Must Love Trolls
Thought-Provoking Musings on the Hit Series, Trolls: Behold The "Gospel of Trolls"
Sam Becker · September 9, 2023
7 min read
Do you know someone who has seen 1 movie over 300 times? I doubt it…unless you know me. If you do know me (good for you), you have probably—no—definitely heard me talk about the seminal yet underrated film Trolls.
Every person I have ever told to watch this movie has annoyingly asked me “why?”, and I am tired of it. As a solution, I asked my friend Ali if he could create his own film review website so I could write an article for it that would serve as my blanket answer to that question. Thank you Ali for doing as you were told.
Contrary to popular belief, I did not see Trolls when it first came out in 2016. I didn’t even know it existed until the summer of 2017. I had just gotten back from studying in Italy for the summer, and I don’t think I watched 1 movie when I was there. This particular night, I was at my cousin Taylor’s house. We were trying to decide what movie to watch, when she lit up and said to me “I have the perfect movie to watch right now–have you seen Trolls?” I will admit to you all, I was really skeptical at first. I really didn’t think I would enjoy this film, but she convinced me that it was so much more than just a silly children’s film. And she was correct.
As with most things, aesthetics are an integral aspect of a visual project’s success. With Trolls, the finesse of the first scene was what immediately drew me in as a viewer. The story opens with an animated felt story-book. Poppy (Anna Kendrick) introduces the Trolls society as well as their adversaries, the Bergens, through a scrapbook that is masterfully polished in its animated flow, and so colorful you want to lick the screen. By definition, Trolls is an animated film, but throughout the Trolls movies, the designers utilize interchangeable styles of animation to add depth to an otherwise flat medium. One of the reasons that I was generally turned off by animation before this movie was because of the one-note nature of this style. After the scrapbook opener, the movie shifts to the three-dimensional style of animation, which is a signature of Dreamworks. The scenes consistently flit between this style, minimalist styles and styles with thicker textures (such as the felt style), depending on the mood of the film.
Along with the design aspects, the immediate revelation of the villains and their unscrupulous activities was a welcome surprise. The second scene of the movie introduces the baddie Bergens. In any other film, these characters would likely be described as “troll-like” because of their appearance, but in a movie called “Trolls,” in which the ACTUAL trolls are colorful and delightful, I guess I would describe the Bergens as talking boogers. The prosperity of Bergen Town hinges solely on eating trolls, which they think are the only way they can obtain any kind of happiness. Every year, the town celebrates “Trollstice,” where they gather around the Troll tree and pluck harvest trolls to enjoy them as a delicious treat. I’m not going to lie, they kind of have a point–those things do look pretty tasty. The Troll tree is caged up in the middle of Bergen Town, so the viewer can hypothesize that at one point, the Bergens decided to imprison the trolls for their perpetual enjoyment.
Within the opening scene at Bergen Town, the Trolls are shown escaping the confinement of the Bergens through a series of underground tunnels and starting a new civilization far away from their oppressors. After their successful emigration, the movie jumps ahead about twenty years to show the Trolls thriving in their little world. The following scenes introduce the Trolls cast to the audience. The community, led by the quirked-up Princess Poppy, are undoubtedly overjoyed in their new situation, but they have also taken for granted the danger that they left behind in Bergen Town. This causes Poppy to carelessly throw a project-X level banger, alerting the Bergens to their hiding spot. The Bergens captured almost ten trolls during this party-gone-wrong, which begins the foundational conflict of the movie. Poppy must rescue her friends or forever be known as the monarch that ruined everyone’s happy lives. As difficult as this may seem, Poppy is not alone in this quest. The other main troll in the movie, Branch (Justin Timberlake), is along for the ride.
The central interactions of the movie come through Poppy and Branch. Poppy is undeniably the earnestly spirited character that the audience is meant to root for, while Branch is the pragmatic presence that pulls Poppy back to reality. They are shown as opposites–Poppy is boundary-less and Branch has sturdy walls surrounding him. Poppy is idealistic and compassionate, but she is also careless and headstrong in the name of “doing the right thing.” Branch is intelligent and loyal, but he is antisocial and pessimistic. The two are made to balance each other out–dare I say the writers had Yin and Yang on the mind? The polarity of the pair is irritatingly intense at times, but nevertheless, their balance prevails to a greater end.
Regarding the overarching themes, there are many ways that each viewer can make a connection to some aspect of the film. Some of these themes include community, addiction, capitalism, love, grief, cultural differences, freedom and betrayal. For example, in the theme of capitalism, there’s a scene showing the Bergen head chef on a billboard advertising happiness as a bite of Troll away. I won’t sit here and explain to you geniuses how this connects to our world, but surface level or deeper, it’s easy to relate. The themes of addiction and love are elevated by the storyline King Gristle and Bridget, both Bergens living in Bergen Town. Bridget is a scullery maid working for the Bergen castle, but she is in love with the Prince. With the Trolls’ help, she is able to get his attention, and the two spark a romance. Through this romance, both Bergens realize that they are able to experience happiness with love, instead of eating trolls. Although this is essentially a backstory on the villains, it demonstrates how some can become indoctrinated by dangerous community beliefs, but freed by the empathy of others, even those that were previously oppressed by those beliefs.
In most children’s movies, there is minimal conflict, and the resolution is swift. The problems are usually overshadowed by a joyful message. Trolls separates itself from other movies by layering in quite a few conflicts, from the beginning until the final resolution. Instead of a happy movie dotted with a small problem here and there, Trolls carefully constructs a consistent discord that is punctuated with humor and musical numbers. The result is a highly nuanced emotional film, in which the viewer is a bit unsettled at the thrill, but also laughing and smiling at the relief. In this, Trolls reflects the intricacies of real life, which supports a connection between the movie and the viewer. This movie is only 92 minutes long, but by the end you will have felt a mix of hope, fear, happiness, apprehension, relief, amusement, annoyance, and content. Personally, this mix of feelings has never wavered no matter how many times I watch this movie.
Beyond my personal interpretation of Trolls, I love how it helps me connect to others. I will never forget my first viewing of the movie with my cousin. We reference the movie constantly, and it is a source of attachment for us. I feel like I spread the “gospel of Trolls” whenever I tell someone to watch–it’s like a network of my own Trolls watchers. It helps me to keep in touch with people, and it also fosters correspondence and communication. Although this became a “bit” for me to be obsessed with Trolls, this obsession is more than just a silly joke to me. Thank you to everyone who has watched, and to the skeptics out there–you BETTER take a second look.
Sam Becker loves Trolls but she also loves making hats with weird phrases on them. Please give her money to open an art gallery in San Francisco. Also, she legally has to say she’s from New Jersey.
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