‘The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf’ Review: Thrilling Anime Prequel to Netlfix Live-Action Series

An animated prequel to Netflix’s The Witcher series, Nightmare of the Wolf provides bloody action and plenty of lore. Delving into the origins of Geralt’s mentor Vesemir, he is called upon to slaughter the monsters plaguing the woods of a nearby city, while becoming embroiled in their political turmoil and facing memories of his past. 

If you’ll pardon the pun, Vesemir is a much more animated protagonist than his protégé. It is refreshing to follow a Witcher who is charismatic and seems to enjoy the glory of battle that comes with his job, rather than be burdened by it. Theo James’ voice performance as Vesemir is the standout of the film, and he imbues our leading man with buckets of enthusiasm. Not only is he a generally likeable hero, but he’s also capable. He has some of the coolest fight choreography in the film, and the animated medium allows for there to be more inhumanly acrobatic and bloody, gruesome fights than would otherwise be possible. 

Nightmare of the Wolf also boldly steps into the bleakness of The Witcher universe, showing a world fraught with peril, inequality, and political turmoil. As central to the plot as the Witchers are the nobles of the suffering city nearby, and the mage Tetra (Laura Pulver) who seeks to blame their troubles on Vesemir’s kind. Each faction may think they have the best of intentions, but nearly all of the characters the film presents exist in a moral grey area. Aside from the mindless monsters, there is no good or evil, and when characters do wrong it is easy to understand why they thought themselves justified. This is one of The Witcher’s greatest strengths, and this film conveys it well. 

It also has no trouble tieing in with what we’ve seen so far from this universe. Disturbing monster designs are a highlight of the film, the same way they are in the Henry Cavill-led series, and there are other aesthetic similarities (if Witchers conducting business from a bathtub could be considered an aesthetic). The final battle is also a delight, with excellent choreography and overwhelming odds. Nightmare of the Wolf also ensures that it ends up in a place that clearly sets up the future of Witchers and paves the way for Geralt’s story, as any good prequel would. 

But before the reins are handed over to the familiar character, the film does a good job of showing Vesemir’s development into his mentor figure. The aforementioned cocky, charismatic young man learns the harshness of the world he exists in, and this shapes him into the gruff, burdened character one would expect. However, considering the relative simplicity of the story, it sometimes feels that the (already fairly short) runtime is slightly too long. Some of the film’s events are meandering and ultimately inconsequential, but this is the only obvious flaw in an otherwise extremely entertaining feature. 

Nightmare of the Wolf is an exciting expansion of The Witcher universe. The monsters are gruesome, the fights thrilling, and it ties in well with what we have seen before. Watching it will surely make you eager to see more. 

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