Mild Spoilers for Netflix’s Trollhunters, obviously.
A little over a month ago, the first season of the Netflix Original DreamWorks-animated show Trollhunters debuted. I heard of it and thought it looked interesting, but when I learned it was a Guillermo del Toro project (based on the young adult novel del Toro co-penned with Daniel Kraus) I immediately added it to my list. As a fan of both Hellboy films and Pan’s Laybrinth, I was eager to see what del Toro’s twisted take on fantasy looked like through the Dreamworks animation filter. I wasn’t disappointed.
The show follows average teen Jim Lake Jr., voiced by Anton Yelchin (sadly, one of his last performances), who has his world turned upside down when a magic amulet chooses him, Green Lantern style. Its previous owner was slain at the hands of the evil troll Bular (Ron Pearlman). The holder of the amulet becomes the Trollhunter, a protector of both the human and troll world from evil trolls and all walks of other monsters. Jim, along with his dorky pall Toby, are soon visited by trolls Blinky (Kelsey Grammer) and AAARRRGGHH!!! (Fred Tatasciore) who introduce them to the secret world of trolls below their feet. They discover the mantel of Trollhunter has never before fallen to a human.
The show doesn’t really break any real ground when it comes to showing Jim’s normal life. The secret identity trope is tried and true, especially in a teen/high school context. Much like Peter Parker hiding his spider-powers from Aunt May, or Danny Fenton keeping his ghost powers hidden from his parents, Jim must balance his life and his new Trollhunter duties all while his mother, teachers, and others remain oblivious to the massive lumbering trolls and other creatures running around their town at night. This element of the show isn’t bad so much as it is done before. It does manage to push into new interesting territories with the introduction of changelings, evil trolls that can disguise their appearance and hide among humans.
Where the show really shines is its fantasy. del Toro does not disappoint in creating a rich mythology that is as dark as it is quirky. The adventures of Jim and his friends bring them into the path of countless varieties of trolls and monsters, both good and evil, that inhabit the realms beneath the human world. From whimsical creatures like the manic and vengeful goblins and the goofy (and slightly terrifying) gnomes to dark haunting threats like the intimidating Bular or the haunting sorcerer assassin Angor Rot, there is no end to the fun and creative creatures featured over the course of Season 1 of Trollhunters. Not to mention, the history of the ancient war between good and evil trolls–the vestiges of which threaten the present–has all of the hallmarks of classic fantasy storytelling and leads to some truly great conflict.
I highly recommend checking out Trollhunters if you get the chance. If you are fan of Guillermo del Toro’s work, DreamWorks animation, or just fantasy in generally, you will definitely find a lot here to enjoy.