News

The Witcher First Reviews: Henry Cavill Is at His Monster-Fighting Best

Netflix's new fantasy series brings loads grit and gore, but might disappoint its die-hard franchise fanbase.

by | December 20, 2019 | Comments


Henry Cavill has replaced the iconic Man of Steel cape with some sleek white locks and a shiny, sharp sword in Netflix’s new fantasy series, The Witcher. Based on the popular stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which spawned the wildly popular video game series, the eight-episode first season follows the story of swordsman-for-hire Geralt of Rivia, whose supernatural skills come in handy for profession: hunting monsters. In the series, the solitary warrior seeks princess-in-exile Ciri (Freya Allan) and runs across sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), who is just discovering her powers at the outset of season 1.

As with most recent genre shows of this ilk, comparisons have already been made to Game of Thrones. Netflix has already seen value in their highly-anticipated series and renewed The Witcher for a second season in November. A studio’s confidence and noteworthy buzz can work wonders for a fledgling program such as this. But has Netflix’s bet paid off? Will The Witcher scratch that White Walker itch? And is the Cavill-starrer strong enough to hack-and-slash its way through the ever-cluttered realm of Peak TV to make an impact?

Here’s what critics are saying about The Witcher.


HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE BOOKS?

Yennifer in The Witcher (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Fans of the books and the game are likely to have a field day with the swarm of character references throughout, and whilst it’s paying fan service with how casually these names are mentioned, general unversed audiences may need to pay a bit more closer attention, especially when Cavill is speaking as his low growl can often be inaudible.  —Peter Gray, This Is Film

The problem is, there’s very little reason to get invested enough to attempt to make sense of the whole thing. From the jump, in the very first episode, characters constantly yammer at Geralt about “destiny” this and “destiny” that, which isn’t nearly as interesting in 2019 as it might have been in the 1980s when the stories were originally published. Even if you love the original stories and books, they’re remixed and altered here to the point that they often no longer make sense. —Michael Rougeau, GameSpot

In faithfully adapting the book it brings with it some questionable elements, but it at least adapts these tales with a more modern sensibility.   —Kambole Campbell, Little White Lies

Indeed, the one thing that I worry viewers might dislike about The Witcher is that without a strong knowledge of the books, or at least a good grasp on fantasy fiction in general, this show might require some hard work. Game of Thrones is, quite simply, easier to get into.  — Erik Kain, Forbes


DOES HENRY CAVILL SLAY?

The Witcher, Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Henry Cavill’s character … could scan as a spin on the actor’s most notable prior role. Monster hunter Geralt of Rivia resembles a reclusive medieval Superman—all principle, brawn, and jawline—clad in a white wig and cat-like contact lenses. But rather than reheating the Man of Steel, Cavill quickly melts into Geralt, capturing his aloof yet winsome confidence with sardonic one-liners and baritone grunts. —Niv M. Sultan, Slant Magazine

Thankfully, Cavill as Geralt is beyond anything I expected. While this is a testament to Cavill’s acting, its also because of his ability to nail the physicality that the role deserves.   —Kate Sanchez, But Why Tho

Cavill delights in every grimace as his grimy, sour Geralt traverses locales familiar to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Candle-strewn taverns, pornographic wizard illusions, and foolish nobles—no matter the job, Geralt perseveres in true Lawful Neutral form (to keep things in D&D terms). A bemused yet not unkind cynicism comes across in Cavill’s slow baritone and rare, slight smile. It’s the best he’s been aside from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and everyone either hates him or is horny for him.  — Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine


READ ALSO: Henry Cavill on Why He Had To Play the Witcher


HOW’S THE REST OF THE CAST?

The Witcher keyart Yennifer, Geralt, Ciri (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Showrunner Lauren Hissrich and executive producer Tomek Baginski really knocked the casting out of the park with this series. Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan, and Joey Batey all bring the necessary gruff, edge, and charm of their famous characters to life throughout the series, and they contrast incredibly well with each other once they all get a chance to unite on screen.   —Matthew Aguilar, comicbook

While Cavill is the famous face, it’s actually a three-lead show with three distinct storylines, co-starring the Anya Chalotra as the trainee witch Yennefer, and Freya Allan as Ciri, a fugitive teen princess. These two young women are much more interesting than Geralt, partly because they have solid character arcs, but mostly because Henry Cavill is a block of beautifully carved wood.  — Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Daily Dot


HOW DETAILED IS THE WORLD-BUILDING?

