In a lot of ways, Netflix and HBO got their formula right for the video game to series adaptations – the only difference being that The Last of Us did what The Witcher could not. In 2019, Henry Cavill launched a chain of events that should have completely redefined the reputation that video games have harbored for 26 years, ever since the premiere of 1993’s Super Mario Bros.
The curse, although momentarily lifted, fell back into place after the Netflix series attempted to go at it on its own. The training wheels [aka the source] weren’t expected to come off this early, and without the added support, The Witcher ran headlong into a ditch that Netflix is still trying to dig its way out of.
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Henry Cavill Breaks Down The Witcher‘s Blaviken Sequence
With a harmonic efficiency to it, The Witcher‘s first episode, titled The End’s Beginning, played out as Henry Cavill’s Geralt began on the path that would decades later bring him and Ciri together. And one of the first catalysts that pushed Geralt closer to his destiny was crossing paths with Renfri, the Shrike.
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The ensuing battle that would make him famously known as the Butcher of Blaviken was filmed in a single take – with one camera tracking the entire scene in a continuous sequence, which Henry Cavill later recounted as being one of the most difficult feats to accomplish in terms of direction and choreography. In a Shot By Shot Breakdown interview, Cavill describes the scene with precise and technical clarity:
“[The crossbow] shot was designed by Wolfgang Stegemann, a stunt co-ordinator and a fight co-ordinator. What makes a Witcher and Geralt very very special is the ability to deflect an arrow in mid-flight, or in this case, a crossbow bolt. We wanted to make it unique in a way and Wolfgang’s idea of the camera circle round the crossbowman allows the audience to feel that moment like the bolt was truly gonna hit him.
[In the scene that follows,] I’m blocking this stunt performer’s sword blow with nothing essentially. We often use cut-off swords for particularly complex or technical pieces or pieces that can be very very dangerous. [Geralt’s] sword is actually half-length. With the half-length, it allows for a lot more moves to be done which involves blood and gore. The difficulty is we all have to perform like the sword is full-length rather than half-length. When you’re moving at full speed, and your adrenaline’s up, and you’re doing take after take after take, sometimes it can be tricky.”
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If there has ever been an opening sequence that sets the tone for the entire series, it has got to be The End’s Beginning. As the first episode of Netflix’s acclaimed high fantasy series, the pilot marked several events that have gone on to define Geralt of Rivia in the lore of Andrzej Sapkowski’s mythology. However, neither did the episode overwhelm itself with a flood of plot points nor was it found lacking under the weight of character development.
The End’s Beginning Proves Why Henry Cavill Was Perfect
The Sapkowski novels had pages upon pages of Geralt of Rivia talking, a quality the audience rarely finds Henry Cavill exploiting in his live-action series, The Witcher. The actor, a fan of the video game adaptation, had attempted to emulate Doug Cockle, the original voice actor for Geralt, and did so in several takes including his speech on Evil and later on, intermittently throughout Season 1. But none of these scenes definitively encapsulated Cavill as the Witcher like the first episode did in its hour-long runtime.
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With precise movements, a voice with perfect tenor, actions, inflections, idiosyncracies, and that infamous aloof air of melancholic detachment, Henry Cavill embodied the Witcher in all his faults and glory. Invoking moments from The Witcher video game series that only a devoted gamer of the likes of Cavill would be aware of, the actor went on to walk, talk, and breathe Geralt in a way that has now immortalized the character within the genetic composition of the Brit himself.
This, in turn, will not only make Liam Hemsworth’s arrival a very difficult transitional period for the audience and the Aussie but also make the series in itself a Sisyphian feat in terms of getting to sell Hemsworth as Geralt in the first place.
The Witcher is available for streaming on Netflix.
Source: Still Watching Netflix