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.
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.
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.
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.
The slow and unpredictable trickle of information from the set of Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings has not provided solid ground on which to build a fandom or even a following for the upcoming series. I think a fair number of us in the Tolkien community are definitely excited, but I think many folks are simply…curious, and still more don’t even know that a new adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings is on the way because Amazon has done virtually nothing to promote interest in their biggest fantasy series, much less clearly establish to general audiences that this show isn’t – technically – an adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings, but of the book’s lore-heavy appendices.
And that’s why leaks are so important. Leaks can increase or deflate public interest in a project far more effortlessly than a studio press release…and in “power vacuum” situations like this one, where the studio in question isn’t even interacting with their target audience yet or attempting to turn the narrative in their favor, leaks and rumors are especially vital. They can also be dangerous, as evidenced by the ongoing backlash to a rumor that Amazon would feature nudity and sexual activity in their adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings.
But today, TheOneRing.net (colloquially known as TORn) presented us with a bundle of set leaks, together forming the most substantial and invigorating information about Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings since filming began, well over a year ago. Obviously, everything in these leaks is unconfirmed, and should be treated as rumor rather than fact, at least for now. But that being said, some of it lines up with other things we’ve heard or guessed, and I don’t doubt that TORn still has access to a reliable network of veteran spies across New Zealand. They claim to have verified most of the leaks with sources working on Amazon’s series, which is also an encouraging sign.
I, of course, will be running through each item on TORn’s bullet-point list of leaks based on my own personal interest: a ranking, of sorts. There’s a lot here, some of which could even form the basis of individual posts, if anybody would be interested.
The biggest news to come out of the leaks is that Amazon has apparently obtained rights to what TORn describes as “elements” and “passages” from The Silmarillion. This would confirm that Amazon’s deal with the Tolkien Estate, first forged in late 2017, is constantly evolving – perhaps because, as TORn claims, the Tolkien Estate is more closely involved with Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings than with any previous Tolkien adaptation, and is apparently “very happy” about the direction the series is taking. I know for a fact that Tolkien fandom will be of two minds about this: some people will get excited by the prospect of an adaptation of The Silmarillion; others will be outraged by a perceived assault on Christopher Tolkien’s legacy. The truth, as TORn notes, is probably that the elements and passages in question are those contained in The Silmarillion‘s own appendices, which merely expand upon information in The Lord Of The Rings‘ appendices (and are further expanded upon in Unfinished Tales, but that’s a whole other set of rights).
A little further down TORn’s list, but higher up on mine, is news of a release date for the series: mid-2022, which matches up with recent reports obtained by Fellowship Of Fans from the New Zealand Film Commission detailing timeframes for Amazon’s marketing campaign. It’s not an exact date yet, but it would seem to suggest a late Spring or early Summer release, which sounds pretty good to me. Will I be digging through every text related to the Second Age of Middle-earth trying to find significant dates in that general timeframe on which Amazon might release the first season? You bet I will.
On a related note, TORn claims that “Main unit wrapped shooting in April 2021” – which again lines up with other reporting – and that while many of the cast have finished their work on season one and left New Zealand for the time being, there are still other “big stars” in the show that we haven’t heard about yet. No indication of whom, exactly, but this could tie into the very last point on TORn’s list: the identity of Sauron.
According to the leaks, Sauron “will not be revealed in Season One”, nor will his alter ego of Annatar appear: possibly dispelling rumors that season one will focus on the Forging of the Rings and Annatar’s betrayal of the Elves. But the wording there makes me think that instead, Sauron will appear in other forms throughout the first season, with several different actors portraying the shapeshifting deceiver as he navigates through Middle-earth in the Second Age. That means general audiences and Tolkien fans alike will be surprised when Sauron is eventually revealed, and a new actor could potentially take on the role going into season two – kind of like a dark twist on Doctor Who. This actor could very well be someone with the star-power to keep fans hooked on the show, and it would make for a great cliffhanger. It also means that Joseph Mawle, who joined the cast as season one’s unnamed main villain, isn’t playing Sauron – I still hope he’s portraying the man who will become the Witch-King of Angmar.
According to TORn, Celebrimbor is the character whom Tom Budge was set to play before leaving the role because of creative differences. The character has since been recast, although he may not have a very large part to play in season one given that this incident seems to have had no effect on filming dates. I also suspect that Celebrimbor doesn’t appear in the first few episodes, directed by J.A. Bayona, which serve as “a standalone entry point to the series”.
