Review: Trollhunters: Rise of the Titians
I have done a review for this series before. I am not sure why, but animated Dreamworks shows done on Netflix are just really something I enjoy, from the shows that are in their cannon to How To Train Your Dragon's series, The Dragon Prince, and Camp Cretaceous, I enjoy Netflix/Dreamworks Animation shows. So when I saw the trailer for the new movie, I was excited. I was and yet was disappointed.
Some spoilers ahead, I'll warn you, but I'll try to avoid them as much as I can, but to give an honest review and my critiques on it so you can better enjoy the story as well as apply it to your analysis or writing of stories, the ending will be talked about as well as middle features, but I'll mark them as a spoiler section so you can skip over them if you wish.
I felt it started strong. It set up character weaknesses quickly to make us worry about them and put the main hero we all care for most, our Trollhunter Jim Lake, in the position of leader and yet weakest link. Which was done very well. They also introduced what caused the change very quickly in what we saw from the end of their Wizard series. I honestly saw an Avengers parallel in how they handled their opening, and I was stoked. One thing I love about the Avengers series (from Iron man to Endgame, not including the new stuff yet) is they let us know it's okay to have characters fail, and not just small ways, but in big ones too. And even more, they helped us know it's okay to kill off characters and LEAVE THEM DEAD, but more on that later. And they set that up well.
I thought they did a great job, at first, being willing to surrender characters and big ones. That i loved. They did a great job with callbacks, hilariousness with the comic relief, but also keeping true to the core of the story. If you like my works or things like it, I highly recommend checking it out. You can enjoy the movie stand-alone, but it will be much better if you've watched at least the Trollhunters series and the Wizards short series first. It's like watching the Avengers stand alone. It is good on its own but better with help.
SPOILERS SECTION: Not going to lie, this is going to be the longest section I think because it's where I start to rant. Because I was actually very impressed with the film going through it. They split up their characters to fight the different titans and each one losing a member due to some character flaw. They did a good job picking ones that would be sad and help us, the viewers, really feel the pain and tragedy of the losses but not ones that would rip our hearts out. For example, being wise that people would get mad if they killed the kitty-looking one, they chose to just have him be trapped in a troll market without the ability to get out ever again. But it hurt because... sure he's alive and with his dad, but we lost him, so it still hurts. And they killed off characters we'd known a long time that also rip our hearts out
Though Strickler's death was too fast and... honestly trying to set up how sad his death is in the movie alone, was not great. It only worked for those who watched trollhunters because we loved him, hated him, loved to hate him, then loved him. But the movie only throws in a slight moment of him announcing he's going to get married to Jim's mom and some quick lines to establish Jim and him are close then... that's it. That little bit wasn't enough for stand-alone. I think a scene where maybe we saw him and Jim have a better interaction would have been far better. But still, the direction they took with this was fine, and I was enjoying it. I was thinking this is along the same lines as the avengers and pulled all the right strings. I was impressed.
I was more impressed when they fixed their mistake at the end of the Trollhunters series. Jim's power as a human trollhunter was all about his ability to have a team whereas trollhunters of the past were stand-alone. And I felt the ending of the trollhunters series didn't close out that theme. It actually said standing alone was better. So that bothered me. But the movie fixes that perfectly. And sure, he alone has to stand and fight the big baddy, but he needed his team to do it. And that was beautiful, tied up the themes, and it was amazing. I was ready to give this four and a half to five stars.
But then the five-star moment came when, in the end, the character who'd been with Jim the longest (and we'd had hints he was going to bite the dust with how often they said to each other they will always be there for each other. When that happens, watch out, that guy gonna die.) And sure enough, in order to save the day, the character we'd known as long as Jim... had to die. He sacrificed himself to save the world. He gets a lovely final elegy moment that was cheesy, but the right amount for the show's tone and the character. Boom. Five stars, he goes out like Tony Stark. The movie ends with our heroes, like most all heroes are, battle-scarred, losing loved ones whose sacrifice will be treasured, but filled with hope and the power to rebuild the world.
Or... not. And this is where the rant comes in. The movie wasn't perfect, but it hit the proper notes enough to give it five stars. Until... they pull the "its a dream" moment. So if you haven't seen it, I'll have to explain. So our beloved Toby dies, the characters are torn up. The voice acting and animation is awesome, tears, anger, throwing cars in pain, the whole bit. But then the time device rolls over to Jim. They realize they can put that stone into the trollhunter amulet and reverse time and make a new timeline where everyone lives.
