The Witcher franchise is growing by leaps and bounds, and after a long wait, fans can finally see the latest addition to the canon in Netflix's new anime film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. Nightmare brings Geralt's mentor Vesemir into the spotlight, giving fans a look at the fan-favorite Witcher in his prime and shedding new light on foundational events in the Witcher mythology that were still a bit shrouded in mystery. The result is a thrilling ride through Witcher history full of style, pulse-pounding action, and often brutal choices that no Witcher fan dare miss, and I couldn't recommend it more.
Beau DeMayo and Lauren S. Hissrich are able to retain a similar vibe and tone to the live-action series, while director Kwang Il Han and Studio Mir infuse each and every scene with stellar style and flair. Like the mainline series, Nightmare of the Wolf is once again based on the books by Andrzej Sapkowski, but like its live-action brother, it also makes a change or two to certain elements of the mythos.
It can be dangerous to take narrative liberties when you're dealing with a beloved series, but the changes here only enhance the intrigue and add welcome context, and they also don't conflict or butt heads with what's been established in the main series, so they seem to have once again pulled it off.
The voice cast is stellar on all fronts, but quite a bit of the weight rests on Vesemir's shoulders, and Theo James is simply astounding in the role. This is a Vesemir still in his prime, unburdened with the knowledge he will eventually come to understand, and he's simply a delight. A little cocky but not obnoxiously so, and while he's focused on obtaining as much coin as he can, his compassionate heart shines through enough to always keep you in his corner, and James brings all of those elements to life brilliantly throughout.
There's a subtle layer underneath the self-assured exterior, and it's Mary McDonnell's Lady Zerbst who is most responsible for bringing it out of him. While the relationship between Vesemir and Graham McTavish's Deglan is responsible for some of the movie's biggest moments, Zerbst and Vesemir's relationship is responsible for some of the most important ones and forms the heart of this epic story.
That said, DeMayo and Hissrich utilize Deglan and Lara Pulver's Tetra to explore the mythology around Witchers, whether that's regarding how they are created, the ripple effects of that creation, or how they are viewed by those they protect. Witchers are quite polarizing after all, and Nightmare takes some time to flesh out why they are so divisive and if those opinions and assumptions have any grounding in reality.
When the swords start swinging and the signs start pulsing, it is a sight to behold. Studio Mir fills each action sequence with a supreme sense of scale and motion, and Vesemir dazzles in each and every sequence as he swiftly vaults across the battlefield with an impressive elegance while cleaving enemies and leaving bloody corpses and decapitated heads in his wake. Oh yes, Nightmare doesn't hold back on the brutality, and that goes for the action sequences as well as sequences more closely tied to the origin of Witchers, and in both cases, it will definitely leave an impression. Everything comes together for a final act that just couldn't be done in live-action, at least not without a ridiculous budget, and you'll be on the edge of your seat the entire time.
Honestly, I really don't have any issues with Nightmare, even of the nitpicky kind. I just want more, and I mean more of everything. More monsters, more of Vesemir's adventures, and more of what happens in between this time and when we first meet Geralt in the main series. That's not a list of nitpicks, that's a sequel, and you can sign me up for that right now.
If you've been wondering what The Witcher is all about, this is a lovely introduction to the world of Sapkowski's novels or the live-action series. If you're already a fan of The Witcher, this is an absolute must-watch, and I'm going to need more Vesemir in my life ASAP.
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf hits Netflix on August 23rd.