The Witcher, s1, ep 3 (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

The production design does look impressive and you really get the sense that money is being fired at this to give it every possible opportunity. The difference, however, is that while ‘The Witcher’ may exist in a fantastical world, you can never really shake the feeling that you’re looking at a set, or that you’ve seen some of this before.   —Brian Lloyd, entertainment.ie

There’s not quite enough fully developed characters to make this feel like a big ensemble show like “Thrones,” and so we crave a single center of gravity. The decentralized aspect of “The Witcher,” instead, emphasizes certain faults, like how Cavill doesn’t quite embody the Han Solo aspect of his roguish-hero role enough to hold the screen fully.   —Daniel D’Addario, Variety


HOW ARE ITS FIGHT SCENES?

Renfri and Geralt in in The Witcher (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

One fight sequence towards the end of episode one is quite special, seemingly achieved in one unbroken take and with Cavill visibly involved, instead of a stunt double. —Rohan Naahar, Hindustan Times

Violence and sexuality are both major components of the source material, and The Witcher certainly doesn’t skimp in either category. The aforementioned carving up of the village riffraff is gruesome, as are Geralt’s frequent encounters with all manner of sinister creatures, and there’s no shortage of bare bodies on display.  —Brent Hankins, Lamplight Review

That’s the real star of The Witcher: the fight scenes. Filled with terrifying monsters, brutal thugs, and shots lifted straight from classic horror movies, each battle has been so stylishly executed, they almost feel sensual. The Witcher’s fight scenes aren’t merely good enough to be entertaining, they’re “make you scream like you’re at a playoff game” great.   — Kayla Cobb, Decider

Where The Witcher succeeds is in its action sequences. A face-off between the super-human Geralt and a Lovecraftian nightmare in a crumbling castle is gruesome and fast-paced. And a struggle between the anti-hero and his lover (Emma Appleton) is appropriately heart-rending. If you like this sort of thing, it’s worth putting up with the bleary plot and dialogue just to get from one confrontation to the next.   — Ed Power, Daily Telegraph (UK)


WAIT, IS IT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY?

Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher (Netflix)

(Photo by Netflix)

Worse, the wink, wink nature of the oddly misplaced humor makes clear that the writers are clearly trying to have their cake and eat it too, which comes off like an eleven-year-old who’s satisfied enough by dipping a finger into the frosting before licking it off instead of making an actual meal.   —Andrew Bundy, The Playlist

“The Witcher” has a lighthearted sense of humor — another difference between it and “Game of Thrones,” whose jokes landed with the force of tankards slammed on oaken boards. We’re not talking high comedy, but you could do worse than watching Cavill, as Geralt, pour out his troubles to his horse, the only creature the Witcher will really open up to.   — Mike Hale, New York Times

#1
Adjusted Score: -1%
Critics Consensus: Though the world of The Witcher at times feels only half-formed, Henry Cavill brings brawny charisma to a series teeming with subversive fantasy elements and dark humor.
Directed By: Alik Sakharov

