Trollhunter: Rise of the Guardians

‘Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans’ Review – Arcadia’s ‘Epic Finale’ Invalidates Its Own Existence

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans marks the end of Guillermo del Toro‘s animated universe. The Tales of Arcadia series began in 2016 with the seminal Trollhunters, which introduced us to a magical world rich in lore and full of colourful characters. It’s a shame, then, that this climactic film could not live up to the addictive series’ that precede it. 

Rise of the Titans unites the casts of all three Dreamworks shows – Trollhunters, 3 Below, and Wizards, in an action-packed showdown with the evil sorcerors of the Arcane Order. They seek, for some vague reason, to summon monstrous Titans made of the elements of frost, fire, and earth, which will unite to destroy the world as we know it, and effectively press the reset button on the entire Trollhunters universe. As grand as the premise sounds, it is let down by the lack of time devoted to its considerable cast of characters, and the ending is certainly divisive. 

If there’s something the film gets completely right, it’s the level of spectacle we expect from the final instalment of a franchise. The Titans tower over everything in their path, and the odds for Jim Lake and co. seem insurmountable. Their attempts to bring the monstrous beings down with swords, magic, and explosives can only be described as ‘boss fights’. The sheer scale of the combat, as well as the creatures engaging in it, effectively makes Rise of the Titans a monster movie – Godzilla vs Kong in Dreamworks animation. This is where the film format really lends itself to this project – it allows for bigger and more exciting set pieces than 20-minute episodes ever could. 

Our troll hunting cast is back and as lovable as ever – with Jim Lake questioning his purpose after the destruction of his magical amulet and loss of his powers. Extraterrestrial allies Aja and Krell have developed some exciting new tech, and Wizards’ Douxie gets to show off some of his arcane skills. It’s thrilling to watch the cast of the 3 shows working together, but the sheer number of people involved in the plot means that they are not always well utilised. 

There are several subplots running through the narrative, with the gang splitting up to perform their different tasks. Not only does this limit the amount of time spent with each character, it also means some are completely sidelined – former school bully Steve Palchuck is undeniably, and disappointingly, the least involved. To give credit where it’s due, Rise of the Titans is not afraid to thin the herd where its cast is concerned, which is in itself a bold move for the climax of an animated franchise for children. This choice actually makes the film more hard-hitting, as we see the characters we have come to care for face considerable danger.

Despite the many characters and lack of focus, the series’ original duo gets plenty of attention. Jim and Tobey have the most bearing on the plot out of anyone. As pointed out by the characters themselves – they were there at the start of the saga, and they are here to finish it together too. The best friends are given the grand and heroic finale that is needed for them. The same cannot be said for the series overall. 

For all of the films’ strong points, the ending singlehandedly undoes them. For one, the solution presented at the end of Rise of the Titans is unoriginal – when it is revealed with only 15 minutes of the runtime left, you feel your stomach sink despairingly. This isn’t the neatly tied conclusion many of the fans will want. The film brings together the beloved cast of 3 shows, with a dearth of worldbuilding and lore, and squanders all of it. If you want to experience the magic of Del Toro’s Tales of Arcadia – simply rewatch the original Trollhunters. 

Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans is streaming now on Netflix

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