Netflix’s The Witcher is based on fantasy novel series written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. Originally planned to be a film, Netflix later decided to expand the storylines in multiple seasons in the form of a series that has been labeled as the next Game of Thrones.
The show was created for Netflix by show-runner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. The primary cast includes Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia, Freya Allan as Princess Ciri, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer. The series follows the story of Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster hunter labeled as the ‘Witcher’, a term used for beast hunters. Geralt is involved in a struggle to find the right place for himself, and ends up joining paths with a powerful sorceress and a princess with a dark secret.
Following the Legacy of Game of Thrones
The first episode of The Witcher was written by Hissrich and is directed by Alik Sakharov, the director of photography and director for eight episodes of Game of Thrones. Through the direction of Sakharov, the direction of the entire show was evident – whereas the show is trying to establish its independent footing, it is also aiming for the success Game of Thrones managed to achieve. The action sequences are striking similar to the HBO series but there are moments sprinkled throughout the episode where the action sequences of the Witcher are unmatchable. The swordplay involved in the first episode was far more superior to any other series or even a film.
The stunt work simply appears to be magnificent and sets very high standards for the rest of the season. One element of the episode that appears to be far more superior to any other element is the cinematography technique. The darker coloring and the ancient feel of the show resembles films such as the Gladiator and Troy and when combined with the slow motion camera effects and quickly panning shots indicate mastery of stunts and action sequences that were likely achieved in single takes. The gore and violence involved in the first episode is unlike that of Game of Thrones, which might seem milder when compared to this.
The Extraordinary Portrayal of Ciri
In terms of acting, eighteen-year-old Freya Allan shows tremendous potential despite her young age and through her expressions and dialogue delivery, it becomes evident that her acting skills are the icing on the cake for ‘the Witcher’. Henry Cavill’s portrayal of Geralt of Rivia, however, doesn’t come close to the portrayal of any of the major characters involved in Game of Thrones or of Freya Allan’s portrayal in the episode. The voice of Henry Cavill was identical to that in the video games but combined with the cinematography and the filmmaking techniques, his portrayal of Geralt was elevated. However, the first episode primarily focused on building backgrounds for the show to stand on once the rest of the episodes are released. The one thing that is pleasantly surprising is the pace of the episode. It begins at an alarmingly slow rate but catches the audience’s interest well before the end, leaving them with wanting to watch more of the series. This pace was something Game of Thrones was unable to establish in its first episode and Netflix will manage to pique the interest of the audience, which is why the show was renewed for a second season before the first season has had the chance to be released.
The Underwhelming Visual Effects
The one thing that was lacking in making this episode a perfect one was the quality of the visual effects. This is one aspect where ‘Game of Thrones’ is unbeatable. The presence of a green screen is obvious in scenes and the lack of uniformity in the visuals is hard to ignore. There are occasions when the bigger elements are nearly perfect in terms of visual effects but the minute elements are just as dreadful, making it impossible to appreciate the positive elements. Unfortunately, the visual effects are occasionally dreadful enough that the perfect stunt coordination and filmmaking techniques go unnoticed. If Netflix wants this series to become the next Game of Thrones, visual effects are one aspect of the series that will require tremendous improvement for it to reach an unmatchable level.
However, despite the flaws present in the visual effects and the very occasional cringe-worthy humor infused, the first episode is simply enjoyable. The adrenaline rush experienced when watching the action sequences rivals that experienced in action films watched in theater. Overall, the first episode of ‘the Witcher’ is infused with the correct balance of modern techniques and authentic ancient feel that perhaps is why Netflix appears to be confident about the show and indicated the possibility of it being renewed for multiple seasons.