TROLL. Norwegians also have their “kaiju”
We most often associate Norse mythology with Odin or Thor, the gods who rule Asgard, or Loki, the mischievous god of mischief and deceit. But other magical and supernatural creatures also appear in Norse legends, and among them there are trolls – human-shaped mountain creatures who despise both humans and gods. Nordic trolls have already appeared in the works of Scandinavian filmmakers – André Øvredal’s Trollhunter (2010) is worth mentioning, and now, with Roar Uthaug’s Troll, produced for Netflix, they are making their way into wide distribution.
The director of The Wave (2015) and the latest cinematic incarnation of Lara Croft has taken one of Scandinavia’s stronger folk themes and dressed it up in the convention of disaster cinema. Troll is not a horror film, although it is undoubtedly not for viewers other than adults – the titular monster is unlikely to be interested in making friends with the characters in Uthaug’s film, and great special effects make the monstrosity look as spectacular as it is terrifying. But that’s exactly the point – the director meticulously recreates the entire relay of disaster cinema, with tension-building “reveal shots” at the forefront (with the number of which Uthaug exaggerated a tad), and the troll takes on the role often played by alien invaders (e.g. Independence Day) or violent natural phenomena (e.g. The Day After Tomorrow). Also, the composition of the team playing first fiddle in Troll is quite obvious here.
So we have the acclaimed lady paleontologist, Nora Tidemann (Ine Marie Wilmann), who fills the SCIENTIST drawer, as well as her somewhat detached father Tobias (Gard B. Eidsvold), who is the obligatory LOONY WITH KNOWLEDGE. Add to that the NOBLE SOLDIER, Captain Kristoffer Holm (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen) and the somewhat dorky but HELPFUL POLITICIAN (Kim Falck), and there before you is born a real “fellowship of the ring”, which is to save this time not the world, but the noble land of Norway. As is, of course, easy to predict, upon encountering the troll, our brave team encounters extreme skepticism from government representatives (the army, thanks to Captain Kris, is on the right side), whom they struggle to persuade to approve the rather experimental ideas of fighting the troll. One of the scenes, in which the young scientist Nora has to clash with the precocious theories of older scientists, is as if taken vividly from Polish High Water, where the main character also had to deal with outdated scientific theories. There, however, it was all about realism, while in Troll everything is immersed in the mysticism of Scandinavian legends, although, of course, Nora’s mind of a scientist fights strenuously with a heart in love with native folklore.
Troll is undoubtedly impressive in terms of production design – a not inconsiderable budget is evident here, and Uthaug, who already proved with The Wave that he feels extremely comfortable in disaster cinema, knows what to do with the invested funds. It was a good decision to focus the action around a single antagonist instead of the whole “tribe” of trolls – this way it was possible to “spice up” the character of the mountain giant and make him look impressive. Jallo Faber’s cinematography provides dynamism and momentum, while Johannes Ringen’s musical accompaniment – with Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” making an obligatory, thematically consistent appearance – gives the show a suitably “catastrophic” atmosphere. Narratively, however, it is already much less impressive – the story told in Troll is so clichéd that it would be enough to swap the main creature for Godzilla to turn Uthaug’s film into another installment of the classic kaiju series.
But it’s worth reaching for Troll, if only to see that powerful Hollywood studios don’t have a monopoly on spectacular “monster movies” – they can be made in Europe, too.