Netflix’s attempt at creating their own Game of Thrones is the Henry Cavill fantasy drama, The Witcher. The first trailer left me a little cold, because while the visuals are good, Cavill is not the most engaging presence and they barely let him, the main character, speak. Now we have a new trailer, and hey, Henry Cavill actually speaks! But I’m still not sold. I just don’t buy Henry Cavill as a leading man. He looks the part, I know, but I think he has a pretty solid case of Leading Man Syndrome. You think he’s leading man material because he’s super handsome, but really, he’s better suited for supporting parts. Think about it, his best, most engaging work is in The Tudors, in which he’s part of a large ensemble, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in which he shares space with Armie Hammer (another exemplar of Leading Man Syndrome) and Alicia Vikander. But when the focus is solely on Cavill, his big beefy shoulders collapse under the weight of carrying a story.
Maybe that’s why this trailer focuses so much on the many women surrounding his character, Geralt of Rivia. There’s Ciri, the princess he must protect; Yennefer, a sorceress and his love interest; Tissaia, an antagonistic sorceress; and Fringilla, yet another sorceress. Lot of sorcery in this show—if you’re not into that, The Witcher will not work for you at all. If, however, you are into background orgies, then The Witcher is right up your alley. I know The Witcher from the video games, which are VERY horny, and it looks like the show is maintaining that aesthetic, right down to Geralt lounging in the bath. And just like the video games, the sexy bits are amazingly unsexy. There’s just something unsettling about watching almost photo-real human cartoons bone, and the Geralt bath clip in the trailer is also unsettling. I think it’s the way his knee is sticking out of the water. Knees are not sexy. Serious question: How is Henry Cavill so good-looking and yet so unsexy at the same time?
The show continues to not mention the video games as part of its marketing, but there is a lot of crossover in the visuals, especially the character design of Geralt. And that line he spouts about evil is also used in one of the game trailers. All of the messaging about The Witcher is that this is From The Books, Not The Games, but there sure is a lot of overlap with the games. It’s a big and elaborate game franchise, I don’t think you can get away from it. They are sure trying, though.
Another thing they’re trying is taking on Stars Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The Witcher drops on December 20, the same day Skywalker opens. I get Cats going up against Skywalker, that’s a clear case of counterprogramming. But Skywalker and The Witcher are going to share a significant portion of their audience. Netflix is probably banking on most people only going to see Skywalker once, then coming home to watch The Witcher, but we know Skywalker will dominate the conversation that weekend. Seems like burying your show unnecessarily right out of the gate, and Netflix shows already have a bad habit of fading fast from the cultural conversation. Will The Witcher with its magic and weird sex stuff be enough to grab attention that weekend?