The Witcher arrives and is everything hoped for: sexy, bloodthirsty and a great adaptation!
The long-awaited ‘The Witcher’ series, based on the best-selling books by Andrzej Sapkowski, is finally available on Netflix.
The epic fantasy tale following the adventures of monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, is an early Christmas treat for both the genre’s fans and the saga’s cult following which blew up internationally after the massive success of CD Project Red’s games.
Executive producers Lauren Schmidt Hissrich (‘The West Wing’, ‘Daredevil’) and Tomasz Bagiński (animator and director, nominated for an Oscar for his short film ‘The Cathedral’) adapted the first two books written about the Witcher – short story collections ‘The Last Wish’ and ‘Sword of Destiny’
Bagiński told PAP: “There is drama and action, comedy and romance. I think that's the value of this story. For me, the most important thing is that what we managed to do is still ‘The Witcher’ created 30 years ago by Andrzej Sapkowski."
The series protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, is mutated monster hunter, who spends his life wandering from town to town, slaying whatever creature endangers the locals. Played by Henry Cavil (‘Superman’, ‘Mission Impossible – Fallout’) in a much-discussed white wig, he is hurtled into a web of schemes and intrigues that will decide the fate of the world. Cavil himself is a fan of the universe and fought hard for the role.
The classic plot device aside, ‘The Witcher’ is full of colourful characters (worth mentioning is the fan-favourite bard Jaskier, portrayed by Joey Batey ), massive battles and humour. "A shade of seriousness, but also sarcasm, good, black, Polish humour. I am most pleased with that. There are whole parts of the text, fragments of dialogues, large parts of the original material written by Andrzej Sapkowski,” Bagiński said.
“Of course, this is an adaptation, so some of the stories have been expanded - for example, the threads of Yennefer and Ciri, which were only signalled in the original. We expanded them because we wanted to add what happened to them in the past,” he added.
Sorceress Yennefer, played by Anya Chalotra (The ABC Murders, Wanderlust) and princess Ciri, portrayed by Freya Allan (The War of the Worlds, Into The Badlands), while crucial to the entire saga weren’t as prominent in the first two books, as they are in the series.
Schmidt Hissrich decided to bring their backstories forward, leading to the main criticism of the series. With Ciri’s and Yennefer’s stories being showcased on par with Geralt’s, as well as a lack of time continuity (the story jumps forward and back without distinct clues), the plotline may be hard to follow for those, who are unfamiliar with Sapkowski’s prose.
In this vein, the early reviews paint a mixed, if rather positive, image of the series. The eight-episode-long first season (Netflix has already confirmed season two) awed the audiences with incredibly choreographed fight scenes, with fans tweeting:” Some of the action and sword work choreography for The Witcher is some of the best I can recall for a sword and sorcery/fantasy series of this type in years."
Praised for its visuals, Netflix’s creation remains confusing for those not familiar with Sapkowski’s world. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 63 percent according to critics and 87 percent according to the audience, time and future seasons will tell if ‘The Witcher’ has the potential to appeal a wider group of viewers, rather than just the avid fans and fantasy enthusiasts.