Norway’s first major creature feature has a lot to recommend it. Here’s what our movie reviewer thought of Troll on Netflix.
Soon after its release on 1 December, the new Norwegian film Troll shot straight to the top spot of the most-watched movies chart on Netflix. The response on social media has also been positive.
So what is Troll all about? Does it rank as one of the best Norwegian movies or is the hype just hype? Let's take a look.
As always, this movie review might contain information that some people consider to be a spoiler. I’ve obviously kept it to a minimum, with any major twists or plot points staying secret. But if you’ve ever seen a monster movie before, and have a decent knowledge of troll mythology, then you can pretty much guess exactly what’s going to happen anyway!
Quick plot summary
“You have to see it to believe it. Isn’t that what they say?
It’s the other way around. You have to believe it to be able to see it.”
A young girl and her father are looking at the mountains and reminiscing about fairy tales. He encourages her to believe in the old stories about trolls. Twenty years later the girl, now a grown woman, Nora Tidemann, is a paleontologist, digging for fossils on the West coast.
Watch: The Trailer for Troll
In the Dovre mountains of central Norway, workers are trying to build a tunnel for the railroad. They face stiff opposition from protestors who believe it’s damaging the natural environment. Undeterred they carry on and lay their explosives.
Shortly after the blast they hear supernatural cries emanating from the tunnel and then…something comes chasing them out, destroying everything in its path.
The government gathers to discuss the evidence – an aerial photo of a huge crater followed by what appear to be giant footprints leading away from the scene. This leads them to call in a ‘creature expert’ – and yes, you guessed it, Nora Tidemann is their only hope!
Nora doesn’t want to believe it’s a troll that has been unleashed. Her own father who we saw at the start, now very much estranged, worked as a Professor of Folklore and was eventually driven quite mad by his belief in such things. But Nora realises that he might be their only hope if the creature they’re up against is really what it seems.
I’ll start by saying I found Troll to be entertaining enough, without blowing me away. It’s not really stretching the genre at all, and it’s not treading a new path except for the fact that it’s a Troll rather than a giant lizard or ape!
The CGI effects are first rate. Some of the best I’ve ever seen in a Norwegian movie and almost the best I’ve seen in a creature feature at all. The monster looks as if it’s genuinely real, and will certainly strike make scary viewing for kids.
The acting too is pretty good. Ine Marie Wilmann plays Nora Tidemann with exactly the right level of eye-rolling at the stupid decisions being made by the people surrounding her. Kim Falck plays Andreas Isaksen as a slightly out of his depth advisor to the Prime Minister whose job it is to accompany Nora in pursuit of the troll.
As with all such movies, the military make an appearance and, rather than the gung-ho US-style that we’re used to this is a much more thoughtful and restrained military, as you might expect from Norwegians. Don’t get me wrong, they still make the same old mistakes, but they look less stupid doing it! Here they’re mostly represented by Mads Sjøgård Pettersen whose Kaptein Kris puts a handsome and rugged face on the action.
The film works best when it’s leaning into the aspects of Norse mythology that make the troll of the title unique amongst giant movie monsters. I tend to agree with a few other reviewers that if it did it more it could be a much better movie.
Overall, though, I was happy to sit and let the action wash over me, laugh at the silly jokes, marvel at the big monster and wait for them to tell me how exactly they were going to deal with this huge supernatural threat to the nation of Norway.
The movie has a rating of 12 so it’s fine for kids over that age but avoid showing it to younger ones unless you know they can handle it. There’s a little bad language, violence and death but there’s not much in the way of gore so you won’t see blood spurting all over!
Troll mythology in the movie
There’s a few more spoilers in here so skip this section if you haven’t watched the movie and don’t want any details beforehand.
Norway is synonymous with trolls, to the point where you can hardly go anywhere in the country without seeing the little figurines for sale to tourists who want to take a piece of mythology home. So, it’s not surprising that trolls also make an appearance in a great many movies that are made in or based in the country or steeped in Norse mythology.
One thing we know about trolls is that they can smell the blood of Christians. This is something that’s played to great effect in the movie where the troll suddenly senses someone and it cuts to that person praying.
Other fairy tales tell of how trolls and repelled by bells and, of course, this becomes a major plot point in Troll. The bells related to Christianity so those two themes are connected. We get a brief history that shows that the Christianisation of Norway was what did for the trolls originally as they were ruthlessly hunted down.
