomping and rampaging through various places and landscape does bring cinematic energy and excitement to the feature, with the huge creature crushing, smashing, and damaging various landscapes and battling against the might of the military forces. It definitely fun and exciting to watch, especially in those moments where Uthang utilizes the troll’s immense size and aggression to showcases how much of threat he is the populace.
As a whole, Uthang makes the entire endeavor of Troll quite breezy, with pretty steady pace in the narrative trajectory, engaging viewers with the awakening of something ancient and threating as the giant invader becomes a larger opposition than expected. Again, it’s quite clear as to what Uthang wants to convey and present in the movie, cutting a path that’s familiar in a way of a “comfort watch” of the giant monster variety. Uthang also keeps a keen focus on the runtime, with the feature clocking in at around 101 minutes (one hour and forty-one minutes). Yes, I definitely believe that the movie could’ve been longer (adding additional ten or fifteen more minutes for monster rampaging or character development), but what’s presented is enough to tell Troll’s tale from start to finish. As mentioned, Uthang also knows to make the cultural representation in Troll, with the Norwegian folklore of such creatures being utilized throughout the movie. Rather than just making bad cheesy TV movie of a generic giant monster stomping around Norway, Uthang and his team define the lore with trolls that are displayed throughout many stories of old, including them fearing church bells, smelling Christian blood, hate sunlight, and so on and so forth. It may be just a little minor detail for some viewers out there, but I do like and appreciate the representation of the legends and myth behind these fantasy creatures. I also like how the movie defines the troll with enough sympathy and emotional integrity in a few areas, presenting a giant invader who isn’t completely ruthless and mindless of chaos and destruction, but one that clearer finds his situation slightly complexed. Again, it’s a very small notion, but one that I did like in the movie. Additionally, there is an underline “cheesy” moments that, like giant monster flicks, that Uthang invokes in Troll’s presentation, broad comedic one-liners sprinkled in and out of the feature, which do offer moments of levity in dire survival mode sequences. This moment can be fun and helps break tension, with the end result feeling that is a mixed bag (some jokes work, while other fall flat). In the end, while it’s not the quintessential giant monster movie in recent memory, Troll does rise above the mediocre level and present a tale that’s engaging, fun, and entertaining throughout.
For its presentation, I am quite happy to say that Troll actually does quite an impressive job throughout this category and does some great work in help building the various layers in the feature’s background and visual aesthetics. While Netflix might have had a hand in developing and distributing the project, Troll is something of a rare find, with the production value being rather upscale than what I was expecting from a giant monster movie. Of course, the feature doesn’t have the high blockbuster budget from a major studio, but does well in what it wants to coney through its usage of visual effects and background settings. As to be expected, the film’s various locations are quite beautiful and almost enchanting, with a lot of usage of the Norway’s untouched countryside mountains and forest to create something very majestic and mystifying, yet remote and isolated. Of course, there are some more urban settings, including Oslo, which are clearly represented well-enough, but it’s the more picturesque moments where the film comes alive, which against the juxtaposition of a giant monster rampaging, are quite striking. Thus, this particular category as well as several other “behind the scenes” key players on Troll, including Koja (production design), Vilius Vanagas (art direction), and Karen Fabritius Gram (costume designs), certainly do make the film’s background setting and other cinematic nuances come alive in a well-fashioned manner.
Another big component in the presentation is the actual visual effect imagery that is incorporated throughout Troll’s runtime, which I do have to say are really good for a feature film endeavor of this storytelling premise and within the budgetary value. Naturally, I’m mostly talking about the overall design and rendering of the troll himself. Of course, he huge and monstrous looking, but the intricate visual detail looks great and have way that doesn’t look cheap or laughable…something that can be usually done in giant monster movies. Thus, the overall visual design of the troll is solid and the production value use to bring him to life through CGI wizardry is fantastic, one of the highlights of the feature in my opinion. Also, I do have to give credit to the film’s sound mixing / editing department for their efforts made on the project, especially in the heavy and booming footfalls from the troll as well as the guttural and monstrous sound of the troll’s bellowing and groaning. Really good sound effects of such a giant creature.
Additionally, what helps build on the film’s visual moments and background imagery, is the cinematography work done by Jallo Faber that captures some truly cinematic scenes that help shape the feature’s mystified properties and vistas through the landscape, creating some unique camera angles from different POV (points of views) of the giant troll (and the area where he stands / walks), and several action / destruction rampaging scenes that are theatrically bold. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Johannes Ringen, delivers a solid musical composition for the movie. It’s not the most memorable one of recent film soundtracks, but Ringen manages to create such a stirring score for Trolls, which definitely highlights the feature’s various key moments…be it dramatic / intense action scenes or quieter reflective sequences. All in all, a good score in my opinion.
