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Netflix’s Explosive Monster Movie Troll Is A Whole New Twist On Godzilla

“You may have thought it was all about special effects,” Norway’s prime minister tells her nation in a televised address at the end of the Netflix import action flick. Troll, referring to news footage of a gigantic troll touring the country. “But this is not a fairy tale,” she says. “That is real.” There’s a flash of meta-humor in that line, because the monster, with its busy beard, bulbous nose, and scowling expression, really does look like a cartoonish but well-crafted special effect. There’s just no particularly realistic way to depict a 50-meter humanoid creature made of “dirt and stone”, leaving Godzilla-style destruction in its wake. Yet, Troll (not to be confused with the 1986 American horror film of the same name, or its unrelated, notoriously terrible all-time sequel) is more of a heartfelt monster movie than an exercise in irony.

The self-aware aspect of a movie character who insists his film’s story is “real” aside, the film’s troll is not a fairy tale creature reimagined with the quasi-scientific explanations of a techno thriller or echo. -90s style mess. movie, or restyled to look more natural. It looks like it could have stepped out of a storybook. And despite his use of Norse mythology, Troll owes as much to American disaster movies as it does to old Japanese kaiju pictures.

In his home country, director Roar Utah has made a slasher movie, a children’s Christmas play, and a historical thriller. But he’s probably best known for Wavea full-scale disaster movie, and his sleek, muscular tomb Raider reboot starring Alicia Vikander. In other words, she has dabbled in Hollywood-style entertainment several times, in her home country and abroad. TrollI like it Wave, feels like a scaled-down version of a Roland Emmerich blockbuster. Specifically, it resembles Emmerich’s 1998 version of Godzillareconfigured for greater speed and efficiency.

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That can sound cheap at best and deeply unnecessary at worst. But there are plenty of advantages to getting rid of Hollywood-approved bloat while maintaining a kind of gee-whiz energy. For one thing, Troll cuts to the chase: When a mysterious incident leaves a trail of what look like giant footprints in the Norwegian countryside, paleontologist Nora Tidemann (Ine Marie Wilmann) is called in by the government for consultation. Nora, in turn, is reunited with her estranged father, Tobias (Gard B. Eidsvold), a former folklore professor who has disappeared down a rabbit hole due to his fervent belief in the existence of the mountain trolls. (The conspiracy-mistaken weirdo who turns out to be right is another trope beloved of Emmerich, and one that could likely stand a temporary retirement.)

The gigantic moss-covered stone feet of a troll are stamped into flower pots in the middle of a night-time city street in 2022's Troll

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Image: Jallo Faber/Netflix

The father-daughter material is pretty sparse, as are the characters’ secondary allies: government nerd Andreas (Kim Falck), military man Kris Holm (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen), and token hacker Sigrid (Karoline Viktoria Sletteng Garvang). . But the mini set also has a nice, unpretentious warmth. Even his sillier bits of comic relief are more grounded than the loud caricatures favored by Emmerich or Michael Bay. Similarly, the film refuses to impose a high-tech McGuffin on its monster-movie simplicity: a giant troll is heading towards Oslo for reasons humans can’t understand. (At least up to around the standard two-thirds of the movie mark.) They need to stop him from stomping on people, and they’re not sure how to do it.

This lack of a clear objective stagnates TrollThe dramatic impulse of some points. It’s hard to get involved in the mandatory clash between outsiders and the military when neither side seems to have an opinion on what’s best to do in this situation, or even what the options are. kill the troll? Study it? Make you a friend? This is not a film of richly rendered sci-fi moral dilemmas, because the troll remains firmly in the realm of fairy tales turned reality.

Sometimes, Troll it seems like he’s chiding the very idea that monster movies could require any form of depth or metaphor. Trolls, for example, are said to have revolted against the Christianization of Norway a thousand years ago. Sure enough, this resurrected troll recoils at the sound of church bells and can apparently smell Christian blood. But ultimately, the film doesn’t make much of these historically embedded details, in terms of how they relate to fears or clashing cultures. At one point, a character we barely know gives a moving speech to a group of characters we don’t know at all, as if a bit of inspiring shouting about not giving in to fear evoked a theme of the material that seems actively averse to symbolism or subtext.

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A top-down photo of an immense troll footprint punched deep into a grassy field, with tiny human figures examining it from the side, in Troll 2022

Image: Jallo Faber/Netflix

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On that same simple level, however, Troll It’s a well-made giant monster movie: the special effects look good, Uthaug’s camera legibly captures the action, and the monster has incredible destructive power that he renders as if trolls are cranky animals rather than spiteful villains. Even the official introduction of the monster, some 30 minutes into the movie, is handled as a clever framing trick, rather than the subject of endlessly drawn-out Spielbergian awe. Roar Uthaug is not a director who seems destined for grander epics, and that’s one of his best qualities. He makes polished B-movies without the A-list delusions of grandeur.

Troll is streaming on Netflix now.

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