The Witcher

Henry Cavill is brooding and wields a mean sword -but have we seen it all before?

When The Witcher grows up it probably wants to be Game of Thrones. Or possibly Lord of the Rings.

The newest sprawling Netflix fantasy is a dark action tale with Henry Cavill as its brooding anti-hero. There are creatures, swordfights, battle scenes, romance, magic and gore in medieval times. Just the kind of boxes binge television loves to tick. The question is whether the sum of the parts will rise to a whole….

The Witcher is based on a book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. A platinum-ponytailed and cleft-chinned Cavill grimaces and mumbles as the mutant monster-hunter Geralt who, as well as wielding a helluva sword, has his own superhuman skills including walking through closed doors and confiding in his horse.

But Witchers also don’t feel anything emotionally, we discover, which may explain why Cavill is suitably cast in the role. In his opening adventure he is tasked with vanquishing the fallen Princess Renfri (Emma Appleton), who is equally adept with a sword and has her own reasons for seeking revenge.

Having been raped it’s understandable she reveals, “More and more I find monsters wherever I go.”

But Geralt kills monsters not people…

As battles are fought and monsters spook our hero, he will come to be misunderstood. It seems not even perfect chins get a free pass around here.

Meanwhile child Princess Ciri (Freya Allan) the next ruler of the Continent, escapes when the Kingdom falls. Her destiny is also Geralt (“destiny” is popular in this neck of the woods). It doesn’t take much powers of deduction to realise that at some point they are going to meet up.

Episode two introduces the sorceress-in-training Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) who may yet prove to be the show’s best asset and light relief singing minstrel Jaskier (Joey Batey) as things detours into Charmed terrain.

Game of Thrones similarities are hard to avoid. Time and place are somewhat confusing. On the one hand it looks (mostly) like medieval Europe. Yet there are accent inconsistencies and dialogue such as “sonofabitch” and “gross” is distractingly contemporary.

But the fighting scenes are well-choreographed. Cavill is stronger with the physical than the emotional scenes, which are far too one-note. Despite its uneven debut the show is better when he is centrestage. Chin and all.

The Witcher is now screening on Netflix.

5 Responses

  1. With only 2 more eps to watch I am really enjoying this. The multiple timelines threw me at first but its understandable when they’re trying to bring different character arcs together. Off to read the books before season 2!

  2. With the GoT finale being a disappointment for some fans, and the prospective GoT spin-offs getting off to a false (and expensive) start, fantasy fans will be wanting The Witcher to succeed, especially with Henry Caville in the main role. You would have to say that this Netflix show would have to be a poor mans Conan the Barbarian to fail, The Witcher has a lot riding on it for Netflix especially in the USA so it would be a real surprise if there was no season 2 coming same time next year

  3. I don’t think Cavill is ever going to win an Oscar that’s for sure… but he is perfectly cast in this believe it or not. He is Geralt. Little to no emotion. That’s his MO.

    I’ve watched two episodes and am thoroughly enjoying it. Yes it’s got some shortcomings (the dodgy SFX are really distracting… we are talking CW or even SyFy channel level bad at times), but as you said the fight choreography is excellent. I think it will get better with maturation and if I’m not mistaken, it’s been given a S2 order already? Which is promising.

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