When Netflix announced that it was adapting The Witcher as a series, fans let out a collective sigh- Hollywood doesn't have a good track-record with video-game-to-live-action adaptations.
The failure of such video-game-to-movie adaptations as Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed made fans skeptical of the success that a live-action adaptation of The Witcher could have.
The fact that the video games themselves were adapted from Andrzej Sapkowski's works seemed inconsequential.
Early critics screening and their lukewarm reviews of the show perpetuated the belief that Hollywood truly fails at adapting video games to live-action.
But despite everything working against the show, Netflix's The Witcher broke Netflix viewership highs, totaling over 76 million viewers in the first month of its release.
Nowadays, the general consensus is that Netflix's The Witcher is one of the better TV shows of 2019. But is it worth your time? We seem to think so! And here are some reasons why!
Say what you want about The Witcher, but the one department where it is not lacking is in lore and mythology; Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski made sure of that. He created the world of The Witcher over seven full-length novels and a myriad of short stories. Were the series to reference the novels, showrunners have reference material to last years.
The Witcher is set in the fictional world of "The Continent" and primarily centers around the magically-enhanced monster-hunter, Geralt of Rivia, the mage Yennefer of Vengerberg, and Princess Cirilla of Cintra as they are brought together by a mysterious force called "destiny."
The first season is based on the short stories The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny and serves as a prologue to the main story. Told over three different timelines, the non-linear story explores the formative experiences in the three central characters' lives that shape them into the people they are in the main story.
Geralt is one of the last remaining Witchers, a dying breed of mutant monster hunters. On his travels, he encounters and gets romantically involved with Yennefer, a mage who magically transmutes her disfigured body at the cost of her fertility.
Geralt is plagued by dreams of a "girl in the woods", who turns out to be Princess Cirilla, the sole heir to the kingdom of Cintra. When the empire of Nilfgaard wages war on Cintra, Cirilla must evade the Nilfgaardian forces and find her sworn protector, Geralt of Rivia.
On their intertwining odysseys, they must face monsters on the outside and within, and find what "destiny" has in store for them.
The Cast And Characters
Intriguing characters are part and parcel of any enthralling TV show- of which The Witcher has plenty!
Henry Cavill plays Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher around whom the series is based. Geralt is a breed of the magically-enhanced mutant mercenaries, called Witchers, who is paid to dispose of monsters.
Andrzej Sapkowski- upon whose works Netflix's The Witcher is based- said of Henry Cavill taking up the mantle of Geralt of Rivia:
"I was more than happy with Henry Cavill's appearance as The Witcher. He's a real professional. Just as Viggo Mortensen gave his face to Aragorn (in The Lord of the Rings), so Henry gave his to Geralt — and it shall be forever so."
Anya Chalotra plays the mage, Yennefer of Vengerberg. A disfigured farm-girl, she is sold off to the sorceress Tissaia de Vries by her father.
Under Tissaia's tutelage, Yennefer becomes an adept mage herself, but only when she transmutes her appearance does she realize her true performance.
Freya Allan plays Princess Cirilla of Cintra.
The sworn heir to the kingdom of Cintra, she becomes a refugee when Nilfgaard attacks Cintra. She is bound to Geralt of Rivia and must find him to survive.
Joey Batey plays Jaskier the Bard. A lecherous bard, known for telling tall tales. He joins Geralt on his adventures and embellishes his exploits into songs to help with Geralt's (and his) popularity with the denizens of the Continent.
MyAnna Buring plays Tissaia de Vries, a sorceress and the Rectoress of Aretuza, who takes Yennefer under her wing.
Despite Lukewarm Critical Reception, The Show Achieved Netflix Viewership Highs
The reviews for The Witcher remains divisive. Critical response for the series remains tepid at best, and some have outright hated the show. On the other hand, audiences have largely loved the show and stand by it.
You need not look any further than Rotten Tomatoes to see the disparity between the two sides. Among the critics, the show holds a 66% approval rate, while among audiences, it holds a 92% approval rate.
One particular critic, Darren Franich, writing for Entertainment Weekly, was rightfully called out for his biased review. He gave the show an "F" rating, and said: "My destiny is never to watch this borefest ever again."
When it was found out that he had skipped the fifth episode, his review lost all credibility.
On IMDb, the series currently holds a rating of 8.4/10 among 206,647 users. On Metacritic, the first season holds a score of 52 out of 100, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Despite the disputable scores, one thing is undeniable- The Witcher is one of Netflix's most successful shows. According to a survey conducted by Parrot Analytics, as of December 31, 2019, The Witcher is the most-in-demand TV series in the world, across all streaming platforms.
A survey conducted by Netflix also reported that 76 million viewers watched the first season within the first month of its release.
The Resurgence Of The Novel And Video Game Series
Continuing the trend of overwhelming success, the Netflix series bolstered the sale of Andrzej Sapkowski's novel series on Amazon, years- in some cases, decades- after they were published.
The video game trilogy- which already has a dedicated cult following, and grossed $40 million altogether- saw a resurgence after the series released. The third installment, in particular, is seeing a rejuvenation, five years after its release. While the game holds merit in its own right, the Netflix series is believed to have been the impetus behind the resurgence in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's popularity.
Will There Be a Second Season?
There, most definitely, will be a second season. In fact, the second season was approved before the show ever debuted on Netflix.
The eight-episode second season is set to premiere sometime in 2021, and production will begin in early 2020.
Should You Watch The Witcher?
The Witcher is every fantasy drama fan's dream come true. A faithful adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's novels, the series has something for everybody- be it the hardcore fans or the casual viewers.
Henry Cavill truly embodies his character as Geralt of Rivia, and being a lifelong fan of the video games, he knows what he needs to bring to the table- and he doesn't disappoint! Anya Chalotra and Freya Allan also give it their best, along with most of the ensemble cast.
While the visual effects leave something to be desired, it is by no means terrible. The action sequences are top-notch and the choreography, crisp.
The critical reception might dissuade some viewers, but the 76 million- and counting- viewers who have enjoyed the show speak to the merit of the show in and of itself.
Whether you are a die-hard fan of Sapkowski's novels and the video games, or you are a first-timer, The Witcher has enough intrigue and character depth to make a believer out of even the most skeptical.