Thursday, May 5, 2011

DOWNLOAD: Troll Hunter

Norway, 2010. Supposedly in US & Canada cinemas this summer.

In Dungeons & Dragons, the Troll has always been a skinny creature with green bumpy skin and a grassy knoll as a head – think the green hag Meg in Tom Cruise’s Legend. But in fairy tales they are normally large, lumbering creatures with big warty noses, baritone voices and a fondness for sitting under bridges eating billy goats or passersby who will not pay a toll. They have a strong allergy to sunlight. They are often inter-changeable with giants. They all emerge from Nordic and Scandinavian legends but have spread to most of Europe. In Norway the creatures have been cutified, essentially turned into cuddly little hairy creatures akin to garden gnomes. I won’t bring up the multi-colored troll doll of collecting infamy.

I prefer the large, lumpy sun-to-stone version of a troll. He’s scary, hates Christians and will probably eat you even if you pay the toll. And in the movie Troll Hunter, a Norwegian mockumentary out this year, they are even scarier. It’s your familiar found-footage film (wee alliteration!) about a documentary crew who uncover something they shouldn’t and we get to follow along to the inevitable outcome.

Our local university film crew wants to make a small controversial documentary on bear poaching in rural Norway. They have been told by a contact about a potential poacher and follow him, seeking a put-on-the-spot interview. He just tells them to go away. Of course, they follow him and end up meeting his real prey – the not so legendary trolls of Norway. It seems the government has an agency that keeps an eye on the various races of trolls, watching them for out of character behavior and even killing them if they become dangerous to the people of the countryside. Frustrated with some of the agency’s actions when dealing with some naughty monsters, the troll hunter invites the documentary crew along with him. And the footage they get !! But alas, for the footage to be found, things have to go wrong.

The plot is thin but the thing here is that we want to see great CGI trolls. And of course, a detail guy like me wants to hear the background behind the agencies and the particulars of the trolls. There are forest trolls and mountain trolls, some with multiple vestigial heads and some that live in caves. And then there are some that bring whole new meaning to the word giant.

What disappointed me was that the names given to the races of trolls were probably made up for the movie, as I can find no evidence of the names Raglefant, Tussealadd, Rimtusse or Dovregubben in any folk-lore sites. But it could just be the English translation.

The movie was satisfying enough to be enjoyable but like all mockumentaries it has its hands tied in the chosen format. There is limited characterization and one character has to be essentially invisible. The deus ex machine they use to fix the format, when things go terribly wrong for the crew, is laughable. In the end up I just wanted to see more Trolls on camera, to be given slow detailed plodding footage like you might get on animal planet. They didn’t need a subplot of a corrupt government agency & the disillusioned hunter but it was the vehicle to get the hunter and crew together. I would have been satisfied if the hunter dragged along the crew just because he wanted someone to see how good he was at what he did. And we could have wandered along with everyone to see how fascinating a 400’ monster can be.