The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021) movie review
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is an animated feature film set in the Witcher (2018-) timeline years before the story is set. We follow a young Vesemir, a poor boy turned monster hunter (or witcher) as he is tasked with hunting a demon in the forest preying on citizens of a nearby city. The Netflix original was released this past Monday to a predominately positive reception from critics and audiences alike, even boasting a current 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Yeah I mean, I’m not sure what there isn’t to like here? We have a witcher story set in a time that doesn’t effect the series, but where we can still learn more about the lore and characters, brought to life in the visual anime style of the Castlevania (2017-2021) series complete with a solid TV-MA rating. If those tings don’t sound appealing to you, obviously you haven’t seen the live action series. So yeah if you like the Witcher series, or if you don’t but like the games or books, or you don’t know anything about them but liked Castlevania, or just want to dive into an R-rated fantasy anime where you don’t have to read, Netflix has the movie for you!
Before I get into things like “story and characters” and whatnot, I just HAVE to talk about this beautiful animation style. I really enjoyed Castlevania in part because of how good it looked. It is true anime? Pft I don’t want to get into it. All I know is that Witcher brings the same unique visuals, complete with intense lighting, strong colors, captivating scenery, and realistically designed and animated characters. There is something really grounded about this style that you need to buy into for the gritty violence and harsher visual tone that comes with it. This is no surprise of course, as the team that put this film together worked on shows and films like The Boondocks (2005-2014), Invincible (2021-), Kim Possible (2002-2007), both Avatar (2005-2008) and Korra (2012-2014) and of course the live action Witcher.
Being a Witcher series, one of the things I was really looking forward to was the worldbuilding. Rachel has read most of the books, but I haven’t, so I was curious to see some of the history behind Witchers themselves. While the film does mostly focus on Vesemir and his own backstory, we do get plenty more into the world, including some interesting history on why the people in the world of the series don’t really like witchers that much. Wrapped up in that story are plenty of moral greys that I think really work well for this movie!
The characters themselves also felt very layered. Vesemir is a bit more ambitious and appreciative of his lifestyle than many of the other witchers, and this leads his to have a bit more perspective when it comes to dealing with the threat, as well as the other characters involved. I don’t really want to give too much away, as the story direction in the trailer is pretty vague… but yeah, I found the supporting characters equally interesting! There’s somewhat of a reluctant partner for some of the film in the form of a mage named Tetra, and she was probably the most compelling character in the film!
And yeah, with strong characters comes a talented voice cast to help being to life the layered writing. Theo James, mumbler as he may be, does a really good job as Vesemir. He definitely takes some notes from Richard Armitage’s Trevor Belmont when it comes to sarcastic quips, but they work well for the character! Graham McTavish plays Deglan, an older witcher, and he was probably my favorite performance in the film. He adds probably the most depth to his character that goes a long way towards establishing Vesemir’s backstory and the bond he has with the other witchers.
Brian D’Oliveira doesn’t pull of the fantasy feel quite as well as Sonya Belousova and Giona Ostinelli, but as the style of music might feel a bit too real for an animated film, D’Oliveira does a pretty fine job.
One big gripe that I did have about the movie was the pacing. I wanted to love it, but it’s hard to get into it when the story keeps cutting to large chunks of flashbacks. On top of that, the scenes that occur between the flashbacks don’t really feature action. Essentially this means the entire second act is a bit dull, despite some interesting character backstory. There are definitely more clever ways to weave the backstory in, either by opening with it, like how Lion (2016) simply gets the backstory out of the way and moves on to adult Saroo, or do the Ghost of Tsushima (2020) storytelling method of bringing up flashbacks during key moments that seem relevant to learning those things about the character. Or, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but just toss in a meaningless action scene to help break it up.
Overall though, it’s a fine film. The way it ties into The Witcher lore without feeling like a required prequel is nicely handled, as are the story and themes that take you further into the world. The characters are interesting and the connection they each have to the shades of morality in that story is genuinely great! Plus the animation style is top notch. Would I have rather had this in live action? Well not really no. There’s something about this film’s ability to capture the feel of the world without making it feel like a long, disconnected episode of a fan film that really works. My only with is that the pacing were better. It doesn’t sound like it should matter that much, but I think it really hurts the interest I had in the second act. That said, go check it out. It’s awesome. 7/10.
So Netflix’s The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf? Did you watch it yet? What did you think? And what fantasy film or series do you think deserves an animated spinoff like this? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And as usual, got something you want us to talk about? Let us know below and we’ll check it out! Thanks for reading!
-review by Ryan Prince