What I Want to See: Trollhunters

 

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You might not have heard of Dreamworks’ animated show Trollhunters on Netflix.  Until I talked to Paul about potentially writing about it on here, I wasn’t aware of anyone I knew who had watched it, other than myself.  But it’s a great show, and I cannot recommend it enough.  I started watching it, because I wanted to watch something that would keep my son’s attention (he was 9 months old when we began season 1) but wasn’t so inane that I would go blank behind the eyes.  So, when I saw the poster on Netflix, and it boasted that it was created by Guillermo del Toro (director of Hellboy 1 & 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Pacific Rim) I thought it might be a good fit for us.

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Trollhunters, is an action adventure cartoon that I think pretty much all ages can enjoy.  It tells the story of Jim Lake Jr. who becomes the first human ever to become a trollhunter, when the previous trollhunter is killed in action.  (These aren’t really spoilers as it’s kind of all revealed in the first 5 minutes of episode one.)  Jim is in high school, and much like other YA fiction, he is thrust into a world that mixes his normal growing up troubles with life and death stakes.  In this way, it’s not too original, but it is fun!

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Trollhunters, thrives in it’s characters.  Jim is less steadfast than a typical Harry Potter kind of protagonist, but is a more believable teen for it, and it makes the call to responsibility even more impressive.  Toby, his best friend, plays on the typical scared side-kick trope, while at the same time being a total bad-ass, which shines through in his ability to help out with Jim’s training, and his own desire to do the right thing.  Blinky and AAARRRGGHH!!! (that’s how IMDb spells it) are my two favorite characters, because they are the trolls who are tasked with helping Jim to become the trollhunter that the good troll community needs him to be.  Blinky is voiced by Kelsey Grammer, and it is endlessly amusing to hear him read lines that seem so silly, with such gravitas.

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So, what do I want to see with Trollhunters?  Well, in order to answer that, I need to explain something.  Jim, is voiced by Anton Yelchin, who died in an accident more than a year ago.  Yelchin had finished recording season one by the time he died, but until recently, I hadn’t realized that he had also recorded (not sure if it’s complete or there is some patchwork with another actor) season two.

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Yelchin does a great job voicing Jim, but I don’t think he has to be the voice.  That is where I come to my point.  I’m glad we get two seasons of Anton Yelchin, but I really hope, that Trollhunters is going where it naturally would have, had Yelchin lived.  His death was tragic, and I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way, but as far as the story is concerned, I don’t want it to shift to reflect his death.

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It’s something that many TV shows, and movies have to deal with, this idea that if someone dies, they have to figure out how to move on with their story, and unfortunately it seems to rarely work out well.  When Heath Ledger died for example, he was working on the Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, and in order to finish the movie, they recast with Jude Law, Johnny Depp, and Colin Farrell.  Because of the nature of the story, it didn’t seem to have too significant of an effect on the movie (which seemed like it may have been a mess regardless) but look at the other posthumous Ledger movie, The Dark Knight.  Sure, Ledger had finished The Dark Knight, and so that movie remains untarnished by the flaws of a mid production death, but as a franchise, what would the third film have been had Ledger lived?  It’s something I’ve wondered since before The Dark Knight Rises was released.

The point is this, Anton Yelchin is great in this role, but ultimately, we don’t have a Ledger situation, where recasting seems sacrilegious, we have a voice over of a teenage character, and there are a lot of ways of adjusting to a new actor, without being disrespectful to Yelchin, and without having to shift the storyline, or the tone of the story.

Check out Trollhunters on Netflix if you watch the first episode, you’ll get the feel for the show, and I think you’ll fall in love with it!  Season two comes out on December 15.

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What I Want to Happen: Pixar

 

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I’m a big fan of Pixar’s films.  When Toy Story came out, I was 11 years-old, and I’ve kind of grown up with them.  What’s been nice, about growing up with Pixar, is that they had such an amazing record (still have a good record).  After Toy Story came A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story 2, neither of which was as deep as Toy Story, but certainly weren’t vapid either.  After Monster’s Inc., and Finding Nemo was The Incredibles, and it lived up to the name.  I was twenty years old, and watching Pixar do the unofficial version of Fantastic Four that we have still yet to get, but totally deserve.

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After The Incredibles, we got Cars.  Now, Cars is an article all in itself, but to try to quickly summarize what I have to say about Cars is: I personally think it’s the weakest Pixar original (it’s a total knock off of Doc Hollywood) which pains me, because George Carlin is one of my favorite comedians/celebrities of all time and he voiced Fillmore; it is the pivot point film between a Disney/Pixar partnership, and Disney owning Pixar, and was used as part of the negotiations; and so while I think it’s the weakest, in a lot of ways I still think it’s better than a lot of other films, and it’s important.

