3Below Season 1: Reviewed

 

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Earlier this year, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia ended after their third season.  As far as I know, they completed the story and ended according to the schedule that creator Guillermo Del Toro had envisioned.  I loved the series, and I was sad to see it go.  Then about a month ago or so, I saw on one of those “Everything new coming to Netflix in December” articles, something called “3Below: Tales of Arcadia,” and the article had an image, and it was clear that the animation was similar style to Trollhunters, but the article itself didn’t mention whether or not the two were related, so a quick IMDb check confirmed that his was a spinoff series, and a brief conversation with Paul, he informed me that this was the second in a planned 3 part series.

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Anyway, the show has been out for about three weeks, and I just finished watching the first season, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty good.  It’s not as good as Trollhunters, (my 2 year-old would give up about thirty seconds into every episode and say “we watch real Trollhunters now?”) but it’s good.

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Above: Krel, guardian Varvatos Vex, & Aja in their natural form.  Below: In their human disguises.

First off, even though the two main characters Aja and Krel, extra-terrestrial (they don’t like the term aliens!) siblings living in Arcadia were featured briefly in Trollhunters, the show had a little more work to setting it up than Trollhunters did.  Trollhunters starts out on Earth, on a pretty standard version we would all recognize, and then reveals that there is a secret underworld of trolls, and other magical creatures; they start with the default and add.  3Below however starts on a planet known as Acaridian 5 and tells the story of Princess Aja and Prince Krel on the day they are to become the King and Queen in waiting, and are attacked by enemies and have to go on the run.  We don’t see Earth until the end of the episode.  This doesn’t make it a worse show that Trollhunters, but certainly it gives it a different set of challenges to overcome.  They do so pretty well, but it takes just a little longer to really get invested.

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I’m not going to get too into spoilers, but I will say that one of the things I really like about this show, is that they create a lot of new mythology within this universe, and they aren’t just applying the same formula as Trollhunters to this, meaning it’s not an Madlibs style situation where they’re like alright we need this role because Trollhunters had it.  Trollhunters is largely about Jim and his friends going after something, and this is definitely more of Aja and Krell running from something, and not necessarily in a cowardly way, but in order to protect their kingdom.

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Another thing that I really like about this show, is that they manage to pull in characters we’ve gotten to know through Trollhunters, and build upon them.  We get to see Jim, Toby, and Claire, but we also get to see Steve, who’ a bully on Trollhuntersgiven some fleshing out, fully realized on this show, as he quickly has a crush on Aja after she kicks his ass.  We get to see Senor Uhl, less as the authority figure to be thwarted or avoided, but more as the protector when other humans seem to target the twins in their human forms.

 

                                           (Steve & Aja. Steve’s come a long way…)

All in all, I really liked this show, and I hope that we get to see another season or two (whatever Guillermo Del Toro has envisioned) and now that I’ve seen how aliens and magic have played with each other in this setting, I’m really interested in seeing what he has in mind for the 3rd series he’s planning.

DreamWorks Animation's 3Below

Written by Michael Cole

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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