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.