Witcher: Blood Origin review: A Netflix spin-off that needs Henry Cavill

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Last year around this time, Netflix’s Witcher universe was on a roll: even with a few missteps in Season 2, the series produced one of its best episodes, doing a smart job with even the franchise’s most twisted revelations. and prepared a large number of spin-offs. Then last month the news broke: Henry Cavill, the real Superman who brought gravitas to the role of Geralt, would be replaced by Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth.

Still, like so many shows, it seemed possible. The Wizard I could live; after all, what was a single actor to a multiverse, especially one with a heavily hyped prequel just over a month away? But the intense scrutiny makes each new step into the Witcher universe feel heavier (even if there’s already been a first foray outside of the original show with wolf nightmare, the animated film about Geralt’s mentor). And unfortunately, The Witcher: Origin of Blood is the worst-case scenario: a deeply messed up, unappealing series that casts doubt on the world of The Witcher’s potential in a post-Cavill era.

Set 1,200 years before Geralt and Ciri’s unorthodox father-daughter relationship, origin of blood it covers some of the most important events in the universe, such as the creation of the first Witcher and the Conjunction of the Spheres, “when the worlds of elves, men, and monsters were merged into one.” For those less invested in Witcher lore, their trailers also promised Michelle Yeoh as a master swordsman, which should drastically improve the potential of almost any property.

The actual impulse of origin of bloodHowever, the story of is elsewhere. Éile (Sophia Brown) is an elite elf warrior of the Raven clan who has turned his back on her life of struggle to become a wandering bard. But her troubles on the mainland push her back to her sword, throwing her along with Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), an elf warrior from her rival Dog clan. As the two unravel the biggest war they’ve ever gotten themselves into, they assemble a group of merry adventurers, including Meldof (Francesca Mills), a dwarf with a hammer and proverbial ax for grinding; Brother Death (Huw Novelli), a warrior with a bloody past; and Yeoh’s Scian, a peerless fighter who wants to retrieve a holy sword for her people. Awaiting them in the capital city is the villainous Wise Chief Balor (Lenny Henry), who seeks a more powerful magic to conquer other worlds, and Princess Merwyn (Mirren Mack), an elven ruler desperate to leave the confines of patriarchal monarchy.

Photo: Lilja Jonsdottir/Netflix

Empress Merwyn (Mirren Mack) looking up to the sky

Photo: Susie Allnutt/Netflix

Brother Death (Huw Novelli) and Meldof (Francesca Mills) standing and looking at something in shock

Photo: Susie Allnutt/Netflix

In other words, origin of blood it has a lot to do, especially for only four episodes (a reduced order from the six that were supposedly planned and filmed). And yet Élie and Fjall are the heart of the story, and where its seams begin to show, if not completely unravel: as we watch their relationship grow from restless allies to comrades-in-arms, it’s clear that the series has no time or attention. for significant stakes or thrills. We know nothing about these characters at all, and once the backstory is filled in, it feels sloppy and belated, so far removed from the line of its narrative that it reveals just how little detail matters to the show. When someone close to Élie is threatened or Fjall is reminded of the woman he loves, the sentiment is supposedly vital to his story, but it’s also instantly forgotten, leaving no lasting impression on his arc or character.

What is the most shocking thing about origin of blood. The series is, perhaps more than anything I’ve seen, deeply anchored in exposition. And yet nothing is explained or explored; minute facts are thrown away and thrown away with equal clumsy care. The warrior clans of Fjall and Éile have no distinguishing features that separate them from each other. There’s a class conflict that keeps hinting through a song Élie is famous for, but there’s never much consideration of what that really means, in-universe, beyond “lower class people are hungrier than men.” their elite counterparts.

The band of warriors the duo recruits to their cause also come with their own backstory, but they often seem to simply exist to… tell the audience, and that’s about it. Magical twins Syndril and Zacaré (Zach Wyatt and Lizzie Annis) mourn a tragic event in their past, and that is the extent of its impact. When Élie promises Scian the chance to retrieve the holy sword from his people, she comes into the conversation with no explanation as to how Élie would have known he was gone. The entire search for Meldorf is satisfied in its first two introductory scenes (and could have been done in just one).

In a stronger show, these could be fascinating implications of the larger world and the stories we don’t see, or tell details about just how insubstantial these conflicts really are, or even a small mistake to write off. It all feels like clear mismanagement here, a sign of how much confusing editing was done to bring the story to its full point.

