Thursday, May 18, 2017

Another Netflix Announcement: 'The Witcher' in Production

The Witcher is coming to Netflix!

And I'm not that excited about it. The legacy of video game movies has been abysmal. With the exception of the Ace Attorney movie. It is the one bright beacon, in an otherwise dark and stormy cycle of crappy video game films. Will television fare any better? In the past, our only access to video games on TV has been through Saturday morning cartoons with Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario. They weren't bad shows, but it's clear that they were meant for children. They are not the quality of Steven Universe or Avatar: The Last Airbender in terms of content. Yet they entertained and delighted children for years. That's more then can be said for the majority of game movies.

So does this new move of taking serious games and turning them into TV shows...could this work in the one medium where game adaptations have been semi-successful?

We already know about Castlevania. The animated adaptation of the game will be on Netflix this year. There shouldn't be a surprise that another mature video game will be making it's way to Netflix as well. But why The Witcher?

A few reasons: it's a successful franchise selling over 25 million games since it's creation. The books that the game's are based on, are equally as popular and have been on the New York Times Best Selling list. The premise and setting of The Witcher are easy to manipulate into a traditional movie/TV story-telling model: if you break it down, the story is reminiscent of Van Helsing, but not as goofy. And with Netflix moving more towards gritty, ground-breaking action/drama sagas, The Witcher would fit right in.

Now here's some of the bad news:

Remember that quick blurb I posted in the Weekly Link Round Up a few weeks back about the author, Andrzej Sapkowski? How he wasn't happy with the reputation of The Witcher and felt slighted by the game's developer CD Projekt? He's serving as the creative consultant on the television show. Meaning this isn't an adaptation of the games, but of the books. “I’m thrilled that Netflix will be doing an adaptation of my stories, staying true to the source material and the themes that I have spent over thirty years writing,” said Sapkowski. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

So if you're a fan of the games, you might be disappointed at how much the Netflix series won't replicate that look. But if you like the books, then you're in luck!

The series is also being produced by Sean Daniel and Jason Brown, who produced the 1999 and 2017 Mummy movies, respectively. The new Mummy film looks awful and a quick cash grab. The 1999 Brendan Fraser one...okay I admit I have a soft spot for that movie. It's over the top, campy, and goofy in all the right ways. So imagine that for The Witcher and you'll quickly see why I'm concerned.

Third, it's going to be live action. Not animated. That's going to probably throw a big wrench into the design of the series for a lot of viewers. Part of the draw of The Witcher video games is that the monsters and baddies look every much like they are part of the world as the human characters. It's incredibly difficult to make ogre's look natural next to your male lead. Even with 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'Game of Thrones,' it's still easy to tell when you have a digital dragon on the screen. Which is why The Witcher lends itself so well to a video game environment, where everything is animated. Having that mix of animated and live action could be detrimental in making the crazy creates in Sapkowski's come to life.

It'll be interesting to see where Netflix goes with this project, but you can expect some twists, turns, and unhappy gamers in the process when they find out more of the details.

Interesting side-note: The books aren't actually called The Witcher. That title is owned by CD Projekt, and they may not allow Netflix to use it without getting compensation for it.

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