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After the pivot of Cars, a reinvigorated Pixar went into what I think was their renaissance creating Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 (the latter 2 were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, the former each getting Best Screenplay nominations).  These 4 films, should definitely be mentioned when discussing the best animated films of all time.

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Then after the renaissance came the other shoe.  Part of Pixar’s agreement with Disney, was that they would create sequels to their most successful box-office films.  After Toy Story 3, we got Cars 2.  Now personally, I think Cars 2 is better than most will give it credit for, but it is certainly a departure from the depth of the four preceding films.  We’ve since got Brave (an attempt at a deep dive which falls a little flat), Monster’s University (a serviceable prequel), Inside Out (the only foray into greatness since TS3), The Good Dinosaur (akin to the A Bug’s Life, in it’s fine but doesn’t match the glory of the prior film), then Finding Dory (again, it’s a serviceable sequel, but nothing special) and Cars 3 (I haven’t seen it yet).

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The reason that I wanted to do this article, is that in couple of weeks Pixar is going to release their next film, which will be an original, entitled Coco.  I really hope Coco is good, but I’m worried, because it looks like Pixar’s amalgamation of two recent animated films Kubo and the Two Strings mixed with The Book of Life.  Now, I’m sure it is not a knock-off of those two films, but I hope it’s dissimilar enough.  I want to see them really be creative and deep again, and this may have the potential, but I’m nervous.  The film’s done though, so I want to talk about the future past Coco.

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Pixar has five films they’re currently working on, but only 2 have been officially announced; The Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4.  Personally, I don’t want too many sequels from Pixar, since their strength has really been in originals, the exception of course being the Toy Story films, so while I thought TS3 wrapped things up nicely, I’m keeping a very open mind on this.  As for the Incredibles 2, the original warranted a sequel more than any other Pixar original, and the first came at the beginning of the superhero era in film, so to check in with the family now with how the genre has changed is exciting.

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But ultimately, I want more originals.  One of the things that really has been great about the Pixar films that have been amazing were 2 things, originality, and character connection.  I think people have misread the formula, I think they see Toy Story and think “kids like toys, lets make a movie about toys” or “kids like animals and adventure, let’s make a movie about animals and adventure (Up),” but the reason why we really fell in love with those movies is that Woody learns that he has to share Andy’s love, or that Ellie got to live the adventure she always wanted, and Carl finally did too.  (BTW, I’m tearing up just thinking about Carl and Ellie, can you say that about any other 5 minute relationship in film history?)

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If Coco for all of it’s “Dia de Muerta” makeup, which totally does look cool, doesn’t have some strong clinching emotional connection, it’s going to fall flat.  That’s what I want to see, I want them to be the master manipulators that we all know they can be, and tug on our heartstrings.  This is less likely to happen in sequels, because it seems to be something forged in the examination of new characters, although each Toy Story movie so far has managed it, that’s because each time the relationship with Andy, the Buzz and Woody relationship, and the relationship with their purpose in life altered to examine it.  I hope the 4th manages to continue this, I hope that The Incredibles turns from Bob’s insecurity about domestic life, and how he loves his wife and kids, to him now knowing who he is again, being able to guide them more. I guess don’t have a clue what direction I want the Incredibles to head in, but I don’t want rehashing of the same basic emotional connections the way that I think some of their lesser sequels have.

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Ultimately, I suppose the sequels aren’t going to stop, but let’s take ratio which seems to be a little more than half of the recent movies have been sequels, and flip it.  Do sequels that are organic, but not necessarily just because they sell well.  Pixar currently has an amazing legacy in the making, and I think there is a lot of promise assuming they make some adjustments.  Look at their parent company Disney’s legacy.  Disney, love them or hate them, has had an incredible run for 80+ years, and although there have been some lulls, ultimately they’re doing great.  But one thing they do, they have places to put their lesser sequels.  Sure, they’ll make the Cinderella 10: Back In The Saddle, but it’s straight to video.  This is the way to make cash-grab movies, and not tarnish your legacy.

Lastly, I want to say, I’m going to continue to see every Pixar film until they have thoroughly defeated my spirit, and I don’t think they’re even close yet.  Their worst film is still better than most, I just want to see them return to being better than EVERYONE.

Written by Michael Cole