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Henry Cavill in The Witcher (2019). Image via IMDb.

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Monsters, Witchers, Battles and Lots of Magic: A Review of Netflix’s The Witcher

Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers from Season 1 of “The Witcher”.

From novel to game to a Netflix TV show to talks of it being the next Game of Thrones, Andrzej Sapkowski’s tale of a monster hunter, and his journey to fulfilling his destiny has become a world-wide story that has reached readers, gamers and now TV-watchers. But has this last adaptation kept the success rate of the beloved story?

Generally, I find that adapting a story from its initial form is a risky business, especially when adapting a fantasy book series to a movie. For example, though Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was successfully adapted into becoming an Academy Award-winning trilogy, not all novel-to-movie adaptations are successful. An example of adaptations that I personally don’t deem successful include The Golden Compass (2007), Twilight (2008) and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013). As a result of this, I believe that TV adaptations are generally more successful in regards to adaptations. My reasoning? Well, I think it comes down to a TV show’s ability to pay closer attention to detail over a longer period of time, that movies tend to rush.

Having known about the series being in post-production for a good while before Netflix officially announced its teaser trailer, I was quite excited. I instantly had high expectations of The Witcher series being adapted into a TV series for the very reasoning mentioned above. Despite this, the last official trailer release made me slightly skeptical. Mainly due to the fact that I worried the series would be filled with cringe-moments, quite like how I found The Shannara Chronicles had. For example, in The Shannara Chronicles, I felt that the majority of the acting and dialogue felt forced with the series, meaning that it became hard for me to take the show seriously. As a result, I worried that the same situation would happen in this series were acting and lines may be forced, creating a cringe-worthy image. Nonetheless, I was proven very wrong to my satisfaction. The series is filled with great acting, cinematography, screenwriting and music.

Netflix’s The Witcher, follows the journey of the mutant, Geralt of Rivia, as he makes his living as a monster hunter due to his extraordinary abilities. Despite Geralt being the titular hero, the show doesn’t focus only on The Witcher. In fact, the season divides itself into the story of three main protagonists including Geralt, Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) and Cirilla (Freya Allan), and shows how there struggles and destiny leads them into meeting each-other. Moreover, many have argued that the show’s creator, Lauren Schmidt, made the plot slightly confusing. This is mainly due to the fact that the season deals with three different timelines in one story. In a way, this formatting reminded me of Netflix’s Dark, where there are different timelines, that are constantly working together. Despite the confusion, the stories within each timeline focus on each of the main protagonists – including Yennefer (past), Geralt (past-present) and Cirilla (present) – eventually merge together until each character is in the present. Personally, I liked this technique as I found it creative, unique and fun to watch and work out and piece together the content.

To make things even better, the series stars Henry Cavill, who did a great job at playing this particular role. I believe that the best acting comes with when one becomes entirely engrossed in the character, and forgets that the character is just fictional and is in fact played by an actor. And that is just what Cavill did, he was no longer Henry Cavill, but Geralt of Rivia- The Witcher.

Ongoing, the camera shots tended to have a strong focus on certain characters, making viewers believe that these characters held a heavy significance. Despite this, I found that, like Game of Thrones, these characters would be the ones that died, therefore creating confusion for the viewers. An example of this is I found the camera’s focused a lot on Cirilla’s friend Martin, in the first episode. As a result, I thought that perhaps he would play a significant part in the season to her. However, he was one of the first to die. I think it is clever when the makers have the ability to divert our attention to certain moments or characters despite their actual significance in the show, as it shapes how we view and interpret the events happening.

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Destiny will always fulfill itself.

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Regarding cinematography, the season mainly consisted of dark, faded colors matching the theme of the show being a dark, shadowy fantasy. For example, the opening scene is filled with black and grey tonal shades. The use of an eerie color scheme matched with an uncomfortable silence, allowed the jump-scare to be more effective due to its horror-like techniques. The only part within the season where I found that scenes consisted of bright colors was in the forest accompanied by Dryads. The use of bright colors in this scene matched the fact that the water they drank took away all their sorrows.Therefore, causing them to be in a content state of mind. Furthermore, the use of VFX was generally well done throughout the season. The monsters, in particular, were convincing and the scenes in certain shots were made to be very realistic. The only area in which I found the VFX lacked was within some of the monsters. For example, Cirilla’s mother’s lover had the appearance of a hedgehog and just seemed a bit silly rather than realistic. In a similar way, the monster that was protecting the elves also seemed fake and didn’t match the realism of the other monsters that had previously been seen in the series.

Onto music, the season was composed by Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli – both well known for composing The Romanoffs (2018). Both Belousova and Ostinelli did a great job of shaping emotions and scenes through the use of an orchestral score. For example, in the opening scene, they used fast-tempo music that matched the tense scene whilst Geralt of Rivia fights against the monster in the swamp. Similarly, another area that I found the score to be highly notable, is the fact that every scene that starred Yennefer was accompanied by an oboe piece, thus shaping her character as having a sad, and perhaps soft side, despite the barrier she builds within her personality. Moreover, one area that fans seemed to have enjoyed includes the comical character, Jaskier’s song regarding Geralt’s career as a witcher.

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Now presenting, a Jaskier original composition 🎶

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Overall, what is the actual success rate of Andrzej Sapkowski’s story being turned into a TV show after already being transformed into a game? Well, so far, success is high. The series hasn’t been out for a week and has already reached an 8.7/10 in IMDb. Therefore,  the high fan-ratings shows that the show hasn’t been open to much disappointment. In contrast, at 56%, the Rotten Tomato Meter does not imply the same positivity regarding the new show. However, some may argue that this negative out-pour is the fault of critics. For example, news has spilled that some of these negative critics hadn’t even watched the show, and yet decided to provide it with negative feedback. That being said, I think the show did well regarding acting, story-line, cinematography and music. Moreover, Netflix has announced that there is going to be a second season in 2021. This means that the show still has a chance to boost up its percentage on the Rotten Tomato Meter and increase its success.

The season has left many questions including:, that we will have to wait to be answered in the following season, including:

  • Where did Yennefer go?
  • What will Ciri and Geralt do now they are together?
  • What happened to Jaskier and will he reunite with Geralt?
  • Will we see more of Witcher’s ‘Ma’, and will this lead to the viewers gaining a better insight into his past?

I have been thoroughly impressed by this fantasy series, and look forward to the following season, where these questions are bound to be answered. In the meantime, The Witcher is available on Netflix to watch and re-watch.

Featured Image via IMDb.

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    Emily

    December 28, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Great article! Cannot wait for the next season

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