I'm not kidding. And guess what, we'll NEVER get to see that timeline because this movie was designed to wrap it up. We get a glimpse at it, don't get me wrong, but it just raised new questions. How would the world be saved if the amulet now chooses Toby because Jim makes it so? Like... if Toby COULD be the trollhunter and SHOULD why didn't it before? The show said why it chose Jim and not a troll or another human over and over and over .So... what's changed? Is Jim still a trollhunter with the other amulet that was made? How do the events of the shows go now things are completely different? We'll never know. And that is frustrating.
It's why I'm wary of the Marvel universe going forward. When you end a story, it feels done and complete. IF you press forward, you run into problems. I mean, they want money, I get revamping with new heroes, but... it still runs into problems as we see with the shows so far. I'm still holding judgment on that because maybe they can make it work, but it makes some moments feel cheaper. Loki is the biggest one. But with the new Marvel direction... we'll get to see it. Not so with Trollhunters, and even if they did, I don't think it would work.
If we look at the three series that make up the cannon of this final movie, one thing becomes clear, it's the fantasy that takes people;'s attention. Eight Below, the alien's story, did not gain nearly as many good reviews, fans, or views as Trollhunters did. When they made Wizards, it was right up there with trollhunters, but not as high. And the main reason most people said was, they wanted their hero back. Jim Lake was the character we'd wanted to follow through the adventures, and we felt his story wasn't done. The other interconnected characters just didn't keep our attention as much. All but one... Toby who we lose but... don't at the end of the movie.
This is the kind of mistake that would happen if they brought back Tony Stark for example. Yes, he is great and we love him. but when you bring someone like that back, it invalidates the sacrifice and the pain we as an audience felt for his death. Think of Thor being so mad at Loki for fake dying a million times. And NO ONE believed Loki's death was final, and I can tell you why but that's for another day. And bringing even a different universe version of him back for the show invalidates a lot of the pain we, as the audience felt, over his death (if you felt any at all as none of us bought he was dead anyway.)
And this film ended the series with a kind of... meh feeling because of this. There is a beauty to a story that ends with fallen loved ones along the way. The "I am Four" series I really admire for this reason. I love that it shows those scars. I feel like they could have left more to the imagination to really help that take off, but it was good. Hunger Games did the same. Then, of course, the current king (if they don't kill it) Endgame. Yes, we saved a lot of lost loved ones, but... we lost others. And that is beautiful, real, and touches our hearts.
There is a reason Tony's snap is going down in history along with "Luke, I am your father." Because it was sad, but it's what some people call a safe sad. I'm sure I'll go into that one day in the future, but it's why readers still read the books that rip our hearts out. In fact, we love them. Game of Thrones got MORE views after killing off someone the audience loved. Readers make fun of themselves for reading books where authors just rip their hearts out. But we didn't boycott the author and stop reading, even if we knew more pain was coming. Why?
To use Pixar's "Inside Out" to help get this across, we all have some sadness in us. And in our lives, tragedy will strike it. And when we deal with "safe grief" like the kind we get from a movie or book death, it not only helps make us stronger to prepare for when it happens in real life, it's kind of healing. The little sadness emoji person in our brain feels healthy and exercised. And it helps us be emotionally healthy. Now that's a WAY simplified version of the current condenses on this idea, but books, movies, and shows that play on this, are the ones we love and remember.
In Harry Potter, only Harry comes back. Tony Stark, (please keep this) stays dead, and not one person in Hunger Games, Divergent, Game of Thrones, Avatar the Last Air Bender or other popular pop-culture stories do. It's a powerful thing.
And... Trollhunters was ABOUT to end with that same power, but missed the mark, big time. It literally hurt to see them take the "it's a dream, this is the bad ending, don't worry Jim makes a good ending in a new timeline".
WE HATE THAT! If you have ever seen the movie "Next" with Nicholas Cage, I think you know what I mean. Fun movie, but when EVERYTHING we just saw turns out to be a "Dream" we feel cheated. And that's what Trollhunters did. Now... if you continued the story... maybe you can get away with it, but it invalidates what came before. It's also part of the prequel problem. Sometimes, those prequels can inadvertently invalidate the original story as much as a squeal can.
END OF SPOILERS: And that's Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans review from Charity Mae. I hope you enjoyed it or at least found it helpful. You have any questions or comments leave them below or message me on Twitter @CharityMaeWrits or on my other social media channels. Tell me how you felt about the movie in the comments below. Maybe you think the "dream" ending is good, defend it in the comments so we can have a great discussion, and until next time, keep on dreaming.
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