Wednesday, February 8, 2023

‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ Review: Michelle Yeoh Deserves Better [Spoiler Free]

REVIEWS'The Witcher: Blood Origin' Review: Michelle Yeoh Deserves Better

The Witcher: Blood Origin is a fantasy prequel series to The Witcher, as almost everyone watching it will already know. It follows a group of seven warriors as they go on a quest to try and end a tyrannical elven establishment known as the Golden Empire.

Unlike The Witcher, Blood Origin doesn’t follow Geralt, previously played by Henry Cavill, who is the witcher centered in both the original series and the books it was based upon, The Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski.

Instead, Blood Origin is set 1,200 years before Geralt and focuses on the creation of the first witcher, a type of powerful, enhanced warrior who is tasked with fighting monsters in the world in which the series is set. In this realm, elves rule and humans are nowhere to be seen — the opposite to the situation in the main series.

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The setup is an interesting one that could have been executed really well, capturing some of the spirit and grit that viewers enjoyed in The Witcher. Unfortunately, with Blood Origin, that’s just not the case. Blood Origin manages to feel both shallow and bloated, despite the chance it had to dive deep into the building of this world. The premise feels like a waste, rumbling by dully and leaving a mess of mangled source material in its wake.

To be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with changing up source material to make a new series. Many shows have been refreshed by reinventing the canon. But, given that butchering the source material was an accusation that has already caused some trouble for The Witcher, it’s surprising that Netflix didn’t take the opportunity to mend some fan bridges with this one.

As a four episode limited series, Blood Origin doesn’t have the length to fit in much excess, and yet certain parts managed to feel dragged out. The boring pacing comes as a surprise, as its not a criticism that’s often aimed at the core show. (Though of course, it’s impossible to please everybody with any show.)

Frequently with fantasy series we are treated to epic quests and rousing dialogue. Blood Origin has a suitably epic quest setup but feels a little directionless, and much of the dialogue fell flat and was, unfortunately, not terribly memorable.

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In a world full of monsters — it’s literally the main premise of the franchise, special person kills monsters — modern viewers would expect a visual spectacular, even on the small screen. Sadly, the effects leave something to be desired. The shoddy CGI has been commented on all over the internet, so it doesn’t need expanding on any further here other than to say it was surprising given the budget Netflix usually throws at these kinds of fantasy shows.

The four episodes don’t flow in the way viewers have come to expect television series to. Instead, Blood Origin feels more like a six-hour-long movie, structurally, and struggles to hold interest between installments.

In summary, this offering is shallow, messy, and bland. Some diehard Witcher fans will surely find something to like, and if nothing else it gives extra background to the existing series they enjoy. Though I fear many will be more disappointed and angered by the changes than pleased. More casual viewers will likely find it a forgettable watch in general.

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However, it’s not fair to write the series off entirely as a bad job. Many of the acting performances were commendable, and avoided the cliché, over-the-top feeling that can occasionally plague fantasy and science fiction series.  

Fjall (Laurence O’Faurain, Vikings), Meldof (Francesca Mills, Harlots) Scian (Michelle Yeoh, Everything Everywhere All At Once), Syndril (Zach Wyatt, Timestalker), Zacaré (Lizzie Annis, Crush Hour: A Musical), Éile (Sophia Brown, Clique), and Brother Death (Huw Novelli, The Snow Spider) were all tackled admirably by the actors. Poor writing and complete disregard for the source material shouldn’t overshadow that.

Netflix has a habit of throwing original sources out of the window when it adapts for series, so perhaps we should all have expected it.

In the end, though, our queen Michelle Yeoh deserves better, as do the rest of the actors who brought this show to life. So, kudos on a job well done, but let’s hope that Netflix stays far away from beloved franchises for a while.

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