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Ardent fans of “The Witcher” could welcome any related content to pass the time between seasons, and there’s certainly no shortage of great fantasy prequels this year, including “House of the Dragon” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”. Nonetheless, “The Witcher: Blood Origin” essentially feels like a mildly entertaining between-meal snack, and four episodes essentially one long movie.
Set 1,200 years before the events of the series, the story goes back to an elven world before their realm merged with that of humans and monsters, making it feel like there was a sell-off on the Spock’s ears. The basic pattern is “The Magnificent Seven” (or “Seven Samurai”, if you prefer), with a group of warriors and wizards coming together to thwart an evil princess (Mirren Mack) seeking to consolidate power.
The assembly part of the story, however, is to happen pretty much on the fly, thus focusing on a trio of skilled warriors: Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), a former protector of the princess; Éile (Sophia Brown), a gifted singer when she’s not cutting her limbs; and Scian (Michelle Yeoh, as usual ranking the joint), a swordsman who trained Éile and treats her accordingly.
There’s more to it, including the matter of connecting these events to what happens centuries later, but really not that much. Indeed, even a casual viewer at best of the “Witcher” franchise (guilty as indicted, here) might mildly appreciate “Blood Origin” simply for its violent, balletic action sequences, the best being a sequence where the trio wielding aforementioned swords fight side by side for the first time.
Most of the storytelling centers around O’Fuarain and Brown, who manage to produce some pretty good chemistry — bickering at first, before growing closer — given the characters’ limited scope.
From a broader perspective, Netflix apparently fell prey to a degree of irrational exuberance over the initial success of ‘The Witcher’, also ordering an animated film, ‘Nightmare of the Wolf’, so that the focus should probably have remained on maintaining interest in the flagship. series. Add to that the impending exit of Henry Cavill – whose casting was certainly a coup – to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth, and it seems like one of those common occasions in Hollywood to count the coins prematurely.
That’s not to say that “Blood Origin” is bad, only that in this package the whole thing feels a bit half-baked. As to whether it’s worth tossing this latest “The Witcher” prop a little over three hours of viewing time, that likely hinges on how excited it is for next year’s third season.
“The Witcher: Blood Origin” premieres December 25 on Netflix.
‘The Witcher: Blood Origin’ review: Michelle Yeoh joins a violent prequel that’s only worth a few coins
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