Guillermo Del Toro’s TROLLHUNTERS Combines Peter Parker-Like Troubles With An Interesting New World Netflix and Dreamworks have something good on their hands
It’s easy to underestimate Trollhunters. It’s a DreamWorks Animation TV show on Netflix for kids. Even with Guillermo del Toro’s involvement as creator and producer, no one would blame you for skipping it. I certainly would have skipped it, but I decided to check out the first episode, a short 22 minutes, just to see what it was like.
I ended up binging the entire season, all 26 episodes.
Trollhunters is based on the book by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus. It follows Jim Lake, a teen in high school who shares a lot in common with Peter Parker. He has a mom that he takes care of more than she takes care of him, largely because she’s a doctor and works crazy hours. He also has one friend and a bully at high school.
Jim manages to handle all of this well, but then a special amulet chooses him as the next Trollhunter, an ancient protector of the secret world of trolls from the evil Gunmar, who wants to rule the troll world and, probably, the human world too. Two trolls named Blinky and Aaarrrgh (yes, really) make an effort to train him into becoming a Trollhunter, but there’s a problem.
Jim is the first human Trollhunter ever, and this causes some tension with the world of trolls. He’s an outsider who was chosen to protect them, so he has to go through extra lengths to get them to trust him. At the same time, his new responsibilities take him away from school and family. He’s got to study for tests and do projects in between training to stop Gunmar, and he’s also got to be in the school play and take care of his mom and protect his friends. And then there’s his teacher, Mr. Strickler, who works for Gunmar and is seducing Jim’s mother.
There’s a great tension in watching Jim balancing all these things, the kind of tension you only get in the very best Spider-Man stories. Jim is just an ordinary kid, but he bears a tremendous responsibility that he takes seriously. If he pulls too hard in either direction, the other side suffers. It’s a great and reliable dynamic that Trollhunters executes well.
The show partners that up with a fascinating new world. There seem to be a range of influences here, including del Toro’s own Hellboy films. Jim’s amulet allows him to gain a set of armor that protects him from troll attacks, and the armor can respond to his emotional state. In a nice nod to video games, Jim can collect a series of jewels that can enhance his suit’s abilities.
These are cool little things that sing with imagination, and they’re enough to get any kid giddy. I can imagine plenty of kids saying Jim’s Trollhunter oath and pretending they’re hunting trolls, too. Speaking of trolls, the creature designs in this are terrific, which is no surprise because this is a Guillermo del Toro joint.
Each creature is memorable and distinct, they’re just interesting to look at. This ranges from Jim’s allies, like Blinky and Aaarrrgh to his enemies, Bular and Angor Rot. They’re just cool. They’re the type of cool that’ll fire up your imagination or, at the very least, the imagination of a child. There’s going to be a great fan community for this show that does nothing but draw these characters. Also, there are several other types of creatures that help populate this interesting new world. There are devilish little gnomes and goblins that are a lot like vengeful piranhas.
There’s just such a joy about everything in this show. You can tell that everyone involved loves these monsters, they love living in this world. It’s an infectious enthusiasm that makes watching Trollhunters breezy.
The final piece of the Trollhunters puzzle is the animation. DreamWorks does an incredible job with this show, so much so that I initially thought I was watching a film rather than a TV show. The first two episodes, especially, look really goddamn expensive. That levels off a little in subsequent episodes, but it’s still impressive stuff.
Oh, I should also mention that this show is casted really well. The late Anton Yelchin is great as Jim, bringing the same mix of enthusiasm and burden that makes the great Peter Parkers work. Kelsey Grammar is excellent as Blinky, and that extends right down the line. These characters work, and you’ll have no problem spending hours with them.
Trollhunters is a delight. It’s one of the few animated shows that can truly appeal to everyone. Its imagination and visual flair is enough for fans of Guillermo del Toro to check in while its enthusiasm and joy is enough for any kid to follow along.
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