The Witcher is now officially a mega multimedia franchise of its own. CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher games kickstarted it all, but it was Netflix’s The Witcher series starring Henry Cavill that pushed it into the mainstream. While we’re still waiting for a second season to premiere in December 2021, Netflix has released this animated movie that essentially acts as a prequel to the live-action series.
Toss A Coin To Your Witcher
First things first, The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf is not to be confused with Netflix’s The Witcher: Blood Origin. Nightmare Of The Wolf is a single animated feature film focusing on the exploits of Geralt’s mentor and teacher, Vesemir (voiced by Theo James), who will be appearing in the upcoming second season of the main live-action series. Meanwhile, Blood Origin is a live-action six-part miniseries that takes place long before the time of Vesemir and Geralt; over 1200 years ago to the very first Witcher in history.
Now that that’s out of the way, how is The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf? Obviously, I can’t spoil important plot points from the movie, but this movie is set before the time of Geralt in the live-action Netflix series. During this time, there were a lot more Witchers still alive and out in the world. By Geralt’s time, most of them had already died except a select few. It’s interesting to see a time when the Witchers were plenty in number, similar to how the Jedi were at their prime in the Star Wars prequels.
With Vesemir set to be portrayed by Danish actor Kim Bodnia in the upcoming second season of Netflix’s The Witcher, the primary purpose of The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf is to introduce the character, as well as explore his past, background and origins. This is very much Vesemir’s origin story, which is a wise choice considering that this would mean that showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich won’t have to spend precious screentime on Vesemir and divert attention from Geralt.
From the very beginning of the animated movie, The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf proves that it’s very much not for kids, just like the live-action series. It doesn’t hold anything back, with everything from gore (mutilated limbs and decapitated heads) and even some nudity for good measure. It’s great then that Studio Mir, best known for working on The Legend Of Korra, Voltron Legendary Defender, and Dota Dragon’s Blood, has done an admirable job with the animation.
Trust me, seeing as this is an animated movie and not a series, it’s clear that Studio Mir could focus their resources and time on making the animation look as good as possible. It definitely looks like an anime (just like their other projects). The animation is smooth and brilliant, with particle effects and parts with CGI that does not look cheap and have annoyingly low framerate. One of the highlights of the movie is the action and fight scenes, most of which are animated beautifully by Studio Mir.
Fans of the franchise will appreciate the details and easter eggs, like how Vesemir drinks a potion to boost his powers before fighting a Leshen. The Witcher Nightmare Of The Wolf even delves into Vesemir’s childhood and how became a Witcher, as well as a romance with a woman named Illyana (voiced by the wonderful and talented Jennifer Hale of Mass Effect fame) that makes the story more emotional and personal. I was impressed by the voice of Illyana and it was only at the end of the movie that I saw her name in the credits.
There’s more depth than I thought there would be, especially with Vesemir’s relationships with Illyana, his own mentor Deglan (voiced by Scottish actor Graham McTavish), and the witch Tetra (voiced by Lara Pulver). They all give good performances, but the interactions and chemistry between Vesemir and Illyana that add even more depth. Best of all, Vesemir is almost nothing like the gruff and stoic Geralt. He’s charming and likes to talk, making his behaviour the opposite of his future protege. That’s great since it would be boring if Vesemir acts exactly like a clone of Geralt.
Last but not least, it would be remiss of me not to mention the amazing music and soundtrack in The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf. The movie even starts with a haunting and original ballad that I’ll certainly be searching for on Spotify when the movie eventually comes out later this month. Composer Brian D’Oliveira did a phenomenal job in setting the tone of the entire movie his work.
Is The Witcher Nightmare Of The Wolf essential viewing for those who watch The Witcher live-action series? Well, I would easily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the franchise. The Witcher: Nightmare Of The Wolf does explain a lot of lore related to the Witchers themselves. And of course, to introduce Vesemir before we meet an older version of him in the upcoming The Witcher Season 2.
Additionally, Kaer Morhen is featured heavily in the animated movie, so it’s nice to get to know the history of the iconic location before Geralt and Ciri visits it in The Witcher Season 2 (as seen in a previously-released trailer).
The Witcher Season 2 is expected to premiere in December 2021. In the meantime, check out my review of The Witcher Season 1 here, or head on over here for all the easter eggs and references discovered in the first season.
FINAL SCORE: 80/100
We received an early access screener of The Witcher Nightmare Of The Wolf courtesy of Netflix Malaysia.
The show is slated to premiere on Netflix on 23 August 2021.