The final troll-lore is that trolls can’t be exposed to light or they’ll turn to stone. This gets subverted in the movie and actually makes for a better experience.
A brief and incomplete history of creature features
The creature feature is a genre that has been around for decades and this is the troll’s first outing as a rampaging beast. Probably the first giant creature movie was King Kong, released by RKO in 1933 and starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot.
The genre really took hold in Japan where the movies, and sometimes the creatures, are known as Kaiju or ‘strange beast’. Widely regarded to be the first Kaiju feature, Godzilla kicked the genre off on the big screen in 1954. Elements had existed in movies before but this is the first with an original Japanese creature front and centre.
Other Kaiju include Mothra, the giant moth, Gamera, the giant fire-breathing turtle and Rodan, a kind of colossal Pteranodon. As well as these there are also mechanical creatures known as Mecha-Kaiju such as Mechani-Kong and Mechagodzilla.
All of these characters have appeared in countless outings on the big screen, either alone or together. Most recently, 2021’s Godzilla vs Kong gave us an updated glimpse of what happens when two of these giant creatures get annoyed with each other!
How to watch Troll around the world
This Netflix original movie should be available to watch in most countries. If, like most of the world, Norwegian is not your first language then fear not!
If, like me, you like to hear the movie in its original form and read translated subtitles then you have the options of 34 languages English, Arabic, French, German, European and American Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. There are also many smaller languages such as Basque and Catalan, showing that Netflix care about bringing this experience to as many people as possible.
There’s also a Closed Caption version in English, Italian and Norwegian Bokmål. These not only show dialogue but describe the important sounds so they help hearing impaired viewers get a better sense of what’s going on.
You might choose to listen in your own language, and that’s fine too! There are dubs in English, Ukrainian, Polish, Hindi, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Spanish (European and American), Filipino, German, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Thai and Turkish.
There are also Audio Described version in Norwegian, French, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Italian and both types of Spanish. Similar to the CC version of subtitles, these describe the action so that blind and partially sighted viewers get a more complete idea of the action on screen.
In other words, that’s a huge percentage of the Netflix-enabled world that can enjoy the movie in their own language. This list has grown since I started writing the review a few days ago and so more may be added as time goes on.
Who is Roar Uthaug?
Troll is the latest movie from acclaimed Norwegian director Roar Uthaug. Not only does he have the best name for a director of creature movies, but he has also started to build a pretty impressive resumé.
Roar attended the Norwegian Film School in Innlandet and graduated in 2002. Starting his career strongly, his graduation film, The Martian Administration, was nominated for a Student Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This was, in fact, only the second Norwegian student film in history to be nominated for this award.
After graduating, Roar went to work for Fantefilm, directing mostly commercials and music videos. His debut feature film, the slasher movie Cold Prey (Fritt Vilt), was hailed by reviewers as one of the best modern Norwegian horror movies.
A Christmas kids movie called Magic Silver (Julenatt I Blåfjell) followed, before a return to adult filmmaking came in the form of 2012’s Escape (Flukt). This movie about trying to flee from bandits in 14th century Norway following the Black Death was very well reviewed.
After Escape came The Wave (Bølgen), which was Norway’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 88th Academy Awards. This disaster film is often regarded as Norway’s first in this genre. Based on historic events, it shows what could happen if a cliff collapses into a fjord and creates a huge tsunami.
Following on from The Wave, Roar was chosen as the director of the 2018 reboot of the Tomb Raider series starring Swedish actress Alicia Vikander. The movie got very mixed reviews and so far no sequel has been forthcoming.
This brings us up to date, and Troll is a movie that Roar has had at the back of his mind since he first graduated 20 years ago. It’s great to see that his longstanding thoughts have finally been brought to life with the help of Netflix.
As we have said before, the Norwegian film industry is really going from strength to strength and Troll is an example of this. A few years back, there would have been little appetite for a Norwegian big-budget monster movie about trolls and, more importantly, no one who had the directing skills to make it happen.
Troll is not a perfect movie but it’s an enjoyable watch, critics rate it quite highly and it’s yet another example of how a Scandinavian flavour can be enough on its own to reinvigorate a genre. Hopefully Troll will not be the only big movie to come out of Norway over the coming few years.
Have you watched Troll on Netflix yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.