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Stream It or Skip It?

Troll (now on Netflix) posits the burning question: What if Godzilla, but Norway? This film, from director Roar Uthaug (the 2018 Tomb Raider reboot), finds its origins in regional folklore, which asserts that giants made of earth and stone dwell in the mountains. These trolls are vulnerable to sunlight and can smell the blood of Christians, which inspires in them a nationalistic fervor that makes them angry and violent, so quick, everybody convert to paganism and maybe they’ll go away! But that isn’t what happens in this movie, not at all; if only it showed such creativity.

TROLL: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: THE TROLLPEAKS, ROMSDALEN. Those are mountains. Young Nora Tidemann (Ameli Olving Saelevik) and her pops Tobias (Gard B. Eidsvold) sit atop one of them, eyeing a gloriously beautiful rugged range. Tobias says if you believe really really hard, then it makes fairy tales come true – specifically, fairy tales about giant trolls stomping around out here yonder. Twenty years pass, and Nora (Ine Marie Wilmann) is now a paleontologist digging dinosaur bones out of the mud, and she’s estranged from her raving crazyman father. Elsewhere, the Ugly Progress of Industry dynamites a tunnel into a mountain for a new railway, and something awakens and lumbers forth from the darkest deeps like an unholy metaphor for manmade climate change. Anyone happen to know an expert on ancient folklore and who knows about things long buried in the earth that the government could call in for consultation?

Right. So Nora’s helicoptered to one of those top-secret high-tech underground bunker-headquarters to meet with the Concerned Prime Minister, a Stonefaced General, a Slimy Politician and a few other stereotypes. They pour over photos of things that look like massive footprints and civilian video of a weirdly human blur-shape smashing things, prompting the Slimy Politician to make a snide King Kong reference. This looks like a job for some weirdos with expertise in the arcane and a couple of unlikely allies who form a ragtag group of saviors who think outside the box because otherwise the heads of state would just fire nukes at the thing!

And so Nora embraces the opportunity to be de-estranged from her dad, who’s now a loony old coot in a cabin obsessing over trolls. Joining them is military captain Kris (Mads Sjogard Pettersen) and an advisor to the prime minister, Andreas (Kim Falck), and they zoom to the scenes of mass destruction so they can come within a hair’s breadth of being stomped by the giant troll, which has stone skin and tree roots for a beard and may or may not be anatomically correct, I just couldn’t bear to look that hard. Tanks and machine guns don’t faze the thing, so a more, say, holistic approach may be necessary. But can they come up with one before the troll turns Oslo to rubble? NØ SPØILERS!

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Troll is Andre Ovredal’s Trollhunter crossed with one of the newer Monsterverse Godzilla movies and the idiot aesthetic of a Roland Emmerich disaster movie, e.g., Independence Day or his 1998 Worst Godzilla Movie Ever.

Performance Worth Watching: Working with a prefab perforated-cardboard character, Wilmann gives off some endearing Kate Hudson-trapped-in-a-crummy-screenplay vibes here.

Memorable Dialogue: Prepare yourself for boilerplate cornball lines like this one from the P.M.’s national address: “You may have thought that these were special effects. But this is not a fairy tale. This is real.”

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: Slightly different setting, same old spectacle. Except this time, it’s a tick goofier than usual, since the beast is a BFG made out of rocks and dirt that would surely find the giants from The Green Knight very sexy. Uthaug and co-scripter Espen Aukan deploy cliches like a jackpotting slot machine: Monster stomps on the placid home of unsuspecting elderly hayseeds, nutty old coot ain’t so nutty after all, monster swats helicopters out of the air, timely use of a computer-hacker character, estranged father-daughter sentimental shlop, slackjawed citizens staring up at an unbelievable sight, governmental authority figures sitting at a long table and arguing, etc. Every single scene in Troll is cribbed wholesale from other movies, and very few of those other movies are any good.

Let’s be clear: Nobody’s taking any of this seriously. Credit Uthaug for maintaining a light tone without bivouacking in Campville, an effort that shouldn’t go unheeded. There’s a particularly amusing scene in which a bloodied soldier prays to his Christian god, therefore sealing his fate at the hands of the troll, and I couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had the guy been Muslim or Buddhist. It’s a puzzlement that a creature frequently described in the film as a “force of nature” would carry such a mortal prejudice – an idea that might’ve given Troll a hint of originality, but is unfortunately left unexplored. And so it chugs along uninspired, rife with cheesy one-liners, scads of references to classic sci-fi movies, ho-hum CG effects and nothing better than a few serviceable action sequences. This troll is a lame-o. Godzilla would whup his ass.

Our Call: SKIP IT. As a fan of the genre, I can say with confidence, if you’ve seen one giant-monster disaster movie, you haven’t seen them all. But Troll mostly makes you feel like you’ve seen them all.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.

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