The Witcher First Reviews: Henry Cavill Is at His Monster-Fighting Best

Netflix's new fantasy series brings loads grit and gore, but might disappoint its die-hard franchise fanbase.

by | December 20, 2019 | Comments

Henry Cavill has replaced the iconic Man of Steel cape with some sleek white locks and a shiny, sharp sword in Netflix’s new fantasy series, The Witcher. Based on the popular stories by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which spawned the wildly popular video game series, the eight-episode first season follows the story of swordsman-for-hire Geralt of Rivia, whose supernatural skills come in handy for profession: hunting monsters. In the series, the solitary warrior seeks princess-in-exile Ciri (Freya Allan) and runs across sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra), who is just discovering her powers at the outset of season 1.

As with most recent genre shows of this ilk, comparisons have already been made to Game of Thrones. Netflix has already seen value in their highly-anticipated series and renewed The Witcher for a second season in November. A studio’s confidence and noteworthy buzz can work wonders for a fledgling program such as this. But has Netflix’s bet paid off? Will The Witcher scratch that White Walker itch? And is the Cavill-starrer strong enough to hack-and-slash its way through the ever-cluttered realm of Peak TV to make an impact?

Here’s what critics are saying about The Witcher.


Yennifer in The Witcher (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

Fans of the books and the game are likely to have a field day with the swarm of character references throughout, and whilst it’s paying fan service with how casually these names are mentioned, general unversed audiences may need to pay a bit more closer attention, especially when Cavill is speaking as his low growl can often be inaudible.  —Peter Gray, This Is Film

The problem is, there’s very little reason to get invested enough to attempt to make sense of the whole thing. From the jump, in the very first episode, characters constantly yammer at Geralt about “destiny” this and “destiny” that, which isn’t nearly as interesting in 2019 as it might have been in the 1980s when the stories were originally published. Even if you love the original stories and books, they’re remixed and altered here to the point that they often no longer make sense. —Michael Rougeau, GameSpot

In faithfully adapting the book it brings with it some questionable elements, but it at least adapts these tales with a more modern sensibility.   —Kambole Campbell, Little White Lies

Indeed, the one thing that I worry viewers might dislike about The Witcher is that without a strong knowledge of the books, or at least a good grasp on fantasy fiction in general, this show might require some hard work. Game of Thrones is, quite simply, easier to get into.  — Erik Kain, Forbes


The Witcher, Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

Henry Cavill’s character … could scan as a spin on the actor’s most notable prior role. Monster hunter Geralt of Rivia resembles a reclusive medieval Superman—all principle, brawn, and jawline—clad in a white wig and cat-like contact lenses. But rather than reheating the Man of Steel, Cavill quickly melts into Geralt, capturing his aloof yet winsome confidence with sardonic one-liners and baritone grunts. —Niv M. Sultan, Slant Magazine

Thankfully, Cavill as Geralt is beyond anything I expected. While this is a testament to Cavill’s acting, its also because of his ability to nail the physicality that the role deserves.   —Kate Sanchez, But Why Tho

Cavill delights in every grimace as his grimy, sour Geralt traverses locales familiar to any Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Candle-strewn taverns, pornographic wizard illusions, and foolish nobles—no matter the job, Geralt perseveres in true Lawful Neutral form (to keep things in D&D terms). A bemused yet not unkind cynicism comes across in Cavill’s slow baritone and rare, slight smile. It’s the best he’s been aside from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and everyone either hates him or is horny for him.  — Jacob Oller, Paste Magazine

READ ALSO: Henry Cavill on Why He Had To Play the Witcher


The Witcher keyart Yennifer, Geralt, Ciri (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

Showrunner Lauren Hissrich and executive producer Tomek Baginski really knocked the casting out of the park with this series. Henry Cavill, Anya Chalotra, Freya Allan, and Joey Batey all bring the necessary gruff, edge, and charm of their famous characters to life throughout the series, and they contrast incredibly well with each other once they all get a chance to unite on screen.   —Matthew Aguilar, comicbook

While Cavill is the famous face, it’s actually a three-lead show with three distinct storylines, co-starring the Anya Chalotra as the trainee witch Yennefer, and Freya Allan as Ciri, a fugitive teen princess. These two young women are much more interesting than Geralt, partly because they have solid character arcs, but mostly because Henry Cavill is a block of beautifully carved wood.  — Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Daily Dot


