By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting
It’s been (over) a month and I guess I need to talk about it.
“Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans” from the Tales of Arcadia series was a pitiful end to the franchise. I hope it’s a joke, but–let’s face it–it isn’t (probably).
A few years ago I wrote a review of “How to Train Your Dragon” 3 and “Trollhunters: Rise of the Titans” had me feeling the same way as I did then: Disappointed.
The Tales of Arcadia franchise has been a nice addition to my watch list for a few years now. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the starting series of the group, “Trollhunters,” but “Wizards” and “3Below” are some of my favorite recommendations for a younger audience. The stories are pretty consistent with the kinds of messages they hold about overcoming self-doubt, making progress (even if slowly), being a good friend, and general growth of character over time is well defined. The animation is solid, and the comedy is fair (nothing that will bust your gut, but also not so cringe that you can’t sit through it as an adult while the kids watch it).
Then the movie hit.
I didn’t watch the initial release. I’ve always been a little behind on Netflix-watching and actually heard about the movie via some mixed YouTube reviews before sitting down a week after the pub-date to view it.
I was surprised by the movie as much of it didn’t fit what I had seen in the franchise before. The first thing to note for me was that the primary main character, Jim Lake Jr., is a throwing a pity-party the whole movie. He’s a passive character, moping around while everyone else prepares for the major battle set to occur in the climax. In “Trollhunters,” there was a lot back and forth about his role and destiny in the early season. He wasn’t sure about himself, then he was sure, then he wasn’t, then he was again. It made sense as the responsibilities of being the Trollhunter were a lot to put on the shoulders of a teenager. Over the course of the series, that gets cleared over time and is further solidified as he works hard to fix the amulet and regain his power as the Trollhunter in “Wizards.” Even in other seasons, this back and forth of “I know who I am” and “I don’t know who I am yet” make sense. After all, the stakes change somewhat per season, and if you’ve ever been a teenager before that’s just how the puberty thing works for most people (I’m this–no, I’m not… Or am I?).
However, by the time the conclusion comes about, Jim should have a solid hold of who he is and where he stands. In this movie, he should have been fully established as the Trollhunter and sort of was for about a minute near the end… only to immediately backtrack on that by going back in time and letting Toby pick up the amulet in his stead. Which–by the way–didn’t make any sense. I mean, thinking back on the “Trollhunter” series, the Trollhunter amulet didn’t choose Jim just because he was there, right? I’m almost 100% sure it was a “fate” thing. He heard the voice and Toby didn’t, which is why he went back to pick it up in the first place after school ended.
Also, what is he going to do with Toby as the Trollhunter? He’s got all this memory that should help, but early seasons showed Toby to be consistently unavailable either because he was at the dentist, physically not fit enough to get there fast enough, or something else.
Moreover, it screws up his relationship with many of the trolls–including his early stand-in for a father-figure with Blinky.
“Wizards” characters, especially Douxie, took a backseat entirely–quickly being removed for convenience sake at the end of nearly every meeting scene where the different series intersect… even though the main villains for the “Wizards” series are the big-bads of this film.
And don’t get me started on the mess that happened with the characters from “3Below.” I’m just not referring to Steve’s pregnancy, by the way, which was strange. Steven and Eli were always supporting characters who appeared but didn’t do much in main storylines as they had their own thing going on with Creepslyers and such. I’m not sure why they decided to use this awful, awkward segway to remove them from any of the main story threads, but that aside–Aja and Krel were done dirty. Most of the time the twins were just seen flying around in this movie, and not much else until the fight at the climax which lasted a short minute out of the total run time. (And their screen time was split with the Creepslyer duo, which still doesn’t make much sense to me.) What was done with Douxie wasn’t much better as he loses his familiar half-way through and also loses common sense as a master or magic–thereby tossing all character development from “Wizards” OUT THE WINDOW.
It was just a really disappointing and terribly written end to a fantastic franchise and honestly made me feel like most of it was written with the intention to pick up dropped storylines from the franchise that had been animated but didn’t make it into any episodes. It was choppy, not well written, terribly thought out in terms of reasoning, and–well… it was just disappointing. (Sorry to be repetitive; I’m struggling to find a better word.) This is made worse by the film being the end to not just one series, but three.
It’s really sad.
But, on the up side, I can still show the shows to my nieces and nephews, I can still recommend it to people looking for something to play in the background, and I can still think about it as a pretty good series for kids… I’ll just tell them not to watch the movie and try to burn that ending from my memory.
On a final note, I truly hope this doesn’t become a habit of DreamWorks. They’ve clearly got talented writers and a stunning animation team. Now they just need to figure out how to close the book without disregarding all that they’ve written.