None of this has to be a death sentence for a franchise. The Star Wars prequel series has its supporters, who appreciate the interesting insights that can be discovered in George Lucas’ haphazard execution. But origin of blood it doesn’t offer the same delights, even from a prequel perspective. He allows himself so much to tell that he forgets to show why the big events of the Witcher universe are important to the story. Most of his revelations are left out or edited to tatters, forcing the beats to be explained via a voiceover told to Jaskier (Joey Batey) in The Wizardtimeline of . The result is that the characters can’t hold their own, and the larger implications of the prequel never add anything new or substantial about the world we’re supposed to be seeing the origins of.

Worse yet, it highlights how little the audience needs from this and how detrimental it can be to explore too deeply into the nooks and crannies of the franchise. thin The high fantasy universe of The Witcher can be felt when not anchored by a higher intensity. Sure, there are elves and dwarves and goblins and wizards. There are scary monsters that want to eat you and magical prophecies. In The Wizard we have the feeling that our understanding of these things is limited and serves the parts we need to know. They are a smaller piece of a larger, more expansive world, suggesting a richer story if we only had the time to look at it that way.

Balor (Lenny Henry) talking to Syndril (Zach Wyatt) in a cell

Photo: Susie Allnutt/Netflix

But when origin of bloodThe creators of use elves interchangeably with humans, their corner of the universe losing any remaining distinction. What is the difference between an elf and a human in The Witcher: Magic? Force? Ears? Within origin of blood seems to be… nothing. And if there is nothing fundamentally different about these creatures, their world, or their problems, then what does it matter that their sphere joins in conjunction with that of the main world?

Perhaps there are deeper answers in the broader Witcher lore, but origin of blood it’s so interested in being a standalone story that it actively seems incapable of sitting alongside the other properties. Time wolf nightmare felt a bit flimsy when held against The WizardYennefer’s regard for monstrosity, or Yennefer’s yearning for motherhood, still wrestles coherently with the deepest enigmas of Witcher lore. And ultimately, it manages to at least provide a window into an important chapter of The Witcher’s story.

origin of blood, by contrast, only seems capable of holding that conversation poorly at best, loosening the rules of the universe to the point of incoherence. In a fantasy world like The Witcher’s, those limits are what set it apart; we need to know that chaos magic comes at an extreme cost. But nothing in the text of origin of blood clarifies what makes summoning Balor different than what he was doing before. While his grand ambitions to conquer other cultures are standard enough, the finer points of his perspective fall by the wayside, crushing his and everyone else’s battles.

Balor (Lenny Henry) standing with his cane

Photo: Susie Allnutt/Netflix

Whatever there is to say about power and who wields it simply cannot be considered so deeply because origin of blood it’s so thickly packed with nonsensical exposition and toothless backstory. There are clearly grander ambitions there, like the way Merwyn feels trapped in the role of her, but they can’t mean much when each scene is tasked with introducing and fulfilling new motivations at once. Merwyn is ostensibly a power player, but she never feels that way, because her choices feel frivolous at best. And this slippery, incoherent pacing is at the backbone of every story. There’s no time to indulge in the quieter, wiser moments that define the best scenes in the Witcher universe.

And so the conflicts of origin of blood they become remarkably frictionless, moving dizzyingly and robotically along the tracks simply because the story demands it. In the best of cases they make the conflict in The Wizard it looks silly and, at worst, makes you doubt there’s much interest in expanding this universe on screen (a ridiculous thing to feel about a story that has powered decades of books, short stories, and video games!).

Art is experimental by nature and experiments can fail. But origin of blood it thuds, each echo of its impact more disconcerting than the last. This show doesn’t have to answer for itself The Wizard it may exist without Henry Cavill, but it’s a haunting look at what the universe could be like without a stabilizing presence like his. Cavill isn’t the only thing he does The Wizard; some of the most interesting things in the universe have nothing to do with him. But he is a defining characteristic, a constantly engaged fan who finds so much depth in a character that it would be so easy to make really boring. As our perspective character, he (or the people who care about him) sets the tone for the series, and the poignancy he sets radiates into stories he’s not even in.

origin of blood it exists as the opposite of that: a world with no defining characteristics of fantasy, a multiverse that not even Michelle Yeoh can rescue. It’s a textureless world populated by generic archetypes struggling to get from point A to point B because the plot wants them to. The problems run deeper than not having a star to root the world in. The Witcher: Origin of Blood it ultimately falls victim to the risk any multiverse (and there are many) takes when it expands too greedily, losing out on what makes it special. origin of blood it doesn’t have time to consider what makes the Witcher universe unique or significant, leaving it as a confused and reckless attempt to push more Witcher stuff out the door. If there is hope for The Wizard to survive the loss of a star and become a larger universe, you’ll have to make a better case than this.

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