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Troll movie review: Netflix’s spectacular new monster film blends Norwegian folklore with American blockbuster aesthetic

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Troll movie review: With a heart as big as the 'monster' at its centre, the new Netflix film from Tomb Raider director Roar Uthaug is old-fashioned entertainment that doesn't outstay its welcome.

Ine Marie Wilmann in a still from Troll. (Photo: Netflix)

A scientist, an eccentric, and a nerd walk into a bar. This could either be the premise of a joke you’ve heard before, or a 2000s era Roland Emmerich movie that you’ve seen a bunch of times already. Or both. But while Emmerich tries to disentangle himself from the longest string of flops in contemporary Hollywood history, he must make way for others to stake a claim on the spot that he vacated years ago.

Directed by the fabulously named Roar Uthaug, the new Norwegian language Netflix film Troll is a wonderful pastiche of American blockbusters — particularly those belonging to the post-Spielberg era dominated by directors like Emmerich, Michael Bay and Simon West. These films were populated by thinly written caricatures, littered with punchline-only dialogue, and despite being set in a recognisable reality — no Talokan in these movies, thank you very much — felt utterly unbelievable. And yet, they were so much fun.

Perhaps because he grew up on those films, Uthaug understands their raw appeal. The filmmaker gained international recognition with The Wave, an extremely well done disaster movie in the vein of Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow. Troll, on the other hand, combines elements of kaiju cinema — the ‘monster’ at the centre of this movie is alternately described as Godzilla and King Kong — with the earnest awe of the Jurassic Park series.

A scientist with daddy issues is summoned by the government when a mystical creature awakens from its slumber after 1000 years and tramples a village. Conveniently, the scientist’s estranged father happens to be a kooky conspiracy theorist — a combination of Randy Quaid’s character from Independence Day and Woody Harrelson’s character from 2012 — who has long believed in the existence of mountain trolls. They join forces with a cute soldier and a buttoned-up bureaucrat on a mission to save their country from, metaphorically, its own (pre-Christianity) past.

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But despite being blanketed by an air of predictability, Troll has a couple of monster-centric surprises up its sleeve that inject more emotional depth to the proceedings than the meek father-daughter arc. This late-period plot development might remind you of the classic video game Shadow of the Colossus. But revealing more about it here would be spoiling important story and character details, although those of you that are familiar with the game would now know exactly what to expect.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Uthaug has indicated that he enjoys video games as much as American action movies from the mid-2000s. He combined both aesthetics in his last feature, 2018’s Tomb Raider reboot — the sort of bland film that Hollywood hands out to most foreign filmmakers looking to break into the American big leagues. Worst case scenario, our very own SS Rajamouli might find himself at the helm of a similar property in a couple of years; he has, after all, publicly voiced his affection for another video game franchise, Prince of Persia.

But for Troll to have been released (as expected, without fanfare) on Netflix won’t do it, or Uthaug, any favours. And this isn’t even a call for it to have been screened in theatres, where it would’ve probably played even better, thanks to its grand scale. It’s a more of a comment on just how anonymous movies become when they’re silently dumped on streaming; it’s almost disrespectful how few people know that this film exists, let alone that it is out and available to watch.

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Better films than Troll have been treated more unfairly in this day and age. But in many ways, this is exactly the kind of goofy movie that you’d watch with your buddies after a long day. The characters are clearly defined, the tone is good-natured, and the visual effects are genuinely seamless. Uthaug often places his camera at ground level, and actively adheres to the laws of physics. For instance, the camera always feels like it’s attached to an invisible crane or a helicopter; it never feels like it’s floating in thin air, unattended. This roots the action choreography in a reality that is frequently absent in even the far-more-expensive Marvel movies.

Troll doesn’t warrant repeat viewings, of course. It’s not that kind of film. But it deserves to be appreciated for its craft, and (even if it makes you feel old) its nostalgic tone.

Troll
Director – Roar Uthaug
Cast – Ine Marie Wilmann, Kim Falck, Mads Sjøgård Pettersen, Gard B. Eidsvold
Rating – 3.5/5

First published on: 02-12-2022 at 16:13 IST
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