There’s always a chance
There sure was a whole lot of video game movie news that was announced last week, and the only one I’m holding out any hope for is The Witcher. Of course, I could be entirely wrong, but judging by the paint-by-numbers Warcraft trailer, I think we can all see the writing on the wall.
Here are four reasons why the upcoming 2017 movie might not suck.
1. The Witcher is Based on a Series of Books
If you’ve played any of the games, you probably already know that The Witcher is based on a series of books by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. This is important for a few reasons. The first is that the movie will be directly adapted from the first collection of short stories, The Last Wish. I suppose you could make the argument that the upcoming series of movies isn’t really based on the video games at all, but that’s where reason number two comes in.
The games do an excellent job of recreating the tone, mythology, and atmosphere of the books. Even though the plots themselves aren’t lifted from the source material (in fact it downright retcons them to make the games work), the games retain the morally grey nature of Geralt’s world. If one medium could do it, why not another?
2. The Witcher Excels at Short-Form Stories
The video game series suffers from the same problem the books do: the short stories are better than the long form narrative. This has been true from the beginning. In the first game, the resolution of the first act is a reveal that affects the short term characters, in lieu of the more complicated overarching plot. Fast forward to The Wild Hunt, and we see Geralt helping the Bloody Baron solve his botchling problem as a character driven chunk of the game that the larger political narrative of the game lacks.
The same is true for the books. Both The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny are formatted in a way that alternates short stories and a longer form narrative. The books excel at the self contained short story. Many of these are simple twists on classic fairy tales, such as the time the Beast from Beauty and the Beast falls in love with a life-sucking vampire. It’s all coated in a dark, Eastern European flair that the game nails.
The movies, despite being labeled as an upcoming “series,” will no doubt fall into the short form category. Where the later books and larger plot of The Witcher video games get bogged down with political maneuvering and a whole lot of talking, the movies won’t have that luxury. Unless you’re a certain set of movie prequels, no one wants to hear about the trade embargoes of fictional kingdoms.
I’m not saying we won’t get a little bit of the larger political implications of Geralt’s actions in the movies, but we already know where the core focus of the narrative will be because…
3. The Movies are Based on Great Stories Already
The announcement from Platige Films made it clear that they would be drawing from short stories The Witcher and The Lesser Evil, at least when it came to the themes they would be working with. The wording of the press release means we probably won’t get a 1 for 1 adaptation but working two of the best short stories in The Last Wish into a feature film is the smart way to go. They’re self contained, entertaining, and echo the themes of the larger Witcher universe without getting trapped in the neutrality of the political stage.
The first short story, The Witcher, is one many fans are probably already familiar with. It’s the opening cinematic for the first game, and features Geralt lifting the curse of a striga, King Foltest’s incestual child turned into a monster. It sets the stage for the rest of Geralt’s interaction with nobility and is what allows his reputation to precede him in almost every city he visits.
The Lesser Evil is lesser known on a narrative level, but the themes the story works with are familiar to anyone who has stepped foot into The Witcher’s universe. The story has Geralt interacting with multiple characters at competing odds with one another as he tries to sort out an alleged curse. The Lesser Evil has Geralt making choices where there is no right answer, as its title might imply. It speaks to the morally grey nature of the series on a micro level.
We may not get these stories told in their exact form, but one can see how combining the start of Geralt’s monster hunting career with the tough choices he’ll have to make later will make for a great self contained film.
4. There’s a Solid Team Behind It
At the helm of the new project is director Tomek Baginski, whose animated short film The Cathedral was nominated for an Oscar a few years ago, in case that’s how you gauge success. It’s a dark, beautifully rendered short that features a unique art style that feels like it would mesh with the tone The Witcher seeks to create. Check it out for yourself:
Additionally, Platige Films will also be working on the project. They created some of the cinematics for the game, such as the opening and a few trailers. Despite most of the team having experience in animation, the press release actually didn’t specify if the upcoming film was going to be animated or live action. We’ll be curious to see how that develops moving forward and how their experience in animation translates to live action, if that’s the route they take.
So there you have it! Four reasons that The Witcher movies might not actually suck. What are your thoughts? Is there any hope of them turning out alright? Or will we end up with another straight to TV adaptation? Either way, it’s almost certainly going to have more sex.
Steve is still playing The Witcher 3. Follow him on Twitter.