The Witcher’s Success Is Driven by Changes That Annoy Book Fans
Those who felt obligated to catch up would find The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to be tremendously enjoyable; sadly, the same cannot be said of the original book series
The Witcher, a Netflix original series, launched to unparalleled popularity in late 2019, generating a cultural frenzy and effectively validating the financial potential of high fantasy for mainstream viewers. Despite the games’ and novels’ fame, the Netflix adaptation was many viewers’ first introduction to the brand, sparking newfound interest in both the games and the books that inspired them.
Those who felt obligated to catch up would find The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt to be tremendously enjoyable; sadly, the same cannot be said of the original book series. While long-time fans of the novels have been outspoken about their dissatisfaction with the Netflix show’s modifications, a critical examination of these adjustments indicates that they were really vital to the show’s success.
Over the span of the 1990s, Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski authored eight books about the eponymous Witcher, Geralt of Rivia (played in the show by Henry Cavill), with a ninth, solo adventure added to the narrative in 2013. While the novels have sold more than 15 million copies, they pale in contrast to genre stalwarts like The Lord of the Rings (150 million copies) and The Wheel of Time (90 million copies)—or, more importantly, A Song of Ice and Fire (90 million copies).
CD Projekt Red’s three games based on the novels were more popular, selling more than 50 million copies. Although the Netflix adaptation has contributed to some of The Witcher 3’s current popularity, it is worth mentioning that the series had already sold more than 25 million copies before the program was ever published. Of course, comparing these types of data across media is tricky, but the relative success of the Witcher games gives a useful guideline: the games succeeded because, like the Netflix program, they limited what was bad in the original material and highlighted what was excellent.
The novels, first and foremost, have an issue with women, especially Geralt’s ward and the show’s tertiary heroine, Princess Cirilla of Cintra (played in the show by Freya Allen). Much of Ciri’s tale has yet to be told, but she has already proven to be a more real, well-rounded main character than the novels’ uneven and agency-deprived youngster. Many fans were disappointed that the first meeting between Ciri and Geralt, in Brokilon Forest, was omitted, but that story does very little to characterize Ciri (aside from dialogue that is too young for her ostensible ten years), and it primarily serves to discuss Geralt’s discomfort with the dryads, with whom he has previously dealt. Ciri’s tale continues to be fraught with problems, but the most of them come later in the novels and cannot be detailed without revealing spoilers.
A similar injustice is done to Yennefer (played in the show by Anya Chalotra), who is raised to the role of protagonist yet is treated with little regard for her perspective as a woman. The Netflix program takes its time characterizing Yennefer, giving her a full narrative that included genuine growth, but the novels never stray far from her core character notes of spiteful and stubborn. The first meeting between Geralt and Yennefer, as portrayed in the story/episode “The Last Wish,” is an excellent illustration of this. Yennefer does not hear Geralt desire for them to be tied by fate in the show, and she finds this afterwards, when she responds with understandable sentiments of fury at having her agency taken away. In the text, she hears the desire and responds with slavish gratitude—a behavior that seems ridiculous to any viewer accustomed to villains’saving’ women by taking away their authority.
The stories’ issues with women are profoundly ingrained, even down to the smallest elements of monster tales. After revealing that he raped the priestess, Nivellen is still portrayed as a sympathetic beast in the book version of “A Grain of Truth”; when he admits the same in the show, Geralt and Ciri reject him, appalled. Many redditors have also expressed dissatisfaction with the portrayal of Foltest—in the novel, a young king in his prime, respectable in both appearance and action—despite the murky power dynamics represented by his incestuous connection with his sister. A reader of the novels, on the other hand, would be hard pressed to attribute any quality other than “thirsty” to game-favorite sorceress Triss (played in the show by Anna Shaffer), although the show, like the game, takes some attempt to give her internal reasons and exterior qualities.
