This review is spoiler-free.
Escaping poverty to become a Witcher, Vesemir slays monsters for coin and glory, but when a new menace rises, he must face the demons of his past.
Wait, an animated movie based on The Witcher franchise from the studio that brought us The Legend of Korra and Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge? I’M IN!
Before going any further Witcher fans it’s worth noting, if you didn’t know already, that this animated movie is a prequel to The Witcher TV series. I feel this is important, thus allowing you to get your head around the concept of ‘sexy Vesemir’ and not think about the Vesemir from The Witcher video games. Kim Bonia will be playing Vesemir in season two of The Witcher and you can see more of a resemblance between the two animated and live-action characters, so it makes sense that they would go down this route. Of course, if you’re not familiar with the Vesemir of the games or books, the previous statement can be disregarded! It just took me, personally, about five minutes to adjust to the look of our protagonist. After that, it wasn’t so much of a distraction.
The animation was really clean and you could tell that Studio Mir really flexed their animation muscles with some of the monster fights, especially in the final act of the movie. Now, just like most things to do with The Witcher, this film was incredibly violent and graphic, so if that’s not your thing, then this might not be the film for you! As for the story, it was a solid script that told a complete story that was fun, exciting and heart-breaking in equal measure. If you’re interested in The Witcher lore then there is plenty to get your teeth into, but likewise, if all you know is the Netflix series then I think this film prepares you nicely for season two, which lands in December.
In terms of the cast, Theo James takes on the lead role of Vesemir, but is supported beautifully by the fantastic Lara Pulver who plays Tetra, a new character created for this movie. James was great as Hector in Castlevania, so he’s really starting to build a strong voiceover CV, as this was another really impressive display. Pulver brings her usual gravitas to her role, which gave a natural feel to Tetra’s complexity and her magical prowess. In the supporting roles, Graham McTavish plays Deglan, Vesemir’s mentor and his distinctive gruff Scottish voice makes him perfect to play a Witcher. Mary McDonnell plays Lady Zerbst, a friend of Vesemir, and just like Pulver, McDonnell just takes her performance to another level. I think I also need to mention Tom Canton, who reprises his role as Filavadrel from the TV show (the Elf who took Geralt and Jaskier captive) – funnily enough, Theo James voiced a young Vesemir in the show as well, so it’s nice to have these obvious connections to the TV show which just helps create that world-building and interconnectivity between the different mediums.
Director Kwang II Han makes his animated feature film debut here and I think he does a great job helping to shape the flow of the movie. Some of the monster fights were especially brutal and really well-choreographed. At Kwang’s side is The Witcher showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, who serves as producer on the film. This helps to ensure that any story details or little breadcrumbs could be weaved into the narrative to, possibly, setup events or characters for the upcoming second season of the film’s live-action counterpart.
If Nightmare of the Wolf has one negative, it’s that the middle act does get a little lost in itself. While this isn’t detrimental to the overall movie, it is noticeable all the same. But other than that, there is very little else to pick at, as this was a very enjoyable movie.
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a terrific expansion of Netflix’ Witcher universe and I would very much welcome more animated films in the future! Wonderful cast performances, beautiful animation and a thrilling story makes for an exciting and gruesome watch!