Netflix's adaptation of Andrzej Sapkowski's Witcher fantasy series makes its debut today, and the critics have already issued their verdict on what many are anticipating as the next Game of Thrones.
Starring Henry Cavill as the iconic anti-hero Geralt, the series is largely made up of new stories and isn't directly based on the books or the popular video games (although some of the plot points mirror elements seen in both). Such is the weight behind the project that it has already been renewed for a second season – but is the first any good?
Yes, says The Verge:
The Witcher could’ve very easily turned out wrong. It’s not hard to misinterpret what it is that actually makes the series interesting, but the TV adaptation gets it. The Witcher is funny, intense, and uncomfortable, and it balances out those disparate emotions almost perfectly. Yes, it stars Henry Cavill in a bad white wig, but you’ll forget about all of that as soon as he starts talking.
GQ Magazine is in agreement:
I started The Witcher unsure. Being such a huge fan of the games, the pilot left me cautious as to whether this season could stick the landing on a tough adaptation. By the end of the fifth episode, it really finds its footing and its identity – camp, pulpy, not all that serious and decidedly not Thrones. Is it as good as the games? No, it isn’t, but few things are. Regardless, I still can’t wait to see what its final three episodes have in store.
Empire gave the series four out of five stars, saying:
Thanks to a trio of bestselling video games, many will already be familiar with The Witcher’s lore, providing a much-needed leg-up. It’s the uninitiated who may end up bailing early — likely somewhere between two girls being turned into eels and the appearance of a hedgehog knight. But to give up would be to deny yourself a real treat. As with Geralt’s swamp beast tussle, there are riches in store for those with perseverance, and The Witcher’s is a battle well worth seeing through to the end.
GamesRadar feels that the series' opener fails to capture the magic of Game of Thrones, but it's still worth a watch:
The opening episode of The Witcher, then, is a mixed bag. It reaches out to be called “the next Game of Thrones”, but falls short. Cavill’s Geralt fails to make a lasting impression, while the overarching questions being posed aren’t engaging just yet. However, with such bloody battles, and the promise of an epic journey, I’m certainly intrigued to see where this goes.
Variety seems to think that those who don't already have an investment in the Witcher series might struggle to see the appeal:
As a “Witcher” watcher but not a reader, I felt the universe at times both overly broad (in its resistance of the single hero) and a bit narrow. Unlike “Thrones,” it resists allegorical or metaphorical readings, at least at first, and is firmly about what it’s about — magic and myth. That itself is less a flaw than simply design, but it does suggest that the appeal of this series may be limited to those already under its spell.
The Guardian is slightly less enthusiastic, seemingly having lots of trouble with the haircuts:
My own pledge, made when The Witcher and I had to part company, is that I shall from hereon dedicate myself to becoming rich and powerful enough to commission my own epic swords’n’sorcerers fantasy in which everyone has a short back and sides. I can’t bear any longer the sight of actors strolling around in aesthetically displeasing stringy wigs, which are surely the height of impracticability for any warrior, supernatural or otherwise, and make everyone look like a sub-Fabio who managed a term at Lamda before dropping out in unspecified disgrace.
The Independent was even harder on the series:
Like Game of Thrones or Outlander, The Witcher is serving two masters – an audience transferring loyalties from other fantasy TV shows, and an audience already deeply committed to the Witcher lore. The latter group – as we are seeing from Star Wars fans – is a more vociferously critical caucus, and in pandering to them, The Witcher is a messy tangle of plotlines in a world underdeveloped to the point of obscurity. The experience is not unlike playing a video game, where deaths, diversions and reboots leave you constantly unsure of your exact position in the narrative. Sadly, for The Witcher, and House Netflix, their offering lacks even that modicum of fun.
It falls to Entertainment Weekly to deliver the most scathing review, however:
This is the first TV show I’ve ever seen that would actually be better with commercial breaks. The goofy syndicated fantasy of yesteryear had to have a brisk pace, building every 12 minutes to an act-breaking cliffhanger. The Witcher fully embraces the endless-movie layout of the worst Blank Check streaming TV. At the end of the series premiere, someone tells Allen’s Princess Ciri that Geralt is her destiny. In episode 5, people are still telling her that Geralt is her destiny. I assume they will meet in the season finale. Alas, my destiny is to never watch this borefest ever again.
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