The Witcher, s1, ep 3 (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

The production design does look impressive and you really get the sense that money is being fired at this to give it every possible opportunity. The difference, however, is that while ‘The Witcher’ may exist in a fantastical world, you can never really shake the feeling that you’re looking at a set, or that you’ve seen some of this before.   —Brian Lloyd,

There’s not quite enough fully developed characters to make this feel like a big ensemble show like “Thrones,” and so we crave a single center of gravity. The decentralized aspect of “The Witcher,” instead, emphasizes certain faults, like how Cavill doesn’t quite embody the Han Solo aspect of his roguish-hero role enough to hold the screen fully.   —Daniel D’Addario, Variety


Renfri and Geralt in in The Witcher (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

One fight sequence towards the end of episode one is quite special, seemingly achieved in one unbroken take and with Cavill visibly involved, instead of a stunt double. —Rohan Naahar, Hindustan Times

Violence and sexuality are both major components of the source material, and The Witcher certainly doesn’t skimp in either category. The aforementioned carving up of the village riffraff is gruesome, as are Geralt’s frequent encounters with all manner of sinister creatures, and there’s no shortage of bare bodies on display.  —Brent Hankins, Lamplight Review

That’s the real star of The Witcher: the fight scenes. Filled with terrifying monsters, brutal thugs, and shots lifted straight from classic horror movies, each battle has been so stylishly executed, they almost feel sensual. The Witcher’s fight scenes aren’t merely good enough to be entertaining, they’re “make you scream like you’re at a playoff game” great.   — Kayla Cobb, Decider

Where The Witcher succeeds is in its action sequences. A face-off between the super-human Geralt and a Lovecraftian nightmare in a crumbling castle is gruesome and fast-paced. And a struggle between the anti-hero and his lover (Emma Appleton) is appropriately heart-rending. If you like this sort of thing, it’s worth putting up with the bleary plot and dialogue just to get from one confrontation to the next.   — Ed Power, Daily Telegraph (UK)


Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in The Witcher (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

Worse, the wink, wink nature of the oddly misplaced humor makes clear that the writers are clearly trying to have their cake and eat it too, which comes off like an eleven-year-old who’s satisfied enough by dipping a finger into the frosting before licking it off instead of making an actual meal.   —Andrew Bundy, The Playlist

“The Witcher” has a lighthearted sense of humor — another difference between it and “Game of Thrones,” whose jokes landed with the force of tankards slammed on oaken boards. We’re not talking high comedy, but you could do worse than watching Cavill, as Geralt, pour out his troubles to his horse, the only creature the Witcher will really open up to.   — Mike Hale, New York Times

Adjusted Score: 73.702%
Critics Consensus: Though the world of The Witcher at times feels only half-formed, Henry Cavill brings brawny charisma to a series teeming with subversive fantasy elements and dark humor.
Synopsis: Geralt of Rivia, a mutated monster-hunter for hire, journeys toward his destiny in a turbulent world where people often prove... [More]
Directed By: Tomasz Baginski

