“Nightmare Of The Wolf” Is A Dazzling 1st Witcher Spin-Off

With The Witcher franchise expanding exponentially across Netflix, I’m happy to report that the live-action series’ first spin-off is a resounding success. And as much as we all love Geralt of Rivia, the thrilling anime Nightmare Of The Wolf is sure to have fans baying for more adventures with Vesemir (voiced by Theo James), the charismatic monster-hunter who predates Geralt by almost a century – so it’s a good thing that season two of The Witcher, premiering later this year, will reunite audiences with Vesemir: albeit an older and wiser version of the character, portrayed in live-action by Kim Bodnia.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Nightmare Of The Wolf | netflix.com

Or…well, it’s partly a good thing. Nightmare Of The Wolf is at its best when it’s doing its own thing and not trying too hard to connect back to the live-action series. Some crossover is inevitable because so many of the characters in this franchise are immortal, but Nightmare Of The Wolf tells such an interesting story, and with so many fascinating and complex characters, that at several points I totally forgot that it was a spin-off. The film stumbles a little in its final minutes when it starts feeling less like a stand-alone feature, and more like an extended prologue for The Witcher season two. I half-expected the words “Vesemir Will Return” to show up before the credits rolled.

But I do believe you could jump into Nightmare Of The Wolf without having watched The Witcher, and it would give you just enough worldbuilding to work with before starting the live-action series. Right up until those final minutes, the film is a wildly fun ride around The Continent that delivers on character development, action, and the kind of fantasy spectacle for which animation (and in this case, the high-quality anime of South Korea’s Studio Mir) is perfectly suited. Animation is simply capable of things that live-action isn’t, at least not on a limited CGI budget.

Take magic, for example. When The Witcher uses magic, it’s generally of the non-flashy variety – lots of wind-gusts, and conveniently invisible energy blasts and stuff. And it works, for the most part, in the grounded environment of the live-action series. But Nightmare Of The Wolf is straight-up fantasy, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to how much magic can be used, or how epic and visually stunning it can be. The anime shows off Witchers at the height of their ability, wielding magical spells and runes in battles with monsters who are capable of many of the same tricks, and mages who defy the very laws of physics. The third-act battle involving all three is a real treat.

And while The Witcher got a lot of criticism for not featuring all that many monsters in a show about monster-hunters, that’s not a complaint that can be had of Nightmare Of The Wolf. This film is chock-full of more demons, ghouls, werewolves, wraiths, and other beasts and creepy-crawlies in just an hour and a half than the live-action series could probably have afforded across eight episodes. Mind you, season two of The Witcher appears to have a great many monsters of its own, including a leshy like the one that Vesemir fights in the first few minutes of this film, so there’s no need to look down on the live-action series.

But of course, the real heart of this story is the human drama at play – because what are humans if not the worst monsters of them all, and the ones that Witchers are duty-bound to protect? That philosophical dilemma has always been the most interesting thing thematically about The Witcher franchise, but Nightmare Of The Wolf approaches the subject with more determination than the live-action series. At the time this prequel film takes place, Witchers and humans still interact regularly – and we can see the first rifts in that once-symbiotic relationship that by Geralt’s time have widened into a chasm of prejudice and distrust.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Lady Zerbst and Tetra Gilcrest | redanianintelligence.com

But while that’s all very interesting stuff, I feel that even Nightmare Of The Wolf cheats a little by retconning a pivotal moment in Vesemir’s backstory – the attack on the Witcher citadel of Kaer Morhen by an angry mob – to include monsters and mages. Perhaps it was meant to highlight the similarities between humans and monsters (and the ease with which they’ll side with their own enemies to gang up on somebody else), but it does draw the focus away from the conversation about humankind’s own capacity for monstrous acts of violence and hate.

On the flip-side, Nightmare Of The Wolf features one of the franchise’s most prominent human characters who is just that – all flesh and blood; no hidden superpowers. Her name is Lady Zerbst (voiced by Mary McDonnell), and she manages to steal the spotlight away from Vesemir in every one of her scenes. The spirit of kindness and generosity that’s motivated her for her entire life is like a breath of fresh air in the grimdark world of the Witchers where most people are driven by their worst instincts. She also has a really lovely romance, which is kind of a spoiler so I won’t give away anything except to say that it’s adorable.

Moving on from that, this film is built on plot twists. Installing powerful mages in every royal court across The Continent was always a great opportunity for political intrigue, and Nightmare Of The Wolf realizes some of that potential here, with an intricate tale of conspiracy and subterfuge. I can’t talk about any of that, however, so instead let’s discuss something that was revealed in the trailers: the return of Filavandrel (with Tom Canton reprising the role). The Elven king plays a larger role here than he did in The Witcher, and we get a new perspective on him and his motives that humanizes the enigmatic character a bit, but not so much that he loses any of his mystique.