There are some problems that Troll can’t overcome, with the movie facing some rather clunky handling in a few ways that both inherit to the film genre that it is telling and others that are in the storyboarding process. What do I mean? Well, for starters, the movie is indeed of a more action spectacle moments and has difficultly in balance those scenes with the “human element”. This, of course, comes with the territory of doing giant monster movies, with most viewers looking forward to seeing frenzy and rampaging and chaotic stomping of such large creatures against our world and (usually) the military forces that try to stop them. It sort of goes “hand in hand” with the genre of this particular storytelling premise, so I definitely get it, for a director must walk a fine line of balancing human and monster pieces in the film. Give too much human focus (like 2014’s Godzilla) and or too much giant monster (like 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong) and the feature becomes problematic. Troll does give some time to help build the character development of the various main players in the feature, yet what is need requires more substance (I’ll explain more on that below). Suffice to say the movie would’ve been more beneficial with more action sequences of the troll wreaking havoc throughout Norway. There is one scene in the middle of the movie involving the troll stomping through an amusement park and, while I do like that moment in the film, I think more could’ve been done with it. The same can be said during the climatic ending battle in the city of Oslo with the giant behemoth. What’s presented works, yet could’ve been more bigger and grander. Suffice to say, while the action scenes are pretty good in the movie, I felt that there could’ve been more of them staged throughout Troll’s narrative by delivering some good old-fashioned giant monster rampage and spectacle in those nuances.
Another point of criticism that I have with the movie is found within the film’s script, which was penned by Uthang, who plays “double duty” on the film, and Espen Aukan. From the trailer alone, I knew what type of movie that Troll was going to be…. a very straightforward giant monster movie that plays some familiar beats that were found in other similar projects involving gigantic creatures. So, I wasn’t expecting anything grand in the story department and mostly figured out the struggles and triumphs the film’s narrative going to take throughout the endeavor, including a rampaging giant, government push back, military strikes, and main cast of characters caught in the middle all of this. Again, it’s the “bread and butter” of giant monster pictures, so I knew it was going be like in the movie. That being said, there are few sequences in the movie where the script got a little bit wonky and the overall execution of such written scenes felt clunky and / or mishandled. How so? Well, there are few times where the storytelling elements get a bit wonky by introducing an idea that has some significance in that particular scene yet never fully developed after that and never really brought up again. Another time (during the beginning of the third act), the script decides to give a big exposition dump to help explain certain things, but it comes off as a lot of talkative nonsense and feels rather clunky in how it is handle. The same can be said about the troll himself, who clearly isn’t a just a mindless being and certainly has some emotions and feelings that are showcases in glimpse throughout the movie, yet it feels like the script doesn’t follow through with that notion, which is slightly disappointing. Plus, I felt the ending could’ve been better handled, with some pretty wonky decisions on how to defeat the troll and how the feature concludes its narrative. What’s presented works (there’s no doubt about that), yet the movie does try harder to rise above the generic giant monster flick, but handles those opportunities in a mismanaged way, which causes Troll’s script (storyboarding and execution) to be rather messy at times.
The cast in Troll is actually pretty good and, while the movie does get weighed down slightly due to the genre’s cheesiness of cliched personas and broad character dialogue moments, the selected acting talents involved on the project are up to the task in bringing their respective characters to life. I did watch the movie in the original Norwegian audio (the way it was original intended to be seen), but I did watch the English voiceover dub of the movie during my second viewing of Troll. Sad to say that I prefer the original Norwegian audio track than the English Dub, so my review is going to be on former rather than the latter. Naturally, the film’s central focus follows the female protagonist character of Nora Tidemann, who is played by actress Ine Marie Wilmann. Known for her roles in Furia, Homesick, and Sonja: The White Swan, Wilmann does a pretty good job in leading Troll’s runtime with her performance as Nora, a young paleontologist woman whose brought into this giant troll situation with her knowledge of tracking and personal experience of the lore of such beings. She definitely holds her own and gives off the right amount of lighthearted comedic quips and bits as well as some of the more dramatic moments. It’s nothing truly grand or Oscar-worthy, but Wilmann knows that and makes her involvement in the feature having a broad “larger-than-life” heroism in the movie….and that’s kind of good thing. All in all, I felt that Wilmann was a good choice for playing the role of Nora Tidemann.
