Henry Cavill The Witcher
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Credit: Netflix

The Witcher: Critics slay Netflix's new fantasy like Geralt slays monsters

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Dec 20, 2019

It's probably a bad sign when the review embargo for a new series lifts on the same day that the show premieres. Season 1 of The Witcher is now streaming on Netflix, and critics are pretty much panning the fantasy project that stars Henry Cavill (Man of Steel, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) as Andrzej Sapkowski's famed monster hunter, Geralt Rivia.

As you might expect, the series is being compared to HBO's Game of Thrones, but not for the reasons you'd think. Most reviews are quick to point out how creator Lauren S. Hissrich's take on The Continent pales in comparison to D.B. Weiss and David Benioff's interpretation of Westeros.

Digital Spy (David Opie's full thoughts can be viewed below) went so far as to describe The Witcher as the deformed offspring of GoT and The Mandalorian. Darren Franich and Kristen Baldwin of Entertainment Weekly (yes, the magazine had to get two reviewers to offer up their thoughts) gave the show a rare "F" grading.

Ouch!

Of course, it's not all negativity. The folks at Forbes and Collider were impressed by the production values and epic scope offered by The Witcher, and it seems like they'll be sticking with it, as press only got access to the first five episodes of Season 1.

Whether you like it or not, there's more Geralt to come, since Netflix already put in an early order for a second season of the series, which also stars Freya Allan, Anya Chalotra, Jodhi May, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Adam Levy, MyAnna Buring, Mimi Ndiweni, Therica Wilson-Read, and Emma Appleton.

Sheath your monster-killing sword and find out what critics are saying below ...

"When The Witcher is taking itself seriously, it's fairly bad. It aspires to be lofty high fantasy and instead becomes almost endless exposition and silly names. It's the kind of far-flung mystical reach that the characters in The Magicians might find themselves accidentally transported to, only to spend an episode or two standing around making fun of everything. Any attempt to invest on a human or emotional level with the characters or their circumstances is completely pointless and that becomes rather frustrating when episodes stretch well past an hour apiece." -Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter

"The Witcher ... boasts richly expensive visuals and an expansive-seeming world, at least in its first five hours. What it lacks, though, is tonal consistency. This is a show with moments of drama and of gruesome violence cut through with a glancing humor that too often feels tossed-off and out-of-place in the world the show has created. The show’s dramatic sensibility is intense and indulgent, crafting action sequences whose length bulks out episodes past hourlong running times." -Daniel D'Addario, Variety

"Bear with us here, but imagine if Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian had a baby. Think magical bounty hunter with a Daenerys wig. Now imagine that this mutant monstrosity didn't quite live up to the enchanting appeal of either show. Throw in decades of anticipation along with a hugely dedicated fanbase, and you'll have some idea of the pressures faced by The Witcher in its first season." -David Opie, Digital Spy

"This is the first TV show I’ve ever seen that would actually be better with commercial breaks. The goofy syndicated fantasy of yesteryear had to have a brisk pace, building every 12 minutes to an act-breaking cliffhanger. The Witcher fully embraces the endless-movie layout of the worst Blank Check streaming TV." -Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

"The Witcher is a dark, slickly produced and oftentimes somewhat hard to follow fantasy production ... This show might require some hard work. Game of Thrones is, quite simply, easier to get into ... The point is, if you’re curious about this show and want to know if it’s for you, I very much think you should watch it, but you might need to do a little extra legwork to make sure you’re following the plot and all its myriad characters." -Erik Kain, Forbes

"As for the man himself, well: Cavill looks great, sounds pretty lousy, and is clearly trying his best. Certainly, his gravel-y monotone is done no favors by being compared to the voice performance of Doug Cockle, the actor who played Geralt to exceptional effect in the three video games that helped popularize the character in the U.S." -William Hughes, The A.V. Club

"Right off the bat, The Witcher is an impressive offering. The scale of the show is massive, and Netflix has put enough resources into its production that everything looks quite good. Every interior, from a random village tavern to a grand castle hall to the solarium of a magic tower, is convincingly detailed and effectively staged. Battle scenes feature what seems like hundreds of extras. Shot mostly in Eastern Europe, the Continent’s exteriors look appropriately sprawling and vaguely mythical. While it doesn’t have the budget of Game of ThronesThe Witcher manages to create an enormous fantasy world that looks and feels totally believable, and is on par with anything GoT pulled off in its early seasons." -Tom Reimann, Collider

"I can’t bear any longer the sight of actors strolling around in aesthetically displeasing stringy wigs, which are surely the height of impracticability for any warrior, supernatural or otherwise, and make everyone look like a sub-Fabio who managed a term at Lamda before dropping out in unspecified disgrace." -Lucy Mangan, The Guardian

"As a TV show, The Witcher is particularly refreshing in an era full of nihilistic fantasy stories inspired by Game of Thrones. Yes, the show gets brutal at times. The wonderfully choreographed fight scenes are extremely violent, as is one very particular and hard-to-watch magical transformation ... What makes The Witcher so compelling is how it delves into these gray areas, exploring why people do what they do. By the end, you’ll have some measure of sympathy for almost everyone, no matter how irredeemable they might seem at first." -Andrew Webster, The Verge

"The opening episode of The Witcher ... is a mixed bag. It reaches out to be called 'the next Game of Thrones,' but falls short. Cavill’s Geralt fails to make a lasting impression, while the overarching questions being posed aren’t engaging just yet. However, with such bloody battles, and the promise of an epic journey, I’m certainly intrigued to see where this goes." -Jack Sheperd, GamesRadar


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