Back in 2019, fans of CD Projekt Red’s critically acclaimed “Witcher” games were greeted with an early Christmas present. A high-budget, well-acted and monster-filled Netflix adaptation of the beloved video game franchise. It was heralded as one of the best video-game adaptations of all time. Netflix is looking for lightning to strike twice but this time with an original anime film set in the same universe as Henry Cavill’s grizzled Geralt of Rivia. Only this time, we’re not following the exploits of Geralt. Oh no, this tale is about his master and mentor, Vesemir. This is Netflix’s “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”.
Long before he was the kindly, wise old man who guided Geralt on the Path, he was a rogue. A sharp-witted, cunning monster-hunter with a penchant for the finer things in life. A departure from his apprentice’s signature stoic demeanour. In “Nightmare of the Wolf”, we follow the young Witcher as he’s called upon a quest to investigate a rather strange case. Elven children have gone missing and monsters of greater sentience seem to be popping up. This leads Vesemir and Tetra, a Witcher-hating mage, to discover one of the darkest conspiracies in the Witcher universe. Seriously, this gives the “Ladies of the Wood” quest in “Witcher 3” a run for its money.
It all culminates in an epic confrontation that brings about the fall of Witchers near and far. This is the moment they went from respected warriors to tolerated mercenaries to reviled outlaws. This is the Fall of Kaer Morhen. As massive fans of the Witcher games, “Nightmare of the Wolf” delivers on so many fronts. We’ve always heard stories of how there was a bloody siege of the castle that resulted in the death of Witchers but we were never shown. We had to use our imagination to fill in the gaps – until now. The conspiracy, betrayal and individual stories leading up to the event is every bit as satisfying as the battle itself.
If you’re new to the world of “The Witcher”, don’t worry about it. The plot of “Nightmare of the Wolf” is fairly accessible for anyone looking to give it a watch. That being said, some of the socio-political nuances and cool cameos in the film will be lost on you. For better context, we recommend playing the games or binge watching the first season of the live-action series before “Nightmare of the Wolf”. Trust us, it’s worth the investment.
However, there is a corny romance between Vesemir and his childhood friend, Illyana that we weren’t too keen on. Eventually, it ties to the main plot of the story and we understand that it provides an emotional anchor to ground the character’s growth. It’s just that the world of the Witcher is one of full of narrative subversions, unexpected horrors and grey morals. So to see this element in the plot, feels a little jarring to us. Overall, the plot of “Nightmare of the Wolf” delivers a thrilling dark fantasy kick that we haven’t felt since the end of “Game of Thrones”.
Much like the HBO series, “Nightmare of the Wolf” is most definitely not for kids. Seriously, the amount of violence on display can only be described as an utter bloodbath. All brought to glorious life thanks to the people at Studio Mir. This comes as no surprise seeing that Mir’s previous work includes such fine animated shows like “Legend of Korra” and “Young Justice”. The inspiration of the latter can clearly be seen in the character models and expressions. There is a very distinct art-style to the studio that blends Japanese anime aesthetics with classic 2D animation techniques.
This translates very well in the way action is shown on screen. Much like “Legend of Korra”, Studio Mir doesn’t cut corners when it comes to crafting phenomenal battle sequences. Below the flashy surface, there’s thought and intricacy placed into every clash. The world of “The Witcher” has these warriors carefully considering every move before taking it. Whether it be in the form of a well-timed strike with a poisoned blade or a coordinated spell to repel enemis. The most impressive of these sequences can be found in Vesemir’s final battle. One that blends brutal swordplay and spectacular sorcery in a lightning fast chessmatch of a melee that left us in awe.
While there’s plenty of visual spectacle to keep us engaged throughout its near hour and a half runtime, we can’t help but find some of the characters underdeveloped. Vesemir clearly gets the most screentime with plenty of flashbacks and dialogue. Voice actor Theo James does an admirable job playing a young Vesemir. He infuses the character with enough charm, levity and moral indignation to win fans over.
Unfortunately, this does come at the expense of the secondary characters of the plot. For example, characters like Tetra and Vesemir’s master Deglan are some of the key players driving the Fall of Kaer Morhen. Yet, we get barely enough information on what drives them beyond passing comments about past trauma. Which is such a shame seeing that Lara Pulver and Graham McTavish do such excellent jobs as the hateful zealot mage and cynical Witcher. We can’t help but feel that the plot would have benefitted from more screentime with them. All minor gripes in the face of what “Nightmare of the Wolf” gets right.
If you’re a fan of anime, “The Witcher” games and the Netflix series based on them, then “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf” is an absolute must-watch. This is exactly what a proper spin-off or prequel should be. It provides fans of the past with richer context while drawing newcomers into its complex setting. Netflix has done it again!
If “Nightmare of the Wolf” is any indication of quality, we can’t wait to see what the second season of “The Witcher” has in store for us!
So what did you think of Netflix’s “The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf”? Do you think they did the character of Vesermir justice? Are you excited for the upcoming season of “The Witcher”? Be sure to let us know in a comment!
Netflix's "The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf"
If you're a fan of anime, "The Witcher" games and the Netflix series based on them, then "The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf" is an absolute must-watch. This is exactly what a proper spin-off or prequel should do. It provides fans of the past with richer context while drawing newcomers into its complex setting. Netflix has done it again!
- Netflix's "The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf"