Horror movies aren’t unusual for December. There’s certainly plenty of Christmas-themed genre movies to warrant a release at this time of year. But Norwegian export Troll isn’t a very Yule-ish monster movie. No, Netflix’s latest monster movie has no connection to the infamously bad Troll 2. And it’s not connected to the widely revered mockumentary, Trollhunter. From the Norwegian director responsible for Cold Prey and the most recent Tomb Raider, Troll promises a Eurocentric take on the Godzilla-themed monster movie. So far critics are surprisingly impressed with the results.
When she was a young girl, Nora’s father regaled her with stories of Norway’s mythical trolls. Years later, Nora – now a paleontologist – is estranged from her father but still enthralled by the legends he shared. Following an inexplicable tragedy at a mine drilling operation, several more acts of destruction turn up across the countryside. Recruited by the military, Nora increasingly believes that the stores about trolls she grew up with may be true.
Troll a Visually Impressive Monster Movie Romp
No, Troll isn’t connected to the well-received 2010 mockumentary Trollhunter. And it’s too bad because that’s a great movie. This isn’t to say that this Norwegian export doesn’t have its moments. In many ways, Troll suffers from the same problems afflicting most giant monster movies. Writer and director Roar Uthaug (Tomb Raider, Cold Prey) knows his ways around the formula. When the titular ‘troll’ fills up the screen this action-thriller is actually quite a bit of fun. Most importantly, the monster effects are impressive proving that Hollywood doesn’t have some exclusive copyright on big screen spectacle.
Early on in the proceedings, when Troll decides to show how its giant monster manages to disappear, it’s an absolute visual triumph that recalls some of the best monster movie moments.
There’s a handful of awe-inspiring moments more than likely to entertain and captivate. Early on in the proceedings, when Troll decides to show how its giant monster manages to disappear, it’s an absolute visual triumph that recalls some of the best monster movie moments. As the climax rolls around, Uthaug takes audiences on a roller coaster ride that thrill even if it’s familiar and not really all that suspenseful. That is, Troll manages to be a lively adventure that still romps through the motions. At least Uthaugh opts to ‘romp’ as opposed to limp from each telegraphed scene. Everything about Troll looks good.
Troll Rarely Aspires To Much More Than What You’ve Already Seen
Where Troll runs into problems is its completely derivative approach. Don’t go into this monster movie expecting a subversive twist on a familiar story. Specifically, Uthaug and co-writer Espen Aukan seem content to recycle tropes. Anyone who’s watched Emmerich’s Godzilla or Independence Day will find themselves in familiar territory here. First, Troll delivers some random acts of destruction while not showing its monster for Act One. Not surprisingly, no one believes its protagonist despite mounting evidence. When Act Two rolls around, Troll treats us to several scenes of the Norwegian military flailing helpless against a foe it can’t beat. The setting is different than the urban landscape of Godzilla, but it’s definitely Godzilla all over again. Even when it thrills in its final act, it’s at a superficial level that requires more than a suspension of disbelief – it requires ignoring dozens of past similar movies.
Anyone who’s watched Emmerich’s Godzilla or Independence Day will find themselves in familiar territory here.
Though the performances are uniformly fun and strong, no one escapes the stock nature of the characters that they inhabit. Some of the characters are here to provide the requisite comic relief. In addition to its scientist protagonist – yes, they have a complex relationship with a parent – who sees what no one else sees – there’s the obligatory love interest and eccentric character tasked with expository dialogue. Of course, there’s military types who are eager to just nuke everything. All of this points to Troll’s inescapable limitation. Nothing about this monster movie is remotely original. Is it occasionally fun? Yes. Still its storytelling is incredibly lazy.
Troll Works Best as Forgettable Popcorn Entertainment
Lowered expectations likely will help when watching Troll. To be clear, this is not Trollhunter. When Troll puts its title character on the screen, the fun and inventive visuals allow audiences to escape into the silly adventure for what best amounts to an amicable way to pass the time. Like many monster movies, Troll definitely suffers when its creature is off screen and the human cast are left to carry the story. But the Norwegian fairy tale-actioner doubly suffers by virtue of its insistence on mimicking middling Hollywood monster movies. Roland Emmerich movies like Godzilla and Independence Day are interwoven with this tale. For better or worse.