Tag Cloud

festival Amazon Studios theme song sequel MCU Comic Book Emmy Nominations GIFs scorecard directors El Rey boxoffice talk show Disney streaming service Showtime movies PBS die hard Box Office Esquire satire Summer casting spider-man Amazon Prime Quiz VICE cancelled TV shows LGBTQ joker Awards GLAAD archives Baby Yoda Comedy Central comic Pride Month hispanic game show 20th Century Fox biography reboot robots Holidays cats 2019 Infographic Lifetime Christmas movies DC streaming service facebook Hallmark Television Academy 72 Emmy Awards Masterpiece Arrowverse See It Skip It Food Network TruTV halloween Mary Tyler Moore Film Festival technology documentaries quibi films Polls and Games Apple TV Plus Anna Paquin crime drama Disney Plus Pixar spinoff Tarantino crossover discovery obituary superhero travel rotten movies we love italian 2020 IFC Films animated Logo indie hist Rock Schedule Pet Sematary Lionsgate cults politics Trophy Talk Music Elton John Travel Channel festivals name the review elevated horror Universal Comics on TV Extras CNN book streaming Martial Arts Amazon Prime Video worst movies Watching Series BAFTA Musical Turner Classic Movies Creative Arts Emmys Christmas Horror binge American Society of Cinematographers Year in Review historical drama disaster halloween tv Best and Worst police drama Nickelodeon Netflix Christmas movies HBO Max National Geographic PlayStation mission: impossible Valentine's Day NBC TV Land free movies cars Dark Horse Comics asian-american Stephen King TCA Hulu crime Walt Disney Pictures anime screen actors guild Marvel SundanceTV chucky Disney Channel rotten Brie Larson Winter TV E3 Pirates romance laika Disney+ Disney Plus Britbox HBO classics ABC Family news Winners what to watch Countdown Tubi FOX video zero dark thirty cooking BBC series remakes Apple TV+ Song of Ice and Fire political drama cops FXX Family Cannes The Walking Dead The Purge composers X-Men comiccon GoT adaptation FX on Hulu Columbia Pictures Vudu Grammys WGN Starz Photos Rocketman all-time The Witch Trivia Country child's play TCM werewolf Western DGA Tomatazos award winner Writers Guild of America Fox Searchlight Cartoon Network screenings Endgame mutant Crunchyroll emmy awards batman AMC Animation Warner Bros. psychological thriller Sci-Fi Netflix green book toy story romantic comedy justice league mockumentary Sundance Now Certified Fresh CW Seed Television Critics Association San Diego Comic-Con transformers Ovation Binge Guide Marathons BBC America sports Super Bowl zombies venice sag awards TIFF Teen Bravo Paramount Network 71st Emmy Awards Superheroes cancelled television SDCC anthology psycho IFC Rom-Com Pop breaking bad Election worst VH1 parents Set visit SXSW tv talk Discovery Channel CBS All Access unscripted Funimation miniseries TCA Winter 2020 latino foreign dc doctor who slashers ratings Black Mirror vampires Interview First Look crime thriller golden globes Pop TV TV scary movies game of thrones cancelled Acorn TV WarnerMedia spain witnail Nominations kids 2016 zombie period drama Sundance toronto TCA 2017 The Arrangement OWN Hear Us Out canceled TV shows YouTube Premium The Academy diversity teaser USA Fantasy President nature spy thriller Superheroe Star Trek Calendar universal monsters supernatural A24 YA Turner The CW reviews Marvel Television A&E social media MSNBC Premiere Dates Reality Competition dogs PaleyFest richard e. Grant RT History BBC One space TV renewals Spring TV 4/20 Thanksgiving Emmys sitcom Video Games true crime Comedy Mudbound Ghostbusters nbcuniversal Disney independent Lucasfilm TCA Awards docudrama Women's History Month Chilling Adventures of Sabrina television strong female leads LGBT BET Nat Geo adventure Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Academy Awards Fall TV Sony Pictures dark ITV thriller OneApp Opinion 2015 Kids & Family Tumblr Character Guide Apple natural history Cosplay Reality Action cartoon CMT Paramount ESPN sequels Sneak Peek 2018 Musicals dragons Star Wars versus MTV Heroines comics Podcast dceu football christmas movies movie Spike VOD History nfl Holiday TBS CBS based on movie spanish DirecTV stop motion TNT Classic Film indiana jones Awards Tour revenge medical drama Biopics YouTube Red Captain marvel Spectrum Originals Black History Month critics concert Drama french documentary video on demand Mary Poppins Returns science fiction 007 Avengers jamie lee curtis twilight stand-up comedy First Reviews 2017 TLC Mary poppins Sundance TV FX RT21 DC Comics Lifetime YouTube New York Comic Con ghosts cancelled TV series harry potter aliens Amazon south america hollywood 45 spanish language Oscars 24 frames Mystery Mindy Kaling children's TV E! Crackle Epix Toys franchise DC Universe dramedy USA Network serial killer ABC APB Chernobyl Fox News Shudder comedies BET Awards Syfy Hallmark Christmas movies canceled singing competition a nightmare on elm street Adult Swim NYCC stoner blaxploitation cinemax Peacock Film Freeform Shondaland Ellie Kemper Rocky criterion Trailer fast and furious best 21st Century Fox renewed TV shows Marvel Studios finale blockbuster HBO Go war Red Carpet