Published on August 26th, 2021 | by Blake Morrow0
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf
There’s a new anime movie entry into the universe of The Witcher, called Nightmare of the Wolf. It’s a gory, fast-moving, monster killing, good time.
When Andrzej Sapkowski first penned a tale involving a mutated monster hunter named Geralt of Rivia the story became a massive hit in his home country of Poland. For the rest of the world The Witcher remained largely unknown until CD Projekt Red released its first video game adaptation in 2007. Since then, Geralt and his magnificent white hair have ridden on the back of a wildly successful video game trilogy to global superstardom. With no shortage of demand for content, Netflix has taken a specific interest in adapting Sapkowski’s material to the screen. First up was a 2019 television series and the latest entry to the Netflix catalogue is a spin-off anime film called The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf. What results is a dark, gory, fun, and even poetic entry to the Witcher universe that can please both newcomers and long-time fans alike.
For the uninitiated, a witcher is a monster hunter in a universe that is absolutely teeming with them. Taken as boys they are genetically modified into something else during a brutal process known as the Trial of the Grasses. Witchers are social outcasts that blur the line between man and monster and are hated even more than they are needed. While the main focus of the Witcher universe is on Geralt of Rivia, Nightmare of the Wolf instead gives us the origin story of his mentor Vesemir, a character that fans have long been familiar with. From his early days struggling as a lowly servant, to his experiences with love as a young man, to his rise as a cynical, money-hungry monster slayer, the younger Vesemir is very different from the sagely one we see later on. Roaming the world as both butcher and pariah, Vesemir carries the dark humour and enigmatic charm that makes witchers so fascinating to watch. Between healthy doses of violence, the film is eager to question the line between monster and man, which is a hallmark of Sapkowski’s world. It’s this dark moral complexity that makes Nightmare a tale fit for the series.
Without a doubt the greatest strength of Nightmare of the Wolf are its numerous battle sequences. It’s a series with heavy mature content and this film does not skimp out when it comes to bloodshed. Leshens, wraiths, and basilisks leave countless bodies in their wake as monsters, swordplay, and magic all weave together into barely controlled mayhem. Despite the action sequences being phenomenal, the animation style outside of that is relatively straightforward. Beyond a montage of Vesemir on his witcher travels that stood out as being exceptionally stylish, the creative vision wasn’t the most exciting. Similar to his rapid-fire battles, the dialogue was a non-stop barrage as if director Han Kwang-il was eager to jam as much content as he could into less than an hour and a half. It admittedly took a while for me to warm to the relentless pace but I eventually got into the groove and enjoyed the gory goodness Nightmare had to offer.
For viewers new to the series The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is a perfect entry point. Although the ideas can come fast and furious, you don’t need a lot of prior knowledge to appreciate the rich universe and bloody carnage that unfolds. For fans of the series this is a more than worthy companion piece that does a wonderful job expanding on the lore of beloved characters. That being said, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly sure where Nightmare of the Wolf ties in to the rest of the canon. I know that the games themselves fudge with Sapkowski’s original stories and I have yet to see the live action series (Henry Cavill in that wig still gives me nightmares). All I can do is take it at face value and acknowledge it as the entertaining prequel it is. More than anything Nightmare of the Wolf has me asking one thing: should I read the books, watch the Netflix series, or replay The Wild Hunt next?