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: 73.736%
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

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