Troll, how to take a monster and make it look like a puppet

The release, about a month ago, of Old People gave me the opportunity to come up with a reasoning on the beauty of the platforms that draw their new successes not only from the fertile but well-known English-speaking basin but also from other parts of the world. A commendable sentiment which, however, obviously also has a dark half, an evil twin, the specter of standardization. Because it’s nice when they leave you the freedom to carry around the world the traditions and peculiarities, and also the problems, why not, of your land; less beautiful is when to do so you have to bend over to a series of creative-productive needs that risk flattening your personality, canceling it and mincing it until it is reduced to a standard pap that is good for everyone because it really does not suit anyone. This is the trailer for TrollNorwegian monster movie just released on Netflix.

Troll is the new film by Roar Uthaug, who is not only Norwegian but above all called Roar, right from his first name. ROAR! Roar is among other things the director of the tomb Raider with Alicia Vikander: not exactly the first thing I would say at a party if I had to impress onlookers, but at least the film about Assassin’s Creed it was worse. With Troll ROAR returns to his homeland, and in addition to directing he also writes: usually in these cases we speak of a “passion project”, there is the idea that when there is only one mind behind the film, the result must necessarily be more personal and therefore also more alive, with more personality, with a vision.

Photo credit: Francisco Munoz

Unfortunately I don’t know Roar personally and I can’t tell you how much Troll is really flour of his sack and how much has been imposed on him or in any case strongly suggested on a production level. Let’s say that if the first hypothesis were true, we would have a problem, namely that Roar Uthaug has no great imagination, and grew up on bread and algorithms, convinced that the best way to replicate the success of Godzilla both redo Godzilla changing the texture of the monster.

Troll it’s a glorious film, at least visually, if you like big monsters. It’s also a completely characterless movie, appearing to be made out of metaphorical filmic LEGO pieces, and slavishly following instructions. Here we put the rectangular red piece, here the green square, and look! the result is the same as a thousand other similar results! The idea would be to fish in Norse mythology in that way that has already given success to that masterpiece Trollhunter: an ancient troll awakens, disturbed by human activity, and begins to make a mess; a group of unfortunates, led by a nutty professor who believes in fairy tales, must find a way to stop him.

description troll l to r ine marie wilmann as nora, mads sjøgård pettersen as captain kris, , kim s falck jørgensen as andreas isaksen courtesy of netflix © 2022

Francisco Munoz

The plant is that of disaster movie where is the disaster is a living creature and not a natural disaster, but where Trollhunter it was a found footage who used the limited field of view of handheld cameras to tell an ecological parable of survival and terror, Troll it’s a drone movie and Spielberg faces. The unlikely troll-hunting group is made up of a number of archetypes:

  • the loud-mouthed paleontologist who is recalled from her dig as an expert on large creatures
  • his father, a professor of folklore and various legends who believes in the existence of trolls and for this reason he first ended up in a mental hospital, then to live in an isolated hut in the middle of Norway
  • the Government Representative, who as such thinks only of shooting very big things against the poor troll
  • the Soldier, who is good

    The nice thing is that the troll is awakened by the construction of the TAV, or at least its Norwegian equivalent: Troll is very explicitly an ecological film (Greta Thunberg is namedroppata within the first half hour) which clearly states that it is our fault if this creature made of stones and dirt and as tall as a skyscraper has awakened from its millennial sleep. It’s probably the only semi-original idea in the film, something to be expected from a monster movie Norwegian and not just from a generic monster movie.

    trolls courtesy of netflix © 2022

    Photographer Jallo Faber, Netflix

    The problem is that once these ideological foundations have been clarified and the monster revealed not only to the public but also to the government, Troll it forgets that it is a Norwegian film and becomes a film like so many others. All the typical characteristics of the troll, from the fact that he smells the blood of Christians to his hatred of bells, leave the folklore enclosure to become mere ammunition in the hands of humans, who obviously react to the discovery of this majestic creature by dumping them on the entire Norwegian arsenal.

    Roar Uthaug treats his troll as he would any other large monster, no matter where he comes from. He uses it to destroy things and houses, to make us feel small and helpless in the face of the fury of nature, in short, for all those things that we have already seen a thousand times – especially in recent years which have been particularly prolific for the genre. Sorry to come back to make comparisons but the creatures of Trollhunter they were Norwegian trolls and made their specificity their strong point. And it’s not just a question of philology, because the trolls of that film left the fence of tradition to flow into pure fantasy, but to treat the creature as if it had slightly more defined characteristics than “it’s big, so it crushes the what’s this”.

    troll cr courtesy of netflix © 2022

    Jallo Faber/Netflix

    The very fact of being in front of a monster of this size obviously causes existential upheavals in all the characters in the film. But instead of focusing on your own home, on the fact that this monster is not just any monster but Cosa Nostrathey launch into improbable comparisons with King Kong and even with vampires (who like trolls regenerate), in a cultural potpourri that tells us that we all live in one big shared universe, where all things look alike and are therefore perfectly interchangeable.

    Troll also makes the mistake of focusing too much on the well-known “human side”, thus giving us long and avoidable sequences of psychological insight that steal screen time to the troll and add absolutely nothing to the film. None of the protagonists have a personality defined (or interesting) enough to justify slowing down the pace to allow them space; but it’s a flaw common to pretty much every big monster movie of the last few years, which reinforces my guess that even Troll has somehow been “directed” and corrected on the run so as to resemble a million other identical films as much as possible.

    troll l to r gard b eidsvold as tobias, mads sjøgård pettersen as captain kris courtesy of netflix © 2022

    Photo credit: Francisco Munoz

    It’s dreadful to have to talk with so little enthusiasm about a film where there’s a troll as tall as the building opposite (mine is lower, it’s only three floors) who smashes things with his big feet. But on the other hand if we took out the troll and put in a giant werewolf lamp we’d probably get the same movie. That more than a film is now a formula: “it doesn’t matter from which remote corner of the world your legend comes from, come to Hollywood and after a film with us you will be unrecognizable!”. Mind you, there are far worse ways to spend an hour and forty. But there are also better ways to take a local legend and make it the subject of a film: I am in favor of the return of folklore to the cinema, much less its homologation.

Troll, how to take a monster and make it look like a puppet