Theatrical Review: TrollHunter
As our story begins, we’re told that this is puled from over 7 hours of video footage shot by three Norwegian film students. These students are shooting footage first around what seems to be a rash of killings caused by bears around Norway. As they dig deeper, they find out about one particular hunter who’s not quite like all the rest and in fact resented by the bear hunters. The students, Thomas, Johanna and Kalle decide to follow this one hunter around and find out what’s up. This hunter, Hans, only goes out at night and so one evening the students follow him and get way more than they expect when they find that Hans hunts for Trolls, the great creatures of Nordic myth.
That’s the premise of TrollHunter and this is one hell of a lot of fun.
Now, I already see something with it that’s a potential turn off to a lot of folks, and that’s the fact that this film is the type that’s made of “found footage,” the same type of movie as films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity. Some out there have a definite bias against these types of movies immediately. Mostly, at least from what I understand, it’s because of the rampant handheld photography and the idea that there’s something inherent in them that doesn’t always seem “true.” Well, I love these sorts of films, I love their sense of immediacy and Iove the tricks that they play with some of the visual effects to pull off the reality of their situations. I tend to think that TrollHunter could be a movie that’s more appealing to the naysayers of this style, mostly because of the film’s actual story content and also by the fact that’s use of “found footage” seems to be more measured. Yeah, there are those scenes of people running with the camera out of position, they need to be here, but it’s not as rampant as one would think.
More importantly though are just the ideas that are present, the nods to Nordic myth are true, but as things are uncovered, its set against a Men In Black type of milieu. Finding out the “true” story of the existence of Trolls is just fun as can be, and hearing the measures that are taken to keep them under control is even more entertaining. It may be presented as “found footage,” but there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality that creates a very entertaining offset to that.
Another potential turn-off that I could see is in the look of the Trolls. Now again, for me, this isn’t any problem at all. I absolutely loved the look of the Trolls and I’m quite amazed by the visual effects used to bring them to life. Their look, at least to me, is more rooted in fantasy illustration than anything else and thus they may not be “real” enough for some viewers. But as I said, I loved their look, putting me in the mind of Jim Henson creations on a massive scale. It’s a lower budget film, but it doesn’t look it at all.
Now there are also some distinct tonal shifts, and if this was an American made movie, they’d probably bother me more. Because it is Norwegian and me not being a part of that culture, I’m way more forgiving of that here. It can also be explained away as well, simply by the fact given at the start that it’s taken from over 7 hours of footage and so whoever “assembled” this footage, just didn’t see that as a necessity to what they wanted to tell.
Otto Jesperson plays Hans and I can only imagine that right now in Norway, he might be as big as say a Russell Crowe or Christian Bale is here. His Hans is just so cool, this is his everyday life and it’s his job, but there’s still something to the guy that makes these students want to follow him around. But that “something” isn’t just confined to the kids, as I certainly thought he was extremely magnetic and as this goes along, there’s way more revealed in subtle ways beyond the surface.
The young actors who follow him are also quite good, Glenn Erland Tosterud, Johanna Mørck, and Tomas Alf Larsen (Thomas, Johanna and Kalle, respectively) play the students with real interest and a good nature that I found appealing.
TrollHunter is currently being offered by Magnet Releasing as a Pay-Per-View movie through most cable operations and just got a limited release theatrically as of June 10th (only showing up here in St. Louis this weekend). Magnet also did this with what I think is the best movie I’ve seen all year (so far) with Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins. My cable company is offering this up at $5.99 to watch at home in High Definition. I think that’s great if you’ve no other avenue to see the film (and more than likely, much like more of Magnet’s releases, this should show up on Netflix Instant Play in a few months), but if you have the opportunity to see it theatrically on a big screen, that’s the way I’d urge you to see it. I would expect that If I saw this at home first, I still would’ve enjoyed it. Seeing it theatrically on a large screen without the distractions of home viewing makes it even more special.
TrollHunter is just one hell of a good time. American director Chris Columbus has the rights to remake this for American audiences and who knows, it may very well be a good movie when it happens. I can’t help but have visions though of a Robin Williams in the part of Hans and all of the kids having this snarky side that at least to me might kill some of the charm that’s in the Norwegian original. But like I said, who knows? I’ve been surprised before and Columbus certainly might surprise me with a remake. Still, if you have interest in this, then I’d urge you to seek out the original and see this the way director André Øvredal has intended. TrollHunter is highly, highly recommended.