October 7th 2017


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Green energy push has left us blowin' in the wind

EDITORIAL Lessons for Australia in NZ election results

CANBERRA OBSERVED Assurances on religious freedom needed now

ENERGY Peak oil turns out to be another moral panic

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Timor Leste, Australia reach new border treaty

BUSHFIRES Disaster awaits as advice again goes unheeded

GENDER POLITICS Does biological sex matter?

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Intolerance of the 'Yes' campaign for all to see

EUTHANASIA Medical murder: three historical cases

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Gallant Taiwan survives alone in the bitter sea

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE Prepare for apologies in a generation's time

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A reflection on the use and abuse of the thought of the Angelic Doctor

MUSIC Stupendous talent: What to do with all that ego?

CINEMA Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy

BOOK REVIEW Debunking the 'harmless' tag

HUMOUR

EUTHANASIA Victoria's death bill: questions that need answers

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CINEMA
Trollhunters: Guillermo del Toro's TV fantasy


by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, October 7, 2017

Netflix/DreamWorks’ Trollhunters is a magnificent and magical animated adventure series from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. Bringing together the enchantment of fairytales and the derring-do of swashbucklers, Trollhunters crafts a compelling story of an ancient battle between good and evil that has spilled forth from a magical hidden world into everyday human life. It shows that being good and decent and hardworking and kind is itself heroic, and that heroism takes work and dedication – and that even then, things will not be perfect.

James “Jim” Lake jnr (voiced by Anton Yelchin, who tragically died during production, but who had recorded so much material that he didn’t need to be replaced) is an ordinary-ish teenager with an extraordinary mission – he has been selected as the first human Trollhunter, the protector of the good trolls and the human race against the forces of darkness allied against them. He is aided by his six-eyed, four-armed mentor Blinkous “Blinky” Galadrigal (Kelsey Grammer), a learned, if slightly nutty, troll; AAARRRGGHH!!! (Fred Tatasciore), a hulking brute of a troll but a dedicated pacifist; and his pudgy and bright best friend Tobias “Toby” Domzalski (Charlie Saxton). They must work together to fight evil, all the while making it seem as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

Trollhunters takes place in an alternate fantasy universe where trolls are an ancient and magical rock-based species of many different races. They mostly live underground as sunlight turns them to stone. Centuries ago there was a war between the evil Gumm-Gumms, led by Gunmar the Black (Clancy Brown), and the rest of the trolls.

The Gumm-Gumms sought to conquer and terrorise the Earth until they were stopped by Deya the Deliverer, the first Trollhunter, and imprisoned in the eternal night of the Darklands. The only Gumm-Gumm to escape was Bular (Ron Perlman), the son of Gunmar, who has dedicated himself to freeing his father and bringing about his reign. To this end he is aided by Changelings, trolls who are swapped with human babies and can take on their appearance, and goblins – hideous and homicidal little brutes that are not that bright – or robust.

Guillermo del Toro is a masterful, and decidedly Latin, director renowned for the way he weaves intricate and intimate details into grand and mythic tales. Inspired by fairytales and Gothic romances, Hanna-Barbera cartoons – especially Jonny Quest – and Japanese anime, his movies have a dream, or even daydream-like quality to them. Much like Jean Cocteau, who in films like Beauty and the Beast made the mundane magical, he fashions worlds which are at once realistic and fantastical.

The Mexican-born del Toro is at home with the grotesque and the arabesque, unafraid to bring up themes of death and our duties to the dead, in a way akin to the Spanish fiestas and how they blend the spiritual and the material. Like Luis Buñuel, the legendary and acidic Spanish surrealist, he is a man steeped in a deep cultural Catholicism, but, unlike Buñuel, he is not motivated by rage against the Church – his is a much gentler soul. Moreover, del Toro is an unironic filmmaker, uninterested in post-modern values and tortured characters. His heroes are grounded, but still heroes; and his villains, while complex, remain villainous. Despite this, much of his work, such as his critically acclaimed, award-winning Pan’s Labyrinth, is absolutely unsuitable for family viewing, as it can be violent and nightmarish.

Trollhunters is del Toro at his most family-friendly. His conscious aim was to write the sort of series he could have watched as a kid with his whole family while having “milk and cookies”. He wanted his heroes to be good guys, not good guys one step away from being bad guys, but good guys that show it’s good and heroic to do the right thing.

At the same time they are not plaster saints, but flawed individuals who make mistakes and have to deal with the consequences of their actions. They are heroes who are growing into their heroism, just as they are growing up; and for all their magic powers and special training they are still struggling with the things they struggled with before. They have to work to become the people they are meant to be, and the series shows this, and shows that the pains and disappointments of life don’t suddenly go away just because something amazing happens.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).




























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