The latest in the line of Netflix “original Anime” that aren’t actually anime (serious guys, the only distinction in the country its created in, there’s nothing wrong with creating a more adult oriented animation and it being technically a cartoon…) The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf serves as a prequel to the Netflix live action series and focuses on the backstory of Geralt’s teacher Vesemir, who is set to debut in Season 2, and the downfall of the Witchers. A good premise then, did they pull it off?
Vesemir, a cocky young Witcher, delights in slaying monsters for coin. When a dangerous new power rises on the Continent, Vesemir learns that some Witchering jobs are about more than just money.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Vesemir being very pleased with himself.
In terms of lore and backstory the film is definitely worth a watch, seeing not only how one child went through the harrowing process to become a Witcher but also how the organisation itself fell. Vesemir (Theo James) seeing his friends die in the trials but sticking with it anyway in order to become someone “better” than the poor person he started as is a good simple tale, one that leads to the obvious wealth obsessed git phase and then the final realisation that there is more to life than money. This comes with a double whammy of revelations as his mentor Deglan (Graham McTavish) along with the mage that created the Witchers were using forbidden magic to create new and powerful monsters for the sole purpose of keeping the need for Witchers around after their group had been a little too effective in wiping out deadly threats. Meanwhile a sorcerer named Tetra (Lara Pulver) who had been helping Vesemir despite her vocal dislike for the mutated helpers is revealed to be behind a series of grizzly deaths on the outskirts of town by controlling an elf that had been mutated in the aforementioned experiments, all for the purpose of framing the Witchers (or, I guess, being spot-on about them, actually…)
“Hang on let me use my magical powers…. Yep, I can definitely confirm this person is dead.”
This leads to a large scale battle at Kaer Morhen that results in the Witchers being decimated, the mage and method of creation lost and Vesemir accidentally killing a childhood friend (who was now an old woman, that’s Witcher aging for you!) He ends up rescuing a small group of just-converted Witcher children and decides to teach them, one of which is identified as a young Geralt.
So some fun backstory that I’m sure will be alluded to during Witcher Season 2, but the film isn’t without its faults.
Filavandrel is pissed that his name is really easy to typo when writing it.
It’s probably safe to say that Netflix’s Castlevania series was used as a base here as Vesemir is pretty much just Trevor Belmont and Tetra is very similar to Sypha, the two pairs have almost the exact same relationship and interplay during the course of the story, though obviously with vastly different outcomes! Throw in a dry sarcastic elf named Filavandrel (Tom Canton) in a few scenes and there were moments where you could squint and be convinced you’re watching the Castlevania trio of Trevor, Sypha and Alucard. It also shares that series’ love of over-the-top bloody violence for the sake of it, like some 90s anime that is desperate for an 18 rating so people think it’s cool. Always a shame to see that, it can be an effective tool but not when you use it for every fight scene…
So the film has its moments but it’s also very by-the-numbers, and I wasn’t thrilled with the character designs, even if the actual animation was well done.
All she wants is a hug, really.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf has some great moments and interesting backstory but it’s also very plain, full of generic characters and has scenes with over-the-top violence for the sake of it. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half, but I doubt I’ll be watching it again.