Netflix Originals for Kids: Trollhunters Is Binge-Worthy
In 2010, there was a Scandinavian feature called The Troll Hunter which crossed over to win some fans amongst dark-fantasy film aficionados in the U.S. and Canada. In that live-action comedy tinged with horror, a fresh, curious young camera crew sets out in pursuit of the Troll-hunter, a world-weary field operative who dabbles in all-too-realistic folklore as part of his job. He does hunt trolls, but reluctantly, for if he catches one, there’s an avalanche of befuddling, bureaucratic paperwork to follow. It was a good story for older kids and adults, but far too dark and scary for the little ones.
This Trollhunters is not to be confused with the above film – in fact, there’s no connection at all aside from having the same name (but spelled differently). It’s based on an illustrated book written by Daniel Kraus and Guillermo del Toro, a filmmaker known for his fantasy, science fiction, and horror movies, most of which are pretty dark yet still appropriate for children. Here, del Toro teams up with former Pixar animator Rodrigo Blaas to create an animated world where, “Beneath your feet, there is a secret world,” good troll Blinky (Kelsey Grammer) says. “A vast civilization where nice trolls live and evil trolls lurk. For centuries, these lands have been protected by one warrior.”
That one warrior – chosen by a glittering, seemingly sentient amulet – is Jim Lake, a teenage boy (voiced by the late Anton Yelchin in his final role) growing up with his mom in the suburban city of Arcadia. He’s the first human ever selected for such an important job. Why him? That becomes clearer as the story unfolds, but it starts when the previous Trollhunter passes away and a successor must step in immediately. At Jim’s side is his BFF, Toby (Charlie Saxton), a cavity-prone pudgy kid whose physique belies his inner strength and quick wit. Jim also has a girlfriend… or rather he likes her and hopes she might someday feel the same… her name is Claire (Lexi Medrano) and she’s not afraid of anything.
Hapless Jim has to not only protect the humans dwelling above-ground, but the good trolls who try to live simple lives beneath the topsoil. Of course, not everyone is happy with this arrangement; a vile and evil creature named Bular (Ron Perlman) is out to destroy all Trollhunters. The very first episode of Trollhunters grabs you with a sense of risk and the forbidden, showing these subterranean creatures as intelligent, powerful, and yes, even dangerous beings who are just waiting for night to fall on Arcadia.
Even though it’s animated with the most up-to-date, cutting-edge CGI, Trollhunters has a distinctive 1980s feel to it. It falls right in line with Netflix’s most recent hit series, Stranger Things, in that regard. It also has a touch of actual period adventures like The Goonies and The Monster Squad. Blurring the lines between the mundane and the magical, Trollhunters manages to balance the two worlds equally. There’s the reality we all know – sunshine, trees, houses, schools, and shopping malls; then there’s the make-believe – darkness, dampness, trolls, gnomes, goblins, and the holes in which they hide. The contrast between the bright, pretty, and colorful suburbia Jim calls home is sharply drawn and it works very well.
Jim is not a new style of hero – we’ve all seen the story of a regular, ordinary, everyday kid who has to step up to the plate and do his best to defeat an evil he never even knew existed. But Yelchin’s voice acting imbues Jim with a relatability that makes the viewer think, “What would I do in that situation?” He’s a nice kid, and good role model. He truly values his friendship with Toby, he tries hard in school, and he respects his mother. As such, we want to see him succeed in his quest to stop the bad trolls from harming anyone. The trolls, too, are dimensional characters, and are given good backstories and personalities. The good guys are actually quite adorable, even if they are hulking, snaggle-toothed monsters.
Grammer plays Jim’s wise mentor, Blinky. Blinky is kindhearted and lends a couple extra hands to the fight with his four arms and a glimpse into the future thanks to his six eyes. Perlman, whose been in many of del Toro’s other productions, brings a burbling bombast to the villainous voice of Bular and fully inhabits the hulking, red-eyed, wicked character.
When it comes to the adventure aspect, there are some really pulse-pounding action sequences, as gallant battles commence – Jim has a sword and a shield reminiscent of King Arthur, which adds a welcome element of nostalgia to the story. However, he’s ultra-modern too, encased in an Iron Man style suit of armor that magically appears as needed. The sparkling supernatural amulet he carries protects him, but there is still an element of suspense and uncertainty because Jim is not immortal and he never studied to become a troll-hunter.
As the series builds and eventually ends, it leaves the door – or rather, the bridge – open to an even more exciting Season Two.
What are some of your favorite Netflix series to watch with the kids?
Tags : TV Netflix