Tag Cloud

Paramount what to watch Tarantino blockbuster Epix Broadway 007 VICE french Avengers spy thriller The Walking Dead popular FX italian NBA social media women target SDCC king arthur politics stoner criterion streaming movies TruTV nature Rom-Com BET crossover casting Lionsgate Best Picture 99% Sundance TV Food Network National Geographic 21st Century Fox Extras See It Skip It BBC America BET Awards classics psychological thriller Film Festival period drama 2017 dexter Universal Pictures Black Mirror animated Pop natural history movies Heroines 2020 Podcast Anna Paquin Tokyo Olympics 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Alien anthology legend singing competition American Society of Cinematographers werewolf 71st Emmy Awards 45 young adult Marvel President marvel cinematic universe Brie Larson Election award winner Amazon Studios mission: impossible Endgame Star Wars Celebration Bravo 2016 Hear Us Out Oscar independent rotten venice LGBTQ Pride Month boxing cooking Interview heist movie breaking bad Ellie Kemper Grammys CNN art house spanish language Toys fresh rt archives worst Prime Video Tumblr best suspense Writers Guild of America canceled Star Trek Sony Drama technology Best and Worst slasher Calendar blockbusters Superheroes halloween Amazon Prime Video SXSW Emmy Nominations Family BBC Holidays Neflix telelvision HBO Go green book YouTube Premium DC Comics broadcast 2019 Countdown 94th Oscars kaiju AMC Plus 2015 Classic Film australia VH1 science fiction El Rey Columbia Pictures Fantasy Year in Review dceu prank latino Country news Musical Black History Month rotten movies we love Lifetime Christmas movies gangster Wes Anderson Television Academy based on movie child's play Reality Competition Showtime Polls and Games adenture Fox News Discovery Channel sopranos Hallmark MCU name the review TCA 2017 Television Critics Association Lifetime APB richard e. Grant Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt king kong hollywood Crunchyroll mob dark Teen Indigenous comic book movies Image Comics archives children's TV elevated horror Emmys scary movies Christmas FX on Hulu comic book movie Adult Swim hispanic heritage month Mudbound First Look kids all-time Universal biopic harry potter teaser satire YouTube The Witch wonder woman San Diego Comic-Con YouTube Red spinoff space Music cults sitcom new york canceled TV shows genre Red Carpet comic mockumentary Horror Character Guide ABC Signature worst movies films zombies free movies royal family DGA TBS Tomatazos police drama parents mcc BBC One Cartoon Network thriller leaderboard black comedy Biopics Amazon Comics on TV new star wars movies History Women's History Month concert Fox Searchlight E! chucky slashers Esquire WGN Tubi vs. franchise Amazon Prime Disney streaming service hidden camera comic books halloween tv hispanic Thanksgiving Stephen King adaptation spider-verse Martial Arts series asian-american VOD Marathons Britbox FOX laika basketball action-comedy IFC Films DC streaming service ID strong female leads ABC romantic comedy Infographic golden globe awards Animation Pet Sematary Box Office Trailer jamie lee curtis critics screen actors guild 2021 japanese TNT scene in color film series spain binge superman movie james bond crime Cosplay Western batman supernatural Sundance GoT crime drama Certified Fresh HBO Max Hallmark Christmas movies Comedy Song of Ice and Fire docudrama Rock Turner directors rom-coms travel Pacific Islander LGBT comics toronto zombie Mystery Baby Yoda PaleyFest mutant video BAFTA The Walt Disney Company Chernobyl AMC USA Apple Freeform ViacomCBS PlayStation justice league 73rd Emmy Awards Holiday MSNBC Kids & Family nbcuniversal Rocketman Tags: Comedy sequel remakes Premiere Dates serial killer Legendary Logo monster movies robots south america Nickelodeon NBC TV movies witnail Hulu Oscars sports live event cancelled TV series Fargo cartoon Video Games cars obi wan First Reviews golden globes TCA Awards know your critic The Purge Spectrum Originals Best Director Syfy black summer preview obituary Super Bowl PBS TV Land New York Comic Con trailers hist DC Universe stand-up comedy live action Walt Disney Pictures TV stop motion FXX talk show zero dark thirty aapi Native X-Men Paramount Pictures docuseries spider-man screenings medical drama Hollywood Foreign Press Association HFPA deadpool reviews SXSW 2022 finale doctor who summer TV A&E OWN cancelled television fast and furious Geeked Week historical drama critic resources boxoffice Film international TLC cancelled TV shows 79th Golden Globes Awards Winter TV E3 YA diversity target scene in color 90s rt labs critics edition Crackle Disney+ Disney Plus 20th Century Fox football IFC disaster Captain marvel saw ghosts ratings interviews Set visit WarnerMedia anime The Academy Shondaland lord of the rings dramedy cinemax TCA sequels blaxploitation pirates of the caribbean Spring TV Focus Features twilight Schedule emmy awards Pop TV joker Action TIFF SundanceTV Sony Pictures jurassic park scene in color series die hard marvel comics TCM ITV Starz book adaptation Spike 24 frames streamig debate cats christmas movies Cannes Paramount Plus Comic Book theme song toy story Comic-Con@Home 2021 Sneak Peek documentary transformers Warner Bros. GIFs Turner Classic Movies HBO political drama Sci-Fi Opinion CW Seed The Arrangement RT History unscripted vampires Watching Series Apple TV Plus Netflix Christmas movies Funimation Pirates superhero sag awards Disney Paramount Network Trivia Disney Plus Nat Geo indiana jones Instagram Live new zealand godzilla Nominations quibi feel good Chilling Adventures of Sabrina video on demand spanish Mary poppins Best Actor Rocky Awards foreign razzies comiccon Star Wars MGM miniseries Marvel Television summer TV preview streaming Elton John japan psycho 2018 Disney Channel 93rd Oscars comedies Winners 72 Emmy Awards 4/20 Mary Tyler Moore composers dreamworks crime thriller Valentine's Day rt labs The CW 1990s Photos olympics TCA Winter 2020 revenge Mary Poppins Returns true crime adventure Lucasfilm Binge Guide MTV Shudder festivals GLAAD CBS All Access trophy dc cops festival game show TV One nfl Travel Channel A24 television Summer Best Actress Peacock facebook CMT cancelled Masterpiece Reality Quiz Apple TV+ documentaries DirecTV Exclusive Video Dark Horse Comics OneApp IMDb TV dragons war NYCC Pixar romance CBS tv talk Comedy Central Acorn TV renewed TV shows scene in color Superheroe a nightmare on elm street USA Network scary Arrowverse biography Creative Arts Emmys RT21 TV renewals dogs Academy Awards Ghostbusters Marvel Studios universal monsters posters Sundance Now discovery scorecard indie Musicals reboot ABC Family Awards Tour Vudu aliens Trophy Talk Ovation South by Southwest Film Festival ESPN Netflix versus high school Fall TV kong Mindy Kaling book game of thrones