Sunday, December 4, 2022

What the hell is Billy Campbell doing in a Norwegian troll movie?

And why is he called "Ollie Campbell"?

And why is he only in it for five minutes at the beginning, without his character even getting killed off?

Questions abound about Troll, the new Netflix release from Norwegian director Roar Urthaug, who brought us the really enjoyable 2015 film The Wave and the not-very-enjoyable 2018 film Tomb Raider. Alas, Troll is more Tomb Raider than The Wave.

It's like Urthaug came to Hollywood for one movie and scraped off the very worst and laziest and most boring monster movie tropes for his return to Norway. 

And brought the one-time Rocketeer with him.

That's right, I pegged Campbell from the moment he first came on screen. I knew this was the guy who starred in The Rocketeer and a TV show that had something of a profound effect on me back in the late 1990s called Once and Again, in which he and Sela Ward played divorcees who fall for each other. This was also a launching pad for Evan Rachel Wood. The profound effect was that Campbell played an architect who was constantly being sought after for his expertise and leading a team of people based on the sound fundamentals of his knowledge. It contributed to me realizing I didn't want to be in a profession where I constantly needed things from other people (like journalism) and I wanted them to come to me for my knowledge. And now I am in a career in information technology where that's actually the case.

(Incidentally, The Rocketeer also became a TV show a few years ago, and Campbell was in it. I don't know why I should be surprised. If there has not yet been a TV show of everything that has ever existed, there will be by the end of 2023.)

Sorry that was a rather long sidetrack there.

Anyway, those are hardly Campbell's only credits. He's worked consistently throughout his career.

Which makes his crediting as Ollie Campbell all the more puzzling.

When I first saw his name in the credits, I thought "Wow, Billy Campbell has a brother who looks so much like him that I was sure it was him." The truth is that he was born William Oliver Campbell and is, for some reason, now going by Ollie Campbell, at least in this one movie.

I did the normal googling for questions like "Why is Billy Campbell now called Ollie Campbell?" and didn't come up with anything. You'd think someone would have written a little piece about it as a result of having the same curiosity I did, but I could find no such piece. As far as I can tell he's not trying to distance himself from some negative news story or episode of potential cancellation, nor would I figure he'd use a pseudonym because he's ashamed to be affiliated with a Norwegian troll movie directed by the guy who made the last Tomb Raider movie.

So for reasons I have not yet been able to fathom, Billy Campbell started using a new professional credit at the young age of 63.

Or did he?

Glancing back through his IMDB, I noticed that he was credited as Ollie Campbell exactly one other time, in the 2014 film Operation Rogue, where he plays "Military Newscaster." Maybe that's the sort of role and film that forces you to issue an alternate persona.

Actually, Campbell appears to be consistent with his inconsistency. He has also been credited as "Bill Campbell" and "William Campbell." The latter, as far as I can see, was only twice, once also in 2014 (the same year he was Ollie Campbell) in the movie Red Knot, and once 21 years before that in 1993's Gettysburg. The credit "Bill Campbell" is sprinkled far more regularly through his 74 credits, going all the way back to his first credit in 1982 (the film How Sleep the Brave) and then appearing in maybe a quarter of his remaining projects, at seemingly random intervals, though none since 2009.

Why would one man want to be credited in four different ways over 40 years? (Happy 40th anniversary in the industry to you, Billy/Bill/William/Ollie.)

Again, the internet refused to enlighten me on this.

I suppose I should get to the movie. It's pretty disappointing considered that you would think a movie about the havoc wreaked by a giant troll who has been sleeping and camouflaging himself in the Norwegian mountains would be pretty awesome, especially if it manages to get the visual effects right. Troll does. But its every narrative detail -- its every character, its every plot development, even its every set piece -- is a hackneyed reappropriation of something we've seen dozens if not hundreds of times before. Even the scene you think might bring the house down, where the Norwegian army flies massive church bells on helicopters around the rampaging troll in order to subdue him (see, the trolls of legend hated the ringing of church bells), feels ripped directly from the Kong vs. helicopter scene in Kong: Skull Island.

The least they could have done was brought -- I'll just call him Mr. -- Mr. Campbell back into the movie. After an opening scene in which only Norwegian is spoken, the movie shifts to seeming like it might be primarily an English language production in a scene involving our protagonist Nora (Ine Marie Wilmann) on an American-led archeological dig searching for dinosaur fossils. Campbell is her team leader. Once Nora is poached from that assignment to help assess the troll threat, though, Campbell's Dr. David Secord never returns to the movie -- even to die as troll fodder. One wonders why they bothered to have this solitary English language scene, and his character, at all.

Then again, if we're not getting an explanation on Ollie Campbell, I doubt we're getting an explanation on this either.

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