From Norwegian studio, Motion Blur, in partnership with Netflix comes a kaiju of the Scandinavian sort. Troll, like the modern classic Trollhunter (2010), exhibits Norwegian folklore on a monstrous scale. Unlike, Trollhunter, however, this new film by aptly-named director Roar Uthaug (Tomb Raider, 2018) is satisfied with the bare minimum – it achieves this surprisingly well, but is never quite able to truly distinguish itself.
Director: Roar Uthaug
Producers: Espen Horn, Kristian Strand Sinkerud
Writers: Espen Aukan
Cinematography: Jallo Faber
Editor: Christoffer Heie
Cast: Ine Marie Wilmann, Kim Falck, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Gard B. Eidsvold, Pål Richard Lunderby, Eric Vorenholt
Runtime: 101 minutes
U.S. Distributor: Netflix. Produced by Motion Blur.
U.S. Release Date: December 1, 2022
What Troll does well is deliver an entertaining giant monster movie. There is plenty of well-executed action, charming humor from the ensemble, and just enough pathos to illicit genuine sympathy for the beast. That beast is a troll, born of the mountain, and towering 164 feet (50-meters). Like the mountain, it is craggy and rock-like. It is a thoughtful design and satisfyingly realized by the CGI, which never distracts from the appearance. Furthermore, the troll’s (and there’s only one… or is there…?) characterization is enhanced by considerate exploration of Norwegian mythology surrounding the creatures, such as trolls having the ability to smell the blood of Christians. More than a clever “power”, this element adds an important metaphor to the story; Uthaug challenges Norwegians to reckon with the violent Christianization of his country and others.
While Troll may appear beneath such discourse, the cast and crew certainly do not think so. There is a sincerity in the performances, especially from Ine Marie Wilmann and Gard B. Eidsvold, who play a father-daughter duo with all the tension and warmth you would hope for. The third best character, is arguably the troll itself. There is care to humanize the monster. One particular moment stands out: the troll discovers the skull of an ancestor and emits a mournful wail into the night. It’s haunting, tragic, and relatable; the troll is hopelessly alone in a world of hate and suspicion.
The theme of isolation is common, of course, in the monster genre. Troll leans into it effectively. Where the film suffers, however, is leaning too hard into other common – derivative, rather – aspects. Not only are we served up the old “ancient-monster-awakens-and-rampages-a-capital-city” trope, but certain scenes and images are seemingly ripped from other movies. You do not have to look hard to see carbon copies of Jurassic Park, Godzilla (2014), and Skull Island. Lazy homage at best, shameless stealing at worst, it all depends on your familiarity with the overall genre.
Ultimately, Troll, inhabits a middle ground. The story is as by-the-numbers as can be; however, the characters and direction offer enough surprises to keep you engaged. Time will decide the film’s legacy, but if its popularity proves anything, it’s that audiences truly desire more unique and mythologically rich kaiju.
by Vincent S. Hannam