And although this next point is technically a spoiler, it’s also so depressingly predictable that I felt I had to bring it up, because…seriously? The Witcher doesn’t have very many LGBTQ+ characters to begin with (and Ciri’s bisexuality has yet to be mentioned in the live-action series), so to introduce a cool new character, give them a few lines of dialogue confirming them as a queer Witcher (and if I’m not mistaken, the only queer male Witcher in the franchise), and then kill them off without even so much as a noble death in battle? That’s both cringeworthy and frustrating. We wanted bisexual Vesemir, Netflix; not a Bury Your Gays trope!

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Vesemir | gamerevolution.com

Things like that do hinder my enjoyment of Nightmare Of The Wolf, but the film is very well-made and serves as a great introduction to a character I think audiences will want to see much more of going forward. There’s plenty more story to tell through Vesemir’s eyes, and with The Witcher franchise already growing across multiple spin-offs, another anime film or miniseries couldn’t hurt, right? It’s so nice to meet a Witcher who actually…talks, and is emotionally honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to give him up just yet, or even trade him in for the broodier older version we’ll meet in live-action come December.

Rating: 8/10

“Nightmare Of The Wolf”, More Like “Daydreams Of Vesemir”, Am I Right?

So…remember when I reviewed the first brief teaser for Netflix’s upcoming Witcher anime prequel Nightmare Of The Wolf, and I said that from what we could see of the film’s protagonist, Vesemir, he looked, you know, moderately attractive? Yeah, well, that was then. This is now. And today, we were blessed with a full-length trailer for Nightmare Of The Wolf…and a much, much better look at Vesemir, the gorgeous, sassy, hilarious 2D hunk with whom the entire Witcher fandom is currently obsessed.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
I mean, have you SEEN Vesemir? | collider.com

But why? Why is Vesemir hot? Who looked at the grouchy, solemn, closed-off elderly character from Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels and thought “he was probably a total beefcake once upon a time”? To be honest…I don’t know. Trust me, I wish I knew, so I could give that person a well-earned shoutout for their bold imagination.

But looking at it from a thematic perspective, I can see where it makes sense. Vesemir, as in the Vesemir we’ll be introduced to in Nightmare Of The Wolf just a month from now, is a completely different kind of Witcher from his student, Geralt of Rivia, whose journeys we’ve followed in The Witcher season one. Vesemir is vivacious, talkative, and confident. He already seems genuinely appealing to be around, and to say he’s easy on the eyes would be an understatement. Geralt is…none of that (well, let’s be honest, he’s still easy on the eyes because Henry Cavill is still Henry Cavill no matter how hideous the wig and contact lenses he’s forced to wear, but he’s definitely more weathered than Vesemir). By Geralt’s time, the Witchers enjoy none of the privileges and luxuries they were awarded during Vesemir’s heyday, so this kind of deterioration is logical.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Nightmare Of The Wolf | italy24news.com

So what changes? What happens to Vesemir that transforms him from a cheeky, stunningly attractive maverick into a dour, gloomy old man wasting away in the mountaintop fortress of Kaer Morhen with the rugged remnants of the once-mighty brotherhood of Witchers? Well, I’m gonna guess that in Nightmare Of The Wolf at least, it will be explained as the aftermath of an attack on Kaer Morhen which, in Sapkowski’s novels, plays a pivotal role in Vesemir’s early life, sobering him to reality. Because it’s no horde of vampires or leshen or werewolves who attack the citadel of the Witchers, but a mob of ordinary people stirred up to violence against a group they view as not only outsiders, but literally subhuman. That the Witchers are also keeping ordinary people safe from the vampires and leshen and werewolves is something that only becomes apparent in hindsight, after their ranks have been depleted in the massacre.

By Geralt’s time, there’s only a couple of Witchers still roaming the Continent, scavenging for an existence and still doing the wearisome work of hunting and killing monsters to protect people who view them as no better than beasts themselves. There’s plenty of juicy thematic material to work with there, if you’re not won over by the sheer sight of a bare-chested Vesemir lounging in a bathtub – a wonderful homage to the iconic image of Geralt in a bathtub from the CD Projekt Red video games that was also mirrored in season one of The Witcher. Even though Geralt won’t have any more bathtub scenes in season two, the franchise will continue to provide us with more “man flesh”, according to Cavill, and Nightmare Of The Wolf‘s Vesemir proves that that is very much the case.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Tetra and Vesemir | slashfilm.com

And if you’re just here for monster battles and epic fight scenes, that’s cool! Nightmare Of The Wolf seems to have plenty of those, too. But I’m gonna be honest with you, I am living for the irreverent humor and light-hearted tone of this trailer. It’s a complete heel-turn from the dark and gloomy teaser, and it makes me a lot more interested in Vesemir as a character, rather than a monster-killing machine – and not just him, but also his supporting characters, including the sorceress Tetra Gilcrest. I believe she’s an entirely original character created for Nightmare Of The Wolf, and I wonder if she’ll appear in live-action at some point and reunite with the older Vesemir, played by Kim Bodnia, whom we’ll meet in The Witcher season two come December. I’m not really sensing any romantic chemistry between the two, but the gay/lesbian solidarity vibes are off the charts.

Trailer Rating: 8.5/10

“Nightmare Of The Wolf” 1st Trailer Review

The Witcher franchise has already expanded from page to live-action to video games – animation is a logical next step, and anime specifically provides an excellent medium in which to tell a number of stories from The Continent that are abundant with the same kind of visceral action and chilling horror that made Netflix’s dark supernatural anime series Castlevania hugely successful. Nightmare Of The Wolf, a feature-length film produced by Netflix Animation in collaboration with Studio Mir, will be the franchise’s first foray into 2D anime, exploring the backstory of one of the greatest Witchers of all time: Vesemir.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Nightmare Of The Wolf | theverge.com

One of the most instantly recognizable characters from The Witcher thanks to his prominent role in the CD Projekt Red video games based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s original novels and short stories, Vesemir has a lot of backstory that could be covered in this film – but Nightmare Of The Wolf‘s exceedingly brief teaser trailer, released today, barely gives us a clue as to what’s going on, or what the infamous Witcher’s character arc will be. Hell, we don’t even get a full face-reveal: which is doubly perplexing because the trailer for The Witcher‘s second season, which will feature live-action Vesemir as an old man, is also hiding the character’s face for some reason. We know what he looks like, Netflix!

Because Nightmare Of The Wolf premieres on August 23rd, just a little over a month away, we’ll have already met animated Vesemir by the time we catch up with him in The Witcher proper – so it’s possible the live-action series will include references and callbacks to events in the film, making this an important next stop for Witcher fans who want all the details about who Vesemir is, where he comes from, what his motivations are, and of course, what monsters he’s battled and slain during his journeys. Let’s do some speculating, shall we?

I’m not kidding when I say this teaser is exceedingly brief: it’s a mere forty-five seconds long, and some of that is just title cards flashing by. But from what we can see, Nightmare Of The Wolf follows an attractive young Vesemir (I mean, take the “attractive” part of that with a grain of salt as we literally only see the back of his head, his beard and, like, a quick profile shot that’s mostly just his nose) on adventures through the wilderness, battling all kinds of beasties while helping to establish the warrior traditions of Kaer Morhen that will still be place when Geralt and Ciri train there many decades later.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
The titular wolf, perhaps? | deadline.com

I assume his primary antagonists in Nightmare Of The Wolf will be vampires (speaking of Castlevania). A notable incident in Vesemir’s backstory, during which he was injured, was his defense of Fox Hollow from a swarm of bloodthirsty vampires (why did I specify bloodthirsty? Are vampires in horror ever not bloodthirsty?) led by a higher vampire named Emiel Regis Rohellec Terzieff-Godefroy, and we do see a flock of bats with glowing green eyes forming the shape of a leering death’s head in the night sky above Vesemir, followed by a shot of a demon with similar glowing green eyes and pronounced fangs. I’m not saying it’s Emiel, but I’m definitely hoping it is because vampires are awesome.

Of course, Vesemir is a Witcher, so his most consistent and organized opposition comes not from monsters lurking in the woods, but from humans who distrust or fear him and his kind. During Vesemir’s youth, the newly-constructed citadel of Kaer Morhen where he and many other Witchers were training was brutally attacked by an angry mob of villagers from the surrounding lands, and Vesemir – one of the survivors of the tragedy – subsequently rose through the significantly-depleted ranks of Witcher hierarchy to become Kaer Morhen’s leader. His “School of the Wolf” was very powerful for a while, but gradually became too powerful, leading to yet another attack from humans; this time stirred up by King Radowit II, whose crowned visage perhaps appears on the gold coins we see in the trailer.

Vesemir’s negative experiences convinced him to follow a policy of strict isolationism after this second massacre, but he wasn’t always a loner like his adopted son, Geralt – he formed a close bond with Guxart, a rival Witcher who mentored at the School of the Cat, and with whom Vesemir was arrested and held captive by Radowit. Anyone getting rivals to lovers vibes from these two? Just me? Either way, the School of the Cat goes undercover, leaving Vesemir pretty much alone at Kaer Morhen for decades, raising a dwindling generation of new Witchers – including Geralt of Rivia, and later Cirilla of Cintra, which is where The Witcher will resume with the story.

Nightmare Of The Wolf
Video Game Vesemir | playstationlifestyle.net

All in all, I’m very excited to see where this goes. This teaser doesn’t give us a whole lot to go on regarding plot, action, or even voice-acting, so I’m not sure exactly how to rate it, but I will be definitely be tuning in to see Nightmare Of The Wolf, and I hope it can tide me over while I wait impatiently for The Witcher to return this December.

Trailer Rating: 7/10

“The Witcher” Season 2 Reveals 1st Trailer!

Today is WitcherCon, a celebration of The Witcher franchise and its many offshoots: from the books and short stories that started it all, to the popular CD Projekt Red video games, to the Netflix live-action series based on the books and its own various spinoffs, including an upcoming anime feature-length film following Geralt of Rivia’s mentor Vesemir, and a prequel series which recently added Michelle Yeoh to its cast. In the struggle to fill the mainstream fantasy void left in Game Of Thrones‘ wake, The Witcher‘s massive appeal across multiple mediums makes it arguably the strongest competitor at present: at least until Amazon Prime gets on the board with The Lord Of The Rings.

The Witcher
The Witcher | syfy.com

And today, after being cruelly teased at Netflix’s Geeked Week event with only a twelve-second clip of Ciri, we got our first full trailer for The Witcher‘s second season – which also debuted new images, a poster, and received a release date of December 17th, 2021. The trailer clearly shows that The Witcher‘s creative team are upping the ante for season two, raising the stakes in what looks to be a more cohesive singular story than season one’s sprawling, chronologically complicated narrative. The timeline’s still a little bit confusing though, because Jaskier the traveling bard is back and doesn’t appear to have aged a day in the roughly twenty years since Geralt first encountered him in season one: and I kind of love that the show appears to just be rolling with that, and that we’re all willing to buy that somewhere along the line Jaskier became immortal because of course he did.

That’s the kind of cheeky attitude that helped make The Witcher so popular with fans, and I think it’s part of why holier-than-thou professional critics had a really fun time dumping criticism on The Witcher because it wasn’t “prestige” enough for their sophisticated tastes. But the show is still very grimdark and gruesome, and if this trailer is any indication, it will only get darker from here. Geralt of Rivia and Ciri (formerly Princess Cirilla of Cintra) team up to take on a variety of horrific monsters – all of which are being kept hidden through clever editing, to better preserve the jump-scares they’ll inevitably get out of me when I’m up at three o’-clock in the morning in December watching this show – while Ciri trains to become a Witcher herself at the desolate mountaintop fortress of Kaer Morhen, where Geralt’s mysterious mentor and father figure Vesemir is also being kept hidden: because he too is a monster, although of a slightly different kind. Will he give me a jump-scare too when he shows up? Maybe; it all depends on what the wig situation is.

The Witcher
Jaskier | hollywoodreporter.com

Here at Kaer Morhen, we find Ciri coming into her own as the series’ protagonist (and apparently finding a really good Witcher hairstylist, because her wig looks amazing), but Geralt and Vesemir won’t be her only teachers. Yennefer of Vengerburg, who disappeared after unleashing an inferno upon the Nilfgaardian armies at the end of season one, is also back – something that the trailer treats as a big spoilery stinger, even though Netflix literally revealed that Yennefer was coming back several months ago – and she’ll be instrumental in helping Ciri to fully access and control her dangerous and unpredictable magical abilities before she succumbs to her desire to “burn the whole world”, as Ciri describes it (which provokes a hilariously exaggerated facial reaction from Henry Cavill’s Geralt that is only accentuated by his neon chartreuse contact lenses: speaking of wigs, his wig has evolved and actually looks halfway-decent these days, but there is absolutely no saving those contacts).

I love that Ciri’s got a dark side to her character, and I can’t wait to see what kind of monster-hunter she becomes in time, when equipped with her magic. There’s been rumors she and Geralt will encounter a fearsome leshy in the woods outside Kaer Morhen, but we also know – and this trailer confirms – that Geralt at the very least will stop by the manor of a man named Nivellen who’s mutated into a horrific beast, to save him from a demoness named Vereena…a grimdark Beauty And The Beast retelling that’s one of the storylines I’m most excited for in season two. We catch a glimpse of Nivellen in the trailer, and I think we also see Vereena at one point, wings unfolded, circling around Geralt in the manor’s snowy courtyard.

The Witcher
Geralt and Ciri | comingsoon.net

I think that, with everything that’s being hidden from us in the trailer, it would have been nice to get one slightly bigger reveal than Yennefer’s return (a first look at the fan-favorite mage Philippa Eilhart would have been an awesome way to get people talking), but I am undeniably excited for The Witcher to come back, and I’m glad that WitcherCon was a big hit with fans of the franchise so that we can do this again next year, hopefully. In the meantime, look forward to my coverage of both The Witcher and its swiftly approaching anime prequel, Nightmare Of The Wolf.

Trailer Rating: 8/10