I first read the Witcher series in my early teens, grabbing the books off the bookstore’s shelf as soon as they were published. Through years to come, I’ve re-read the saga almost as much as I used to read one of my other favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo. At some point, I knew pieces of dialogue and descriptions by heart, and reading those books impacted my growth as a writer.
Yet, my relationships with the Witcher’s derivative works were—so far—very lukewarm. Can the Netflix’s upcoming series change that?
The comic book I never read and the tv series that shouldn’t be
I was aware from early on that there were the Witcher comic books available in Poland, but I didn’t like the art style enough to track them down. Then, around 2000, Polish TV decided to shoot a full-length movie and a tv series based on the books, and it stirred mixed reactions. On one hand, it seemed great that finally the polish directors and producers are reaching toward fantasy, but at the same time everyone doubted whether Polish cinema has the resources to pull it off.
Well, those concerns were justified. It’s enough to say that the movie regularly makes it to “the worst Polish movies ever made” lists and for the last two decades has been the source of many jokes in fandom. Poor quality of special effects, jumbled storyline, lack of logic… the list of flaws goes on, and nowadays it can only be recommended as a torture device—or perhaps an item on display in a house of peculiarities.
If you’re curious, have a peek on Youtube – the whole series is available with English subtitles.
The games that failed to impress
To me, it seemed like the Witcher game had been in the works ever since personal computers made it to Poland. The initial project failed, and if I recall correctly, the studio went bankrupt in the meantime, but every now and then some news would pop up. I didn’t follow it closely, so the information that CD Project has actually made a game somewhat surprised me. But timing wasn’t the best. I was just moving to Ireland, and my laptop wasn’t good enough to run the game smoothly.
Then, Witcher 2 came out, but since I haven’t played the first game yet, I paid little attention to it. Similarly, I didn’t get excited about the third installment of the game, though I immensely enjoyed the cinematic trailers for it. I added them here, but be warned: they’re quite gritty and violent.
Then, when I was already in the USA, Inq got Witcher 3 for Playstation, and I got to play it. As much as I enjoyed the references to the book, due to my gaming preferences it failed to grab me (you can read more about it in my Skyrim vs. The Witcher 3 post).
The fan movie that sneaked by
Some time after the Polish tv series fiasco, people started talking about fan-made movie that would give the books justice. Time went by, and I paid little attention to it as I didn’t have my hopes up, and the short feature had been made into a full movie.
Incidentally, the movie premiered two weeks before Netflix’s Witcher and is now available on Youtube. A quick peek suggests that it’s not something to give the book series justice, but looks quite nice for a fan-made movie with a limited budget. But with so little time before the new tv series is out, I don’t think I’ll find the time or motivation to watch “Alzur’s Legacy”.
All hope in Netflix
The news of picking up Netflix actually got me excited for the first time since I’ve read the final book in the saga. I’m cautious with my expectations as the platform’s SFF productions seem very uneven (pleasant Stranger Things, although it had its issues contrasted with disappointing Altered Carbon adaptation). But as trailers and featurettes are being released, I can’t help being slightly optimistic.
I’m sure it won’t be the story I pictured while reading books, but if you read my thoughts on book adaptations (and if not, check Watching Novels post) then you know I’m not zealous about accuracy. As long as the story is coherent, as long as acting is good and characters act in a logical way, in line with their personalities, I’ll likely be satisfied.
And as I’m not going to see the new Star Wars movie (which premieres on the same day as the Witcher), you can be sure that I’ll be binge watching the series through the weekend. If, of course, it turns out to be binge-worthy.
But this once, I can be hopeful, right?
What about you? Are you waiting for the Witcher? Have you read the books or played the games?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.