The new Netflix original animated fantasy movie, The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf, directed by Kwang II Han, sheds light on the origin story of a venerable character within the Witcher universe: Vesemir. The newest cinematic addition to the Witcher universe is great for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.
The film is based on the Witcher books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. For those who know anything about the Witcher videogames, books, or live-action show, it’s well established that the witcher Geralt of Rivia is at the center of this universe. Nightmare of the Wolf is a prequel to all of these and follows Geralt’s mentor, Vesemir, the one who made him into the renowned monster hunter he’s known as today.
The movie starts by following the early life of Vesemir, and his desire to leave serfdom with his love, Illyana. He gets an opportunity to do so when he meets a witcher (someone mutated and trained at a young age to kill monsters for money) named Deglan, whom he gives assistance. Determined to become a witcher, he leaves Illyana and goes into training at Kaer Morhen (The Witcher School of the Wolf). There he watches most of his fellow trainees perish during the many trials they’re forced to endure. As an adult, he is a powerful witcher renowned for his skills in monster slaying and carefree take on life. Strange things begin brewing in a forest on the outskirts of Kaedwen, which leads to Vesemir having to work with the sorceress, Tetra, who despises witchers and wants to end their presence in this world. A major force in the court who opposes Tetra is the rich widow, Lady Zerbst, who supports witchers. This all leads up to a great climax and in the end, there’s a fun reveal for those that are already well versed in the Witcher universe.
A common theme in the film is the effects of the training that the witchers go through, a process we don’t know too much about until this film. Andrew Webster of The Verge comments, “These scenes show just how brutal the witcher training is and use that as a way to explore the different ways people react to trauma. Witcher stories often talk about how few candidates actually survive this process, and in Nightmare of the Wolf you can see why: young boys are forced to fight seemingly impossible odds in a nightmare swamp and, if they manage to survive that, subjected to a painful alchemy meant to enhance their strength and senses. Those who make it through can be grim like Geralt, or hide their pain under a lust for life like Vesemir.” The in-depth detail in regards to the trials that witchers face as young boys adds another layer to both the characters of Geralt and Vesemir as we see how they react and cope with both surviving the trials and watching their comrades perish during them.
The movie runs at a concise hour and 23 minutes, leaving no room for boredom. The film adds a different approach to the usual action scenes expected in witcher content. With the smooth movements from an anime influenced style, Angie Han of The Hollywood Reporter noted: “Action scenes capitalize on the flexibility offered by animation — expect lots of drama, plenty of blood and a healthy disregard for ‘realism’ — and occasionally achieve real beauty, as with a fight that flies over a bruised red sky.” It’s no wonder that the animation is so superb considering it was made in the same studio as the ever-popular animated series The Legend of Korra.
If you’re looking for something to sustain you until the release of The Witcher season
two or if you’re not, Nightmare of the Wolf serves as the perfect film to add even further context
to the ever-growing Witcher universe, with its introduction to Vesemir (a character that will appear in season two) and its use of other known characters, such as the elf Filandravel who was in season one.
While aimed toward a more experienced audience, most fantasy genre fans will enjoy The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf as it is the perfect way to set foot into this universe or continue your journey.