Troll: Norwegian monster film is slick but light on Scandi folklore

(From left) Mads Sjøgård Pettersen as Captain Kris, Kim Falck as Andreas, and Ine Marie Wilmann as Nora in a still from Troll, directed by Roar Uthaug
PHOTO: Netflix

3/5 stars

The recent surge of effects-heavy disaster movies emanating from Norway finally delivers its own King Kong variant in Troll, a slick, yet somewhat derivative monster movie from The Wave director Roar Uthaug.

Ine Marie Wilmann stars as a renegade palaeontologist who must convince the government that the country's capital, Oslo, is under threat from a mythological giant.

While the effects work is first-rate and the action efficiently handled, there is a frustrating lack of Scandinavian specificity on display, with Uthaug more eager to emulate blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Godzilla than introduce international viewers to his homeland's unique folkloric threats.

When construction of a railway tunnel through Norway's Dovre Mountains awakens a mysterious destructive force, prime minister Moberg (Anneke von der Lippe) is told that the damage may be the result of seismic activity or even some form of terrorist attack.

However, a series of bizarre indentations in the earth resembling giant footprints prompts her to turn instead to the expertise of palaeontologist Nora Tidemann (Wilmann), only for the scientist's hypothesis to fall on deaf ears.

Teamed with Andreas (Kim Falck), a bumbling government official, Nora is forced to turn for help to her estranged father, disgraced professor of Nordic folklore Tobias Tidemann (Gard B. Eidsvold). He raised her to believe in trolls and other fairy-tale creatures, but her need for scientific truth has since driven the pair apart.

Uthaug, who co-wrote the script for Troll with screenwriter Espen Aukan, is part of a contingent of technologically adept and commercially driven Nordic filmmakers to have broke onto the international stage in the past decade.

As with contemporaries such as Tommy Wirkola (Violent Night) and Andre Ovredal (Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark), Uthaug has gained experience in Hollywood (he directed 2018's Tomb Raider reboot), but remains eager to return to his native soil to create locally based genre fare of a comparable technical level.

The Wave (2015) was every bit the equal of the type of post-Irwin Allen style disaster drama that German filmmaker Roland Emmerich has been churning out for years. Its sequel The Quake (2018), as well as 2021's The Burning Sea (released in Hong Kong earlier this year as The North Sea) continue this trend.

What is most frustrating about Troll – a film in which a lumbering, bottle-nosed giant marauds around Oslo sniffing out Christian victims – is how little it enlightens the audience about Norway's rich history of misunderstood and mistreated monsters.

Troll is streaming on Netflix.

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This article was first published in South China Morning Post.