Behind her, actor Gard B. Eidsvold (Witch Hunt and The Ash Lad: In Search of the Golden Castle) make quite an impression on the movie as Nora’s estranged and eccentric father, Tobias Tidemann. Eidsvold does a good job in expressing the quirky notions of Tobias, who plays a memorable role in Troll and give us (the viewers) as well as the film some insight within his character extensive lore knowledge of trolls in general. Plus, the scenes between Eidsvold and Wilmann are pretty good and hold strong enough to make us believe in their father / daughter relationship. The other two main characters that follow Nora throughout her adventure in the movie are Andreas Isaksen, the assistant to Norway’s Prime Minister, and Captain Kristoffer Holm, a military captain in the Norwegian army, who are played by actors Kim Falck (Hva Hvis? and Cold Prey III) and Mads Sjøgård Pettersen (Eddie the Eagle and Home for Christmas). Both are perfectly fine in their acting, with Falck playing up the quirky nerdy aspects of a government assistant in Andreas, while Pettersen brings the stoic / masculine bravado of a military leader in Kristoffer, including delivering an Independence Day-esque type of speech towards the end of the feature. Yes, both are tad cliché in the mold of a giant monster film, but the service their purpose well in the grand scheme of Troll’s narrative. Perhaps the only problematic area in the movie is the overall relationship with Nora, with both characters sort of given off a flirtatious nuances towards the lead female character, yet nothing really comes of it, which is kind of a disappointing. Beyond that, both characters fit perfectly in Troll’s story.
Other supporting players in the film are your typical government hierarchy characters that usually have a lot pushback from the main heroes in these type of movies and / or lend a hand in helping against the government’s aggressive agenda. This includes actress Anneke von der Lippe (Pan and The Warrior’s Heart) as Prime Minister Berit Moberg, actor Fridtjov Såheim (Lilyhammer and The Wave) as the Minister of Defence Frederick Markussen, actor Dennis Storhøi (Home for Christmas and Nobel) as Chief of Defence General Sverre Lunde, and actress Karoline Viktoria Sletteng Garvang (who makes her debut in the film) as government hacker / tech Sigird Hodne. All these performance are fine, in my opinion, but again are your generic / stereotypical personas that are customary towards giant monster / disaster movies. Thus, these characters are only clearly defined by one or two traits and nothing more.
The rest of the cast, including actor Bjarne Hjelde (Krypskyttere and Meglerne) Chief of Court Rikard Sinding, actor Billy Campbell (Enough and The Rocketeer) as Dr. David Secord, actor Yusuf Toosh Ibra (Maxitaxi Driver and The Moon) as Amir, actor Jon Ketil Johnsen (Aber Bergen and Offshore) as Professor Møller, actor Duc Paul Mai-The (Kodenavn Hunter and Free Jimmy) as Professor Wangel, and actress Ingrid Vollan (Sick of Myself and The Spy) and actor Trond Magnum (Fjols til fjells) as Oddrun and Lars Gundersen, fill out the rest of the players in the movie in minor supporting roles. Most of these characters are limited (by design) in the film and only have one or two scenes featured in Troll, yet all in this category do give solid performances in their respective roles.
Something has awoken in the Dovre Mountains as a gigantic troll emerges from its depths and begins to wreak havoc across the countryside, while a small group of individuals band together to help bring a resolve to the large threat at hand as well as dealing with governmental fearmongering in the movie Troll. Director Roar Uthang’s latest film jumps into the foray of giant monster features and present a tale that’s both familiar and unique at the same time, with the picture delving in Norwegian folklore bits as well as popcorn action. While the movie struggles to overcome the inherit trappings of the genre as well as some clunky script handling in a few areas, the film still manages to rise to the occasion for a solid giant monster flick, especially thanks to Uthang’s direction, the action, the visual presentation, cinematography, visual effects, and several of the performances from the cast. Personally, I thought that this movie was good. Yes, it was anything revolutionary or any type of game changer in the giant monster creature feature endeavors that have come before, but it was still entertaining and engaging throughout. The visual effects were great, and the cinematography presentation was solid throughout, with the film keeping me engaged in its story and action from start to finish. Could it have been better? Of course, but what was presented was good as well. I actually enjoyed Troll more than 2020’s Godzilla vs. Kong, which (to me) was a flatter and more nonsensical, despite having a large budget and more spectacle. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is favorable “recommended” one, especially if you take the film project at face value and nothing more. You’ll enjoy it more if you do. The film’s ending does hint at a possible sequel (via a mid-credits scene), so there could very well be a Troll 2 in the near future. Yet, that still remains to be seeing. Even if one doesn’t materialize, Troll achieves what it sets out to be…. a broad-stroked giant monster picture that, while following familiar narrative path, delivers on its mayhem action and cinematic energy as well as utilizing culture representation towards such fairy-tale-esque creatures.
3.6 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: December 1st, 2022
Reviewed On: December 5th, 2022
Troll is 102 minutes long and is rated TV-14 (the equivalent to PG-13)