It has always been clear that Guillermo del Toro has an affinity with monsters, but less apparent whether he could showcase this in a kid-friendly setting – as great as Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos etc are, they aren’t exactly suitable for all. Now we’ve seen Trollhunters, we can confirm that his range has officially been expanded.
Drawing from Del Toro’s YA book series he co-penned with Daniel Krauss, it sees a boy named Jim (Anton Yelchin, adding the role extra poignancy in one of his last ever roles) become the first human to be assigned the mantle of ‘Trollhunter’, the scene is set for Del Toro to showcase all the things we take away from his work: monsters with inner lives, visually stunning settings, and a complete lack of pretension in doing so.
Even more amazingly, it all works. If you were wondering what a dialled-down Del Toro would look like, then the answer is something akin to the Amblin era small towns inhabited by a quintessentially Spielberg-esque populace. Almost every character and story point is familiar to fans of ET, The Goonies et al: the confidant best friend, Tobias (Charlie Saxton), the seemingly unattainable love interest, Claire (Lexi Medrano), the absent father figure, the overworked mother (Amy Landecker), and the school bully (Steven Yeun).
But what makes it all stand out are the added elements, like the transparently not-what-he-seems teacher (Jonathan Hyde) and the surprisingly affecting story embarked on by overlooked troll Draal (Matthew Waterson). Throw in some creatures containing references that will sail way over the heads of its target audience (there’s actually a gnome called ‘Gnome Chompsky’), and you have something that’s constantly and consistently surprising. Wherever you think it’s all going, prepare to have your expectations bucked in spectacular fashion.
It stands as testament that even at 26 episodes long, Trollhunters never feels like it’s overstaying its welcome. With a second season likely, we couldn’t be more excited at the prospect.