By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Available to view on Netflix
The finale to the Trollhunters, Tales of Arcadia has all the key players–Jim Lake, Tobias, Claire, Binky, AAARRRGGHH, Crown Princess Aja, Prince Krel, Douxie and Archie–not ready to take on the Arcane Order. They’re the next threat in a long line of villains who want to restore the world to its old ways, a time before gods walked the Earth, and magic was pure. However, to do so means convincing one of their own, Nari, that their ways are true. This tale picks up from where Wizards last left off (review and analysis can be read here).
This movie is very crowded and needs that prologue to explain everything that’s happened prior–including why Armageddon must happen. The concept is very much taken from Nordic design (Ragnorak); everything must be destroyed before the world can be remade and this theme plays out anyways, much to my chagrin. This introduction could’ve been trimmed out in favour of new material, but not everyone will know Trollhunters, 3Below and Wizards inside and out. It’s terrific to see all the supporting characters return for even a few minutes, but that finale–a good portion of the fans for this series are angry. Spoilers follow:
The story is designed for the younger viewers wanting a high stakes crowd pleasing kaiju and video-game style send off–but I wished the twist with ‘the sacrifice’ was handled differently. Fans will certainly debate this aspect on the Reddit forum. I understand why a certain character met a terrible fate from a writer’s standpoint, but sorry, del Toro and team, I would’ve preferred for that individual to remain dead and “return” in a later work. I hope an official Art of book is in the works to explain the ‘controversial’ decision.
Everything else about this film lived up to expectations though. Instead of the Titans of Greco-Roman yore, they are Elementals of the grandest design. It’s like del Toro and the writing room staff picked Peter Jackson’s brains when concerning what “going big” means. The titans aren’t on the same scale as any of the creatures from King Kong or Pacific Rim. A giant robot is added for good measure, but that moment was so short. I ignored it. The big fights are everything I hoped for. It has its moments that’s feels very God of War like, with Shadows of Colossus tossed in for additional measure.
Part of Rise of the Titans wraps some loose threads (it doesn’t answer everything) and explains why the town of Arcadia is a focal point. Curiously, this film includes an Asian flavour when a few members of the team visits Mainland China.
I hoped for a divine force to intervene. The Knights (The Trollhunters, Akiridion and a Wizard) are the right type of combination to summon that type of force. Instead, they left the universe in the hands of mortals, magicians and Medjay. In this work, only two of the three are involved. The secret police introduced in Wizards (which Krel is part of) are nowhere to be found. They’d be in over their heads anyways in the ability to help, but still. They could at least help evacuate the planet should the need arise.
Meanwhile, Jim still can not pull Excalibur out from the ground. Douxie is hiding out in Metro City so the Arcane Order would have a tougher time finding him and Nari. However, the remaining two members are adamant in kidnapping their former compatriot turned enemy. She is one of the keys to make up that triumvirate to break open the Genesis Seal. And all those monologues by them about remaking the world is essentially about crowd control–namely the overpopulation of normals versus faerie-kind. The story is a riff of Thanos desire to remake the galaxy. But I’m too invested to say ugh.
The tale enters traditional Arthurian story-telling territory where the new members making up the Knights of the Round Table plan how to deal with this pagan order. Separate quests require them to gather the needed Holy Grail (to obtain a viable source of power to reactivate the Amulet of Daylight ) to defeat the evil. There’s also a new device to help them reverse all that’s been done, the Chronosphere. And there’s a very pregnant Steve to lighten up the crazy situation. It’s nice to see this character be the comedy relief instead of Tobias, and I suspect it was done for a reason.
The shifting of roles was obvious from the get go. Jim Lake Jr. questioned what defines a hero, and as for his journey, he knows his adventure is ending.
Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans follows the same style as Homer’s The Iliad. Everything that’s been built up becomes all for naught because inside the last magical item is a time stone that Jim needs if he’s to become a Trollhunter again. It shouldn’t be used to alter anything if we’re to believe in the immortal words of the Ancient One (from the movie Doctor Strange). He pulled what I like to call a “Steve Rogers”–changing the past to suit a better future. Unlike how the early Star Trek movies where Spock’s death had an impact and later brought him back, at least Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was unique in the annals of time travel style stories to save the day and stay true to what the Vulcan said, “I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”
The Genesis Seal could have also been imagined differently so that to surprise fans, would lead to another Tales of Arcadia movie. The name of it is enough to evoke thoughts of the Star Trek IV movie, and how its mystical energy can resurrect the dead. As for whether there’ll be any continuation for this franchise because of a stupid retcon, it’s unlikely. It’d also be tough to fan-edit Rise of the Titans. I’m sure someone will attempt it, but I see a fanfic appearing in the coming month than an alteration of the movie. I imagine the latter would have to fade to black and insert a flashback style sequence with edited dialogue to make this work end on a sad, but proper high note.