Troll Hunter – the Banality of Heroism

I recently watched Troll Hunter, a found-footage movie set in Sweden Scotland some european country Norway, which took a really interesting position on heroism. I talk about it below, with SPOILERS obviously, but really, just watch the movie. It’s 1 hour, 30 minutes, streaming on Netflix.

There’s a nigh-constant undercurrent of lowered expectations throughout the movie: Hans isn’t a dark denizen of the night protecting Norweigans from Trolls, he’s a government employee that’s sick of his job. Trolls aren’t the human-like brutes that will challenge you to an eating contest, they’re dumb animals that eat anything they can. The TSS isn’t some ultra-smooth shadowy government agency, it’s the type of organization that’ll pay some Russian ex-pats to steal a bear from a zoo and then stiff them on the payment. And on it goes.

The found-footage underscores how real this feels; the student filmmakers are withdrawn from the action for most of the movie, a Greek Chorus watching, doubting, and mocking almost everything Hans says. It takes away the reactions an audience member would have, and forces the viewer to skip the surprise and jump into the facts of the world.The students get to give fourth-wall breaking wide-eyed glances at the camera, which underscores how boring Hans finds his job, and makes his viewpoint more intriguing. They find it fascinating, so why doesn’t he?

While so much of the movie seems devoted to undercutting the excitement of a supernatural defense force, the locations of nearly every scene are breathtakingly beautiful. Vast forests, highways that slide unobtrusively along the sides of hills, massive snowy plateaus, almost every location could anchor a scene in a real documentary even before the (very well-made) CGI Trolls appear.

The scenery highlights the triumph of the natural over the supernatural.The Trolls haven’t been going wild because of some ancient prophecy or apocalypse: they’ve got rabies. Hans might as well be a neighborhood dog catcher for all of Norway, except instead of a tranquilizer gun, he has high-powered flashlights. There’s something really impressive about a movie that consistently rejects the trappings of a genre while remaining an enjoyable film.

Other thoughts I had in no particular order:

  • The vet who worked with Hans and empathized with the trolls was a nice addition. Her relationship with Hans and their competing philosophies was a nice subtle way to build a deeper universe without hitting you over the head.
  • Those Russian guys that got bears for the Norwegian government were hilarious.
  • Kalle was a huuuuuuge asshole.
  • James Stokoe’s poster for the movie singlehandedly made me want to see it.

Troll Hunter James Stokoe

Did you see the movie? Sound off in the comments, let’s talk about it. I feel like there’s more to unpack.

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