The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf Review

Dept. of Aard and Igni


When it comes to animated spin offs from live action series, there are a few of ways to go. You can try to squeeze an untold tale in between your protagonist’s live action adventures, or tell a completely unrelated story in the same world, or flesh out the background of that world with a glancing reference to your main hero. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf does all three but in a clever, and slightly sneaky, way.

Before sitting down to watch The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (NotW), I felt like I needed to do some research first. Having recently gotten stuck into The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, I felt I had my live action and videogame portrayals of Triss, Yennefer, and Ciri (the women in the Witcher’s life) a bit mixed up.

I needn’t have bothered.  

While NotW does tie heavily into the backstory of The Witcher, it doesn’t feature Geralt of Rivia, The White Wolf, or any of his cast of companions.

Instead NotW addresses many of the problems we had with the live action Henry Cavill show. This Netflix Original Anime provides a far better introduction to Andrzej Sapkowski’s world of Witchers for those baffled by the multiple kingdoms, shifting time frames, and vast cast of characters in Netflix’s fantasy drama.

In doing so it answers a question mostly unaddressed in the live actions series: “How do you make a Witcher?”

My Witcher Academia

Vesemir apporaches Kaer Morhen

For those who don’t know, Witchers are made, not born. Mutants with great strength and long life, they are created via forbidden alchemy. The process is so arduous that few candidates survive. Most Witchers are sold into the profession as children as payment for monster hunting debts. That’s not the case for Vesemir, voiced by Theo James – who also voiced Hector in Netflix’s other video game based animated series Castelvania.

A swashbuckling Witcher, who volunteered for the role, Vesemir provides a very different portrait of Witchers to Geralt’s surly slayer of monsters. Dashing and witty, Vesemir enjoys the thrill of the hunt almost as much as he enjoys the spoils. Through Vesemir, NotW fills in the background of the Witchers, as he follows a path that takes him from servant boy, to the Witchers’ home of Kaer Morhen, and the Trial of the Grasses.

That’s not to say this is a dry lore-dump. The details of Vesemir’s past are doled out in-between an interesting “present day” plot as the kingdom of Kaedwen dithers over how to deal with a plague of monsters and alleged Elvish plots, as Lady Gilcrest (Lara Pulver) and Lady Zorbst (Mary McDonnell) spar in royal court over the Witcher’s role in all of this, as well as their future role in humanity.

NotW displays what I hope will become the signatures for the series going forward. Exciting action scenes, as Vesemir hunts leshens and basilisks, unexpected plot developments thanks to the Witcher’s unusually long lifespans, and flirty squabbles with sexy sorceresses. The movie even includes a gratuitous bath scene for fans of the videogame series.

Witcher 101

Vesemir using the Igni sign

While Vesemir’s name will be familiar to those versed in Witcher lore, NotW is equally enjoyable for for someone, like me, who has no clue who he is. Theo James turns on the charm, with plenty of spicy arguments with Lara Pulver’s Lady Gilcrest and Mary McDonnell’s Lady Zerbst. We even get to know a whole cast of Witchers back at Kaer Morhen, providing yet another perspective on their world.

None of this softens any of The Witcher’s hard edges. Young children are slaughtered within minutes of it’s opening, with little concern shown by the Witcher. There is a lot of death in this.

The animation by Studio Mir fits in with their past work for Netflix, like DOTA: Dragon’s Blood, although the action feels a little more dynamic here. Perhaps due to clever use of Vesemir’s Attack on Titan style chain grapple and Witcher powers. At times it can be a bit much. I lost track of Vesemir in the fray a few times and I never did figure out where his grapple chain was connected to.

I Never Asked for This

Vesemir raises his hand

With Vesemir bearing more than a passing resemblance to Deus Ex‘s Adam Jensen, I assume it has to be an in-joke when another character tells him she knows that “he never asked for this.

Considering the closing minutes of the movie, and publicity material promoting the return of Henry Cavill’s Geralt to Kaer Morhen in Season 2, hopefully this won’t be the last time we see Vesemir.

For those without any connection to the series The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf provides a far better (and shorter) test to determine if The Witcher is something you’d be interested in, before you commit to watching the 8 or so hours of Season 1. As someone who’s interest in the lore is growing, Nightmare of the Wolf actually made me look forward to Season 2 in December.

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is available on Netflix from August 23

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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