That latter bit of information lends credence to some previous reporting from TORn that Bayona’s episodes form a feature-length film. I’m gonna call it now, this feature-length film probably deals with the very end of the First Age and the early days of the Second; from the great migration of Elves, Men, and Dwarves across Middle-earth, to the construction and enrichment of their great kingdoms in Lindon, Númenor, and Khazad-dûm, respectively.
Fascinatingly, the new leaks claim that Elves, Men, and Dwarves all “have their own sequestered production units” on The Lord Of The Rings. I cannot wait to learn what that’s about, since, as TORn editor Clifford Broadway speculates, it could suggest some kind of anthology or split-narrative approach to season one that would also emphasize the deep divides between the Free Peoples – and underscore the immensity of the threat that will bring them together in the final days of the Second Age during the War of the Last Alliance. Foreshadowing; we love to see it!
Apparently, the ancient ancestors of Hobbits – referred to in the leaks as Halflings – will also make an appearance in the show, though the extent of their role is unknown. I’m conflicted about this, and I really need to know more about what Amazon plans to do with their Halfling characters before I can pass judgment. But the fact that the Halflings will be played by Black and brown actors, including Sir Lenny Henry, is promising: again, a lot will come down to the execution of this idea, which has roots in Tolkien’s own writing (prepare for the inevitable discourse about how Tolkien’s reference to Harfoot Hobbits being “browner of skin” was actually a reference to very tan white people). During the Second Age, very little is known about the Halflings or their movements across Middle-earth: I rather suspect that by the end of the series, we’ll find them settled in the Gladden Fields, where thousands of years later a Halfling known as Sméagol would come upon the One Ring in the muddy waters where Isildur died.
Moving on to the most controversial item on the list, we have the surprising and somewhat bemusing revelation that Elves will apparently have short or shorter hairstyles in Amazon’s The Lord Of The Rings. I’ve seen a lot of backlash to this idea already, but I’ve got to be honest – I’m into it. There’s definitely arguments to be had about just how many of Tolkien’s Elves had long flowing locks, because some most certainly did, but the instantly iconic image of universally long-haired Elves is mostly a Peter Jackson creation. This change suggests that Amazon isn’t constrained by Jackson’s continuity, and I appreciate that. On a similar note, the show apparently swaps out the Jackson term “Cave Troll” for “Ice Troll”. Minor change, but it’s little details like this that reinforce my faith in the leak overall.
Over in the pile of “things that were never controversial to begin with but got blown wildly out of proportion”, we have the subject of nudity…or “sexless nudity”, as TORn proudly declared in their headline today. You may remember that TORn led the charge against the very concept of nudity or sexuality in The Lord Of The Rings after learning that an intimacy coach had been hired for the series; but today, it turns out all their fears were unfounded, because the nudity in Amazon’s series isn’t even remotely sexualized. In depicting the transformation of Elves into monstrous Orcs by Sauron’s corruptive evil, The Lord Of The Rings will apparently involve nudity “suggestive of concentration camp-type visuals of victims”.
And whether or not TORn’s claims that Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey had been fired from the set of The Lord Of The Rings had any validity, the new leaks state that three unnamed Tolkien scholars “were on set for a time”. The language here is slightly deceptive – they may have been on set, but more importantly, what did they think of the set? Who are they, and was one of them Shippey? Are they no longer working on the show? Can I apply for this job?
Lastly, we have one truly bizarre piece of news. Amazon apparently has “a fake production team shooting decoy footage on fake sets” simultaneously to the real production. I…have no words for how strange and distasteful that is to me, but I pray to Eru Ilúvatar that some of this decoy footage has a purpose, and isn’t just meant to keep people away from the real set. I mean, it would be one thing if anybody had even gotten a good look at the fake set, much less the real one, but so far we’ve seen virtually nothing besides fences and walls of shipping containers. If they’re trying to deceive us, at least…uh, tell us what we’re supposed to be deceived by?
If Amazon is willing to go to such ridiculous levels to throw people off the scent, it’s hard to trust that this leak isn’t also a carefully planned distraction. But I hope it’s not, because I’m more excited now than I think I’ve ever been for this adaptation. Does this change your views on The Lord Of The Rings? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.