Based off of the popular book and video game franchise, The Witcher follows Geralt of Rivia: “the witcher”, or a monster hunter with genes altered by mutations and thus detested by humans.Nilfgaardian forces attempt to imperialize Northern lands, taking the nation of Cintra, which affects the lives of The Witcher and everyone who’s involved with him, including young princess Cirilla and mage Yennefer.
Spoiler Level: Low
The Witcher 3 is my favorite video game of all time, so when I saw that it was being adapted into a Netflix series, I was reasonably skeptical. After all, countless movies have failed to properly capture the essence of the video game(s) they’re based off of. The Witcher proved to me that that rule isn’t necessarily true, being the only video game adaptation that I felt paid homage to the popular Witcher franchise. That, of course, doesn’t mean that it was a good series. It certainly wasn’t a bad series, but it certainly wasn’t anything mind-blowing.
Let’s start with the positives. There were parts of the video game that were included into the series that made it much better. For example, the music was very similar to a lot of the music from the video game, and it was all the better for it, with its mix of ethereal chanting and classical string instruments. Another thing the series took from the games was a lot of the costume designs. Some of the costumes (which were numerous) succeed at both fitting the medieval/Renaissance feel the show attempts to create while still never looking unattractive or strange looking. Especially for the main characters, some of them tend to fit the different personalities of the show’s characters. For example, Jaskier oftentimes wears bright colors to match his charismatic personality, and Yennefer wears long, regal coats to match her snobbishness. You can tell the design choices made were thought out, and the time spent was well worth it.
The acting was really impressive. There were very few actors in the show that didn’t do a good job with their roles. While the actors were trying heavily to deal with the writing’s many issues, a lot of the actors still shone in the end. Henry Cavill and Anya Chalotra shine as leads Geralt and Yennefer respectively. You can tell Cavill really enjoyed playing the role of Geralt; it shows in his work. He captured his dry, sarcastic personality perfectly. Another actor who did a particularly excellent job in their role was Jodhi May, who played the role of Queen Calanthe. While only playing a minor role in the series, her performance was really powerful. She put a lot of emotion into it, even if we never end up getting enough time to care about her.
Now, let’s get into the negatives. While it was nice to see Henry Cavill deliver a good performance as Geralt, I imagine he wasn’t cheap, and it seemed like the show spent all of their money on him. Sure, some of the costumes were impressive, but some of them looked like they were taken from a Halloween part store, looking like they were made out of plastic. The scenery was abysmal. All of the scenes shot in natural settings looked pleasant, and the deserts, forests, and mountains all seemed real, as I’m sure some of them are. However, all of the scenes not done in nature often looked terrible, sometimes laughably so. There were certain scenery pieces that looked like they were done for a high school theatre production and not for a Netflix original series. And,the scenery lacked depth at times, with locations that felt empty; you could tell the scenery was just scenery, and that the doors couldn’t be opened and the windows didn’t allow sunlight into a room.
Henry Cavill’s paycheck also weakened the special effects budget, if not completely remove it. Some of the monsters, for example, felt very lifelike, while some did not. The ghouls looked like they were made in the 1970s, with seemingly very little special effects and excessively mediocre prosthetics. If the series were done in the 1970s, it would be impressive. The special effects were as impressive as those in the original Star Trek series except without the good writing and social messages. The Witcher felt cheap.
The cinematography was generally mediocre, chock full of unnecessary overhead shots and weird camera angles, but it wasn’t so awful it was jarring, there just weren’t really any shots that were unique or interesting. The fights scenes, while sometimes technically impressive and adrenaline fueling, were oftentimes mediocre and boring. For every really cool action scene, there were 2 tacky, overused, or disappointing ones.
The writing of the series had its ups and downs. On one hand, it was definitely similar in quality to that of the video game, in that it was a bit cheesy at times in both dialogue and storyline. And, there were oftentimes plenty of cliches. For example, and this is a spoiler so if you don’t want spoilers, skip to “While in a video game…” Geralt and Yennefer end up getting romantically involved, and they fall for each other quickly. They end up basically falling in love within the span of fifteen minutes of screen time. While in a video game, a cheesy storyline is fine, as that’s how they’re done, generally. But, in a television series, this type of dialogue isn’t normal. However, there were some points in the series where this isn’t necessarily true. Partially because of the acting, and partially because of the storyline, certain plots were actually really well developed. For example, the development of Yennefer was interesting, and the war of Nilfgaard against the Northern Kingdoms, while underdeveloped, was engaging enough to keep me awake through the series. It left me wanting more, which is what hopefully the next season will bring.
There were certain times, also, where it’s not clear when certain events are occurring. The Witcher cycles through it’s different plots throughout each episode, and at some points an episode’s plotlines are occurring at different dates and times, though this is never directly mentioned,and brought up towards the end when they all converge. This left me very confused, and forced me to watch through the episode again to understand everything, which no one wants to do.
Probably the biggest problem with the show save for the writing was the world building. This series had probably some of the worst world building I’ve ever seen. It was so bad that the actors themselves had to do interviews where they explained why things were occurring. For example, Geralt carried around two swords. While this detail isn’t technically important to the plot, it’s still an easy enough detail to explain, which they don’t. This could’ve easily been remedied. Basically, he carries a silver sword to kill monsters and a steel sword to kill humans. Instead of explaining this in the actual series, they have Henry Cavill give an interview about it after the fact. Certain details that were more important were also left out. For example, Kaer Morhen was brought up, yet you never end up finding out what exactly it is, even though it was relevant to the scene it’s discussed in, and those who aren’t fans of the franchise are left confused. Furthermore, all of the different kingdoms, save for a few were almost exactly identical. In the game and in the books, there were key differences between the different Northern Kingdoms. Skellige, inspired by vikings, is filled with barbaric, bearded knights with horned helmets. In the series, Skellige was basically the same as Cintra or any of the other kingdoms that were mentioned, though it’s hard to remember what they were as they were so similar to each other. There were no key differences between any of the different regions on the map, and I was therefore left confused as to where everything was.
Overall, this was a decent adaptation of the source material but a mediocre series; it’s not really worth the watch, unless you’re really running out of high fantasy content.
The Witcher: Bad Video Game Adaptation or Something Unique?
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
- Acting - 8/108/10
- Music - 9.5/109.5/10
- Production - 5.4/105.4/10
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