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Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.
When a ton of different kinds of similar films come out in one year, you want to stand out and be able to stay on your own two feet against the competition. There is nothing worse than being the film that you reference in a negative way when you are comparing it to the film that may be similar but is the better option. This happens from time to time with certain years in animation. Why should anyone choose the subjectively weaker option, when you have something subjectively better offered to you? In this case, this year we have two different action fantasy films that take place in their respective franchises. You have the famous Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which is the sequel film to the first season of the shonen action franchise, and now we have the prequel film to the Netflix live-action series, The Witcher with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf.
Directed by Kwang ll Han, written by Beau DeMayo, based on the book series by Andrej Sapkowski, and produced by the legendary Studio Mir, this is a prequel story that takes place decades ago before our lovely Geralt takes the mantle as the main character. So, what do we get instead of a story following a baby Geralt? Well, you should heighten your senses and get your silver sword ready for what I’m about to review.
Our main hero for this story is Vesemir, voiced by Theo James, an infamous swashbuckling Witcher and future mentor to the franchise’s main character Geralt. Vesemir is going about his days as a monster slayer, who is hated among monsters and humans alike. I mean, technically, no one likes Witchers and there has been tension among his kind due to the growing tension between humans, the dwindling number of monsters, and their futures. During one night, Vesemir encounters a truly unique version of a monster known as a Leshen, and that sets him off on his journey to find out exactly what is going on, who is behind these weird new experiments, and will he and his kind be able to survive?
So, with this being a prequel story to the main events of the TV series, how does it handle the overall story of Geralt’s mentor and his days as a younger Witcher? I think one decision that was well executed was the fact that you can pretty much sit down with this film and not have seen the live-action show or played the games, and get an understanding as to what the story is about, and the dark fantasy world in which they live. It has a sort of typical fantasy thriller experience, and you can understand who was behind what exactly, before the twists are revealed, but because the dialogue was this great mix of camp and charm, and the overall story is morally grey, it makes for a fun romp to experience. The world of The Witcher is dark, morally grey, and unforgiving. While I call Vesemir the hero of our story, he has some skeletons in his closet that make him a flawed hero. Like I said though, you are easily roped into the story as you do see the complexity of this world’s politics. What you find out about the origins of the Witchers isn’t great, but you can see their perspective in how one becomes a Witcher and how they try to survive in a world full of discrimination and hatred, and how that can corrupt anyone. Now, with all that said, the film knows it’s an action flick, and Vesemir, while having his serious and dry moments, is mouthy. He has some very action movie one-liners and is cocky, but in a fun way. He also has a sincere heart for himself and for the people he cares about. It results in a film full of some mild cynicism, but a lot of heart. It might have a script that can be a bit blunt at times with its commentary, but it never bothered me, and with some lessons and themes, it’s good to be blunt about certain things. Now, if you are wondering if you will ever see Geralt, you will, but don’t expect to see him in any real meaningful way. This is Vesemir’s story, and he’s a fun lead character. It’s one of the few prequel stories where I feel like it tells a good story that never made me think about “well, why should I care about anyone here since it’s a prequel?”. Anytime a prequel can make me say that, they are on my good side.
Now, for the presentation, this is Studio Mir, and while the overall animation looks like a better-budgeted Avatar: The Last Airbender episode, it looks great. There is a reason why Studio Mir is a highly sought-after studio for action shows and why so many studios try to copy their direction in crafting visuals and action. There is a lot of slick action choreography and camera work to make this some of the best action seen this year. It’s a film with a ton of satisfying action and gore on screen that makes for a visceral, but fun romp! Since this is a film based on the Witcher series, you should also expect some pretty good music as well! It’s composed by Brian D’Oliveira who was a composer on games such as Sackboy: A Big Adventure, Journey to the Savage Planet, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, Tearaway, and Papo & Yo. He brings this mix of European folk with some middle-eastern sounding tunes. The voice cast is also pretty good. You have Theo James as our lead character, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish, Mary McDonnell, Tom Canton, David Errigo Jr., and Matt Yang King, to name a few of the actors seen in the film. The cast feels like they would fit right into either the live-action series or the third game.
While I love this film overall, I do have some minor gripes. Tetra, while being a sinister villain, is not all that interesting. They fill the void with some literal last-minute backstory that connects her to an incident told offhand about the conniving nature of the Witchers. It’s not handled the best. The side characters also don’t leave an impression. You tend to forget their names, and they seem to be there to either fill out more of the world or to get killed. I think I would have liked to have seen them get fleshed out more. Maybe it’s because of the length of the film itself, but I would have loved this film to be two hours so you can give more time for the side characters to be expanded upon and to add more action.
Even with the minor gripes, whether you are a fan of the franchise or not, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a good fantasy action film that I think fans and newcomers can easily jump into with ease. Now, do I Like this more than Demon Slayer: Mugen Train? I think in some ways, Nightmare of the Wolf is better, but only because Mugen Train requires you to watch the first season to get the full enjoyment of the film. You don’t need to watch the Netflix Witcher series to enjoy Nightmare of the Wolf. Still, I”m happy to have so many action animated features this year, and I’ll be happy to see so many get made. Now then, I think it’s time to talk about a film that I meant to review a few months back, but, well, I wasn’t able to for one reason or another. It’s time we take a look at the Funimation exclusive The Stranger by the Shore.
Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!
Rating: Go See It!