Taken together, these little details highlight a problem with the books—but not their sole problem. The storyline and pacing of the novels also left a lot to be desired, flaws that forced considerably more drastic modifications in The Witcher season two. Any reader who opened the books expecting a story of rediscovered family or magical worldbuilding would be sorely disappointed: the books are about an aging father searching for his lost daughter (and his estranged lover, whose plot consists primarily of the constant threat of rape), attempting to navigate a world in which magic is fading—and he is fading, too. It’s a narrative about loss, sadness, and helplessness. At best, the tale is gripping; at worst, it drags on interminably via the political maneuverings of individuals unrelated to the three protagonists and who are constructing a world that is noticeably less magical than the one being wrecked.
Any relevance this political intrigue narrative may have is greatly diminished by the fact that it stays incomplete after the story concludes, with no obvious indicators pointing to its ultimate completion. The reader is given little incentive to care in the political actors (who, like the major characters, lack development beyond basic characterisation), as their tale frequently contributes very little to the stories of the primary characters. The games were successful in channeling these political subplots via Geralt, but the novels treat them as stand-alone stories…which they are not. Similarly, the program has not completely neglected this part of the plot, but it has also not foregrounded it thus far, which is a good move in a multi-focal ensemble drama, which has already shown to be a difficult format for television audiences. TV programs live or die depending on their characters, and spending too much time on Djikstra or Maeve (or Foltest) would cause the tale to drag—a flaw that would lose readers as well as viewers.
Season two saw possibly the most intriguing development, brought about by Istredd (who is not half as likable in the books as he is in the show). The discovery that Ciri can travel between worlds was not surprising to game players, but it was treated in the show as a possible area of worldbuilding (well, “worlds”-building) rather than a handy narrative device (in the novels, it is still unclear what role Ciri’s talent serves). The novels are about pain and loss, but the reader is not provided catharsis or a way to escape that loss because the entire magical world is being lost. Through the monolith narrative, Netflix’s The Witcher has given spectators something more: an opportunity for the universe to expand—to create new creatures, perhaps even to find a purpose for Ciri’s abilities. This isn’t a world of fading magic; it’s a world of evolving magic, which makes for a much more compelling plot with more potential to reward viewers.
At the 2019 London Comic-Con, showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich said that she originally intended to tell the plot from Ciri’s point of view—an concept that was eventually rejected since it did not contain enough of Geralt. Hissrich has been quite vocal about paying sincere and minute attention to previous iterations of The Witcher (careful viewers will notice that even the landscape at the end of the show’s second episode includes specific flora from the game), and there is no reason to believe that her changes to the story were made by mistake. Furthermore, given the show’s enormous success, such alterations do not appear to have offended mainstream audiences. Ciri’s narrative grows more convoluted, and it may be worth sacrificing book reader happiness to continue to do Ciri (and Yennefer—even Geralt) justice. If Hissrich sticks to his guns, The Witcher will undoubtedly attract a slew of new admirers prepared to throw a coin in their place.
Sigourney Weaver is coming back for Avatar 2 CRAZY!
In the first Avatar, Weaver’s scientist character died, but now she’s back as the protagonists’ adopted Na’vi daughter.
We were all surprised when we heard about 17 billion years ago that Sigourney Weaver would be back for James Cameron’s Avatar sequels (even more so than with the idea of there being multiple Avatar sequels). But now that we know how Weaver is going to come back, we’re even more confused.
Empire magazine has said that Weaver will play a completely different character in Avatar: The Way of Water. In the first movie, she played Dr. Grace Augustine, the creator of the Human-Na’vi switcheroo Avatar Program, who died at the end. And no, it’s not a human. It’s Jake and Neytiri’s daughter, who is about to turn 16.
Weaver will play Kiri, Jake and Neytiri’s adopted daughter. It looks like we’ll meet a lot of Jake and Neytiri’s family in The Way of Water. Weaver told Empire what it was like to play a digitized blue teenager, “I think we all pretty much remember how we felt when we were that age.” “Oh, yes, I do. When I was 11, I was 5’10” or 5’11” tall. I was sure Kiri would feel uncomfortable a lot of the time. She wants to find out who she is. When Jim gave me that task, I was thrilled.
