Written By: Gabriel Castillo
Published On: August 26 2021 at 13:55 PHT
“The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” successfully pulls viewers into its magical, medieval-style world by taking them on a thrilling adventure full of monsters, blood, intrigue, and a good-old Witcher-bathtub scene. The film makes use of typical Witcher themes such as suffering, deceit, revenge, love, and hope to deliver a jam-packed, but not overwhelming, narrative told through complex and fascinating characters. Andrzej Sapkowski’s book series “The Witcher” comes to life in a new way thanks to this animated adaptation.
Life on the Continent is rough and requires a strong stomach. Dangerous monsters plague the roads and flood the paths with blood, severed limbs, and fear. This installment in the franchise excellently showcases the real need for a witcher’s capabilities while also revealing their origins and weaknesses. The opening sequence alone does a superb job of captivating viewers and introducing the film’s mature tone. Fair warning: the film gets quite violent and gory at some points with a few nude scenes.
Masterful Storytelling in Just 83 Minutes
The film focuses on the backstory of a witcher named Vesemir, the teacher of the live-action television (TV) series’ protagonist Geralt, whose name is familiar to fans of the books and video games. However, this older witcher is just about to make his TV series debut in the second season of Netflix’s series set to premiere in December 2021. Is it necessary to watch the series first? Not exactly. First-time viewers can give this film a go prior to diving into Netflix’s series (and then maybe get the books and play the games).
Great storytelling and decent pacing keeps the narrative coherent, digestible, entertaining, and moving. The film delves into mature, darker, and heavier themes of the universe which create a more honest depiction of a witcher’s life and the Continent’s other inhabitants. The story looks deeper into the not-so-fabulous past of witchers and provides a palatable orientation of the universe’s lore — sort of a “Witcher Lore 101” in 83 minutes — that’s enough to satiate long-time fans and keep newcomers interested. The brief runtime worked in the film’s favor to keep viewers hooked without compromising the narrative’s quality.
Outstanding Production Value Keeps You Watching
Telling a story properly is one thing but bringing the whole universe to life through art style and animation is another, and Studio Mir delivers. This South Korean studio, known for animated works like The Legend of Korra, Dota: Dragon’s Blood, and others, effectively captures the mood of the Witcher franchise and absolutely wows viewers with stunning action sequences featuring magical spells, horrifying creatures, and the acrobatic combat that witchers are known for. Animation as a medium allows for over-the-top fantasy-fueled fights that are otherwise impossible for live-action adaptations and Studio Mir maximizes this potential.
Apart from stellar animation, the musical score completes the ambiance and accentuates the film’s vibe; although this time around there’s no charming Jaskier to belt out a catchy hit about tossing coins to witchers. The music feels a tad heavier and darker to match the story. Brian D’Oliveira’s Monstrum’s Lullaby at the beginning of the film wonderfully showcases a bard-style song with an eerie feel and a tragic story that sets the tone for the rest of the adventure. Fans of the video games and the TV series will definitely notice a familiar feel in terms of musical composition.
Creative and Complex Characters Stay in Your Heart
The characters front a fabulous, personalized, and well-thought-out design that works incredibly well with their personalities. Plus, the monsters look awesome; ranging from murderous, tentacular creatures to foul, zombie-like humanoids and everything in between! Their successful translation of the viciousness and grotesqueness of some monsters into drawn forms adds extra oomph to the entire experience.
Despite being set in the same universe, the film’s main character is quite different from the TV show’s groan-filled, burly witcher leading the series. Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, is a handsome, gung-ho, and charming young witcher with dash of romance and a hint of selfishness (as a side note: Vesemir looks like a mix of his voice actor and Zayn from One Direction). He does not come across as a noble hero with a powerful moral compass but he is lovable and viewers will find themselves investing in him. The character is well-written and the sequencing of events in the film effectively gives Vesemir greater depth and a fuller story.
Thankfully, the film does not leave other characters in the dark. Tetra Gilcrest, voiced by Lara Pulver, is an expert sorceress who loathes witchers. Initially, she seems like a deceitful villain hiding behind a pretty face. As the film goes on, her own story unravels and her character becomes more interesting while also beefing up the conflict. There is definitely more to her story and the same can be said about other main characters.
Lady Zerbst, a noblewoman and defender of witchers, does not seem like much for most of the film. Similarly, Deglan, an older witcher that Vesemir encountered as a child, seems like a shallow character from the get-go. However, their rich personalities eventually become evident and their stories intertwine with the main plot toward the film’s climax. And then the whole narrative becomes significantly more exciting.
Author's Overall Rating: 9.7/10
The film boasts commendable story-telling and a variety of fast-paced action sequences while also making room for emotional exchanges between characters — the emotionality is a happy surprise. Production value is easily an A+ and this success can make fans hope for more installments in the future. The characters are brilliant and they’re written in such a way that viewers inevitably invest in them. Who wants dull characters, right? Finally, in true witcher fashion, the characters’ lives all intersect towards the end where powerful themes of revenge, despair, love, and hope culminate for an epic and poignant finale. The film tries to do a lot with the story and they execute it well! Fans are sure to love this installment and first-timers can definitely enjoy this film without feeling too lost.
Fave Quote (Minor Spoiler Ahead)
There are many relatable moments throughout the film but there’s one hard-hitting line from Lady Zerbst to Vesemir asking why a fight was inevitable:
“Because you’re different. And killing is easier than tolerating.”
These words echo a powerful theme present in the Witcher universe and in real life. The villains in the story are quick to decide when its time to end another person’s life all because there seems to be no other way; rather, they do not wish to find another way. Of course, all the characters have their own motivations and none of them are purely good or purely evil but perhaps a little more patience and understanding could have helped — much like in the real world.
The film is currently available for streaming on Netflix. Check out the synopsis from the platform:
Vesemir, a cocky young witcher, delights in slaying monsters for coin. When a dangerous new power rises on the Continent, Vesemir learns that some witchering jobs are about more than just money.
Interested in giving the film a go? Here's the official trailer: