“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

“The Bad Batch” Episode 12 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE BAD BATCH AHEAD!

Thanks to Black Widow and WitcherCon, I missed my chance to review last week’s episode of The Bad Batch – which would have been annoying regardless of how good the episode was, simply because it messed up my plan to review The Bad Batch‘s final episodes after taking a long break from reviewing the show. But it’s especially frustrating that I, as a hardcore Star Wars: Rebels fan, didn’t get to review the episode that brought back not one but two members of the Rebels crew in animation…well, “brought back” is slightly misleading because The Bad Batch is set before Rebels, so this is technically their debut, chronologically…it’s complicated, you know?

The Bad Batch
Hera Syndulla with The Bad Batch | starwars.com

But thankfully, last week’s episode only kicked off an epic two-parter – so I still get to rave about Rebels! But before we get into a discussion about today’s episode, let me preface this with a few stray thoughts on last week’s episode, since I feel bad about not reviewing it. Hearing Vanessa Marshall return to the voice-role of Hera Syndulla was delightful, and the fact that she still has her strong French accent because this is a young Hera who hasn’t yet grown estranged from her parents and planet…yeah, loved that. Hera is one of my favorite characters in the vast Star Wars legendarium, so seeing her take her first steps towards becoming the fearless, confident, high-flying heroine we knew from Rebels was something very personal to me…and I imagine Dave Filoni, the creator of both Rebels and The Bad Batch, felt the same; seeing as he centered last week’s episode around Hera’s POV, with our clone protagonists only popping up as cameos, basically.

This week, with Hera’s parents Cham Syndulla (Robin Atkin Downes) and Eleni Syndulla (Ferelith Young) captured by the Imperial occupation forces subjugating the planet of Ryloth and its Twi’lek population, the clones of The Bad Batch take center stage once again as Hera calls upon them to rescue her family before the Empire executes them for treason. Hunter (voiced, like almost all of the clones, by Dee Bradley Baker) is initially reluctant to answer Hera’s plea for help, wary of getting entangled in more Imperial power struggles – and the episode cleverly finds ways to use this as a source of conflict between Hunter and Omega (Michelle Ang), whose altruistic opinion on the matter is that as soldiers, the Bad Batch are duty-bound to help those in need rather than skulking around the galaxy as mercenaries.

Honestly, I agree with Omega. I know that mercenaries and bounty-hunters are all the rage in Star Wars, and morally-gray characters are always a lot of fun, but my biggest gripe with The Bad Batch is that the protagonists lack a driving purpose. Are they simply trying to keep Omega safe from the malevolent forces trying to mine her for genetic material from which to build new clone armies, and if so, then for how long? Are they trying to break their fellow clones free from the Empire’s brainwashing tactics, starting with their own former teammate, the sharpshooter Crosshair? Are they just trying to survive on their own in a galaxy that no longer has a place for clones? Helping those in need, and planting the seeds of Rebellion against the Empire, gives them a direction.

The Bad Batch
Omega and Hera Syndulla | denofgeek.com

And after today’s episode, the Bad Batch might as well help to form and organize the Rebellion – because between blowing up an Imperial refinery on Ryloth, hijacking Imperial ships, and breaking Twi’lek freedom fighters out of jail, their days of flying under the radar are over. Crosshair receives the order to hunt them down at the end of the episode, promising that there will be consequences for their bold and decisive actions. I can’t imagine that the Bad Batch won’t try to remove his Imperial-designed inhibitor chip, but by this point we’ve had so little time to know Crosshair as a good guy before his “turn” to the dark side that I don’t really care if they’re successful.

And also…just look at a clone like Howzer, who’s been assigned by the Empire to help maintain an uneasy peace on Ryloth by any means necessary. Howzer’s an ordinary clone; he was almost certainly affected by the inhibitor chip when it activated, just like Crosshair. But he still has a moral compass. He comes to the conclusion that the Empire is a reprehensible and unjust system entirely on his own, and in the end he chooses to stand with the freedom fighters, even though his act of defiance leads to him being promptly arrested by the Empire. Watching that act of courage transpire, I realized two things: first of all, with the purpose of the inhibitor chips fulfilled, the clones – and crucially, even clones who are apparently still chipped – are free to regain agency over themselves; second of all, does that mean Crosshair is entirely the victim of brainwashing, or is there a part of him that really is just sadistic?

Also also, I just find it infuriating that for a character who’s supposed to have literally mutated to become a better sharpshooter than humanly capable, Crosshair has yet to back that claim up with much hard proof. I know this is a nitpick, but there have been moments in the show where some of the other clones can hit moving targets with a precision I found extraordinary, but Crosshair fails to even land a single shot on the senatorial spacecraft which the Bad Batch uses to escape Ryloth in this episode.

A far more entertaining action sequence takes place at the aforementioned refinery, where it’s Hera who steals and pilots an Imperial ship with a little help from Omega and her trusty astromech droid Chopper. It’s the character’s first flight – a turbulent, dizzying first flight, mind you, but that only helps to make her journey to becoming one of the Galaxy’s greatest pilots more relatable. Hera’s strength comes from the confidence that allows her to think clearly and logically in situations where others might falter, not from her bloodline or any Force-related abilities, and that’s part of why I love her. I would still like to see her lead the live-action Rangers Of The New Republic series in place of Cara Dune, by the way. I know that show is currently “not in active development”, but come on, Lucasfilm. We deserve live-action Hera, with Vanessa Marshall playing the character!

The Bad Batch
Chopper | starwarsnewsnet.com

But even getting to spend a little more time with her in animation is a joy, and I hope The Bad Batch has more cool surprises like this one still in store for us as we come to the final handful of episodes in season one. I want to promise that I’ll review each new episode on Fridays when they drop, but after how well that went last time I made that promise…let’s, uh, let’s just play it by ear.

Episode Rating: 8/10

“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

“Encanto” 1st Trailer Promises A Return To Disney Musicals

For the fourth-largest continent on the planet Earth, South America has only served as the setting of one major Disney Animation film to date – the ambiguously Incan-inspired The Emperor’s New Groove – while Europe, only the fifth-largest continent, is the backdrop to innumerable Disney fairytales, from Snow White to Frozen II. But that’s going to change later this year with the release of Encanto, a completely original musical from the mind of Tangled director Byron Howard, which will turn a spotlight on Colombian culture and folklore. And today, we got our first good look at Encanto in a short but visually stunning teaser that effortlessly nudges the film to the forefront of the race for Best Animated Feature at next year’s Oscars.

Encanto
Casa Madrigal | pastemagazine.com

Encanto continues Disney Animation’s recent trend of experimenting with their tried-and-true Disney Princess formula, as the film’s frizzy-haired, bespectacled heroine Mirabel isn’t technically a Princess by the studio’s strict standards. Instead, she hails from a highly-esteemed family of matriarchal multigenerational magic-users who live together in a marvelous house called Casa Madrigal on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest. She wears a dress, so by Maui’s definition she’s at least halfway to being a princess already, but the only animal sidekicks at Casa Madrigal seem to be devoted to another young scion of the family tree; a boy whose name is probably Carlos, if character details obtained by The DisInsider in December of last year still hold true.

And oh, the animal sidekicks! Honestly, most of the Disney Princesses should be embarrassed, parading around in the forest with their deer and chipmunks and the occasional singing crab, while Carlos is out here riding a jaguar, accompanied at all times by a tapir, a flock of macaws and toucans, a family of capybaras, and a couple of ring-tailed coatis. The sheer abundance and diversity of South American wildlife on display in Encanto is something I could ramble on about for quite some time, but I think I’ll spare you. I just hope there’s plenty of scenes in the rainforest, so we can see some tree-frogs, maybe an anaconda or two, perhaps a sloth.

But I also want to spend as much time as possible in Casa Madrigal, the sentient house. We’re so used to seeing magic – particularly in animation – as clouds of multi-colored CGI glitter and smoke, that it’s a really welcome change to visit Casa Madrigal, where the magic is almost entirely conveyed through ripples in the stonework, tiled surfaces, and floorboards, which create kaleidoscopic patterns or help the Madrigal family in small ways. Each of the Madrigals has their own individual talent, which they bring to the design and decoration of their little corner of Casa Madrigal – from one girl’s bedroom balcony being weighed down by the giant pink flowers she’s able to conjure from thin air (based on The DisInsider‘s reporting, I suspect that girl’s name is Ines), to Carlos’ being decorated with paintings of the animals with which he can communicate. I love it when a film is able to make a location feel vividly real, and Encanto definitely seems to be doing just that.

Encanto
Carlos Madrigal | joblo.com

The crux of Encanto‘s plot, however, is that our protagonist, Mirabel, is the only member of the Madrigal family who doesn’t have a magical gift – and it inspires an amusing, if slightly awkwardly written gag in the trailer where she gets a gift from the postman as a kind of “not-special special”. I can’t pass judgment on the story just yet, because that’s essentially everything we know: and to be honest, a few of the shots in the trailer don’t even look like scenes from the actual movie, but more like some kind of pre-vis animation designed to showcase character movements and mannerisms (although if they are from the movie, I suspect many of them are from some kind of introductory montage at the beginning).

We also don’t get to hear too much of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s original music for Encanto in this teaser – just bits and pieces of something that sounds reminiscent of Miranda’s work on In The Heights, his first stage musical and the source material for a recent film adaptation which Miranda produced and cameoed in. That being said, Miranda is still undeniably a big part of Encanto – for instance, I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence that Stephanie Beatriz went from having a scene-stealing role in In The Heights to being confirmed as the voice of Mirabel Madrigal – and I’m sure it won’t be long before the airwaves are deluged with whatever catchy new earworm he’s cooked up.

Encanto
Ines Madrigal | mickeyblog.com

It’s early to be making predictions about Encanto‘s quality when the film is still several months away, but I know that there’s a number of people who will love this, and I expect it to be a big hit with viewers who are excited for the mix of Colombian representation and Disney magic, fans who have been starved for Disney musicals recently, and folks who are really just here for Mirabel’s muscular older sister Lydia, whose biceps are giving Princess Namaari’s rhomboids a run for their money.

Trailer Rating: 8/10