In a world of monsters and men, a young Vesemir dances a delicate line as he becomes a renowned Witcher.
I am a sucker for The Witcher. I've played the games, read the books, I've watched the Netflix show, and I still can't get enough of this incredible universe. So, needless to say, when I heard that Netflix was producing an anime movie, based on a young Vesemir and the trials and tribulations that led him to become the man we know he is in the time of Geralt of Rivia, I was pretty ecstatic.
But, despite my excitement, I was also a little concerned, because this fantastic universe has a lot to live up to. I'm one of those people, who while being a fan of Henry Cavill portraying the titular monster slayer Geralt, found that the live-action Netflix series was little more than a perfectly acceptable fan service show, which is why I had my concerns with The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf going in.
So, what is this movie about you ask? Well, it tells the tale of a young (and for that matter, even younger) Vesemir, as he not only grows as a formidable and renowned Witcher, but also explores how he came to join the School of the Wolf in the first place. For the most part, the storyline is framed around the mature, and cocky version of Vesemir, a character voiced by Theo James, as he unravels a mystery around the growing threat of monsters that are gripping the lands of Kaedwen.
It's a storyline that also explores the hostile reception Witchers are known for receiving in this world, and touches upon how the fear of the monster slayers is twisted to be directly used against them. In the end, all of this culminates in an all out conflict at Kaer Morhen, turning the iconic castle into a bloody battleground, littered with corpses of men, monsters, and even plenty of Witchers - which itself sets the scene and tone for the live-action series (as this is a prequel to that).
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As you would expect from a Witcher production, there's an abundance of monster slaying and gore, yet that didn't stop me from having my gripes with it, as even with the broad array of action that is delivered, the storyline seemed to struggle a little with its pacing. Sure, it's always nice seeing a behind the curtain look at the operation of creating a Witcher, and getting this sexy version of Vesemir in a bathtub is always an added bonus. But, the movie feels a little all over the place. There's either some crazy action taking place, or something that's very little of interest, it's missing the balance of explosive action with meaningful storytelling, something that Netflix's anime Castlevania delivered a masterclass in.
And to a degree, this balance stretches to the cast. James' portrayal of Vesemir is an entertaining one, and is an absolute highlight for the movie. Likewise, Graham McTavish's Deglan (Vesemir's mentor) and Lara Pulver's Tetra (a powerful sorceress) bring a lot of charisma to the movie, but aside from these three, there's very few characters that truly stand out. Even the other Witchers that appear barely get a chance to shine.
With these issues in mind, the animation for the show does serve up formidable action sequences, and does a great job at capturing the emotion of the characters and the horrors they are subject to most of the time. In this aspect, it's very similar to what we received from Castlevania, and it does make the animation another highlight.
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However, in general, this movie falls into the same trap as the live-action show, in that it's enjoyable to watch, incredibly well-made, and has its peaks. But, it's nothing more. The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is another dosage of fan service that never takes a risk to be something more, or challenge what we've come to expect from the brand. Don't get me wrong, Witcher fans will find themselves right at home for its 90-minute duration, just don't expect a truly outstanding take on the universe, because this isn't that.