Now, adults play children all the time, especially in the world of voice acting, and at least one of the photos Empire released of Kiri makes it look like Weaver will also show up as Dr. Augustine again in some way, probably through old footage. But knowing that the Na’vi are mostly brought to life by fancy mocap rigs, it will be strange to see Weaver’s physical performance put on a teenager. Even though he is a blue alien teen with long arms and legs, he is still a teen.
The movie Avatar: The Way of Water will come out in December 2022.
Disney will show new scenes from “Avatar: The Way of Water”
Disney started its CineEurope presentation in Barcelona today with 12 minutes of footage from July’s Marvel fourquel Thor: Love and Thunder. Throughout the show, Disney showed trailers and looks at its other upcoming movies, including four never-before-seen scenes from James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.
Before the Thor footage, Disney’s Head of Global Theatrical Distribution Tony Chambers talked about the importance of immersive storytelling and the studio’s “robust, diverse slate.” This was followed by about 60 minutes of footage that was introduced by EMEA Head of Theatrical Distribution Nick Rush and EMEA Head of Studio Marketing Lee Jury.
There were prerecorded messages from people like Marvel boss Kevin Feige, who said, “It feels like we’re just getting started, even after 14 years.” As he introduced the Love And Thunder scenes, Thor star Chris Hemsworth said he wished he was in Barcelona, where the sangria “always tastes better.”
Harrison Ford sent a video for Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones 5, saying that it had been 13 years since the last movie and that it was “time to put on the fedora and crack the whip.”
We also saw parts of Haunted Mansion, Pixar’s Elemental and Strange World, and the ensemble Amsterdam, which was directed by David O. Russell for New Regency.
Sam Mendes sent a video about Empire Of Light by Searchlight. The director of 1917 said that after making that movie, he wrote this one during lockdown. He said it was a “extremely personal story” about music, movies, and finding love in strange places.
Rebecca Kearey, the international head of Searchlight, showed a trailer for See How They Run, which stars Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan, and a teaser for The Banshees of Inisherin, which stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, directed by Martin McDonagh. Searchlight also showed the first scene of Chevalier, which is about the son of an African slave and a French plantation owner who grows up to be a famous composer in France.
The next movie by Thor director Taika Waititi, Next Goal Wins, got an eight-minute sneak peek. The movie is about the American Samoa soccer team. In 2001, they lost to Australia 31-0, which was the worst loss in World Cup history. Michael Fassbender takes over as their new coach.
Disney’s show ended with a visit from Avatar producer Jon Landau, who flew from New Zealand to Barcelona to talk about the next movie in the series. He said that Avatar: The Way of Water was in the final stages of post-production and that it was important to be in Barcelona “to show our support for the exhibition community.”
Landau said that the strength of James Cameron’s scripts is that they have universal themes. “There is nothing more relatable than family,” he said before showing a message from Cameron.
Cameron from New Zealand said that the people working on Avatar were “pushing the limits even further… Every shot is made for the biggest screen and best resolution that can be achieved… I think this is what people want.” He also said, “Our business is not going away.”
Sigourney Weaver Reveals Her Unconventional Role in ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’
Weaver will portray Jake and Neytiri’s adoptive child.
Many pondered what type of role Sigourney Weaver would have in the sequel to James Cameron’s Avatar after the death of her character, Dr. Grace Augustine, who was the leader of the Avatar Program in the previous film. Finally, in an Empire Magazine exclusive, Weaver shared insights about the role she will portray in Avatar: The Way of Water, as well as a new photograph from the film.
Weaver announced to Empire Magazine that she would play Kiri, the adoptive daughter of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaa), in the film. “I believe we all remember what we were experiencing as teens,” Weaver told Empire Magazine exclusively. “I most definitely do. When I was 11, I was 5′ 10″ or 5′ 11″. I had a strong feeling Kiri would be uncomfortable a lot of the time. She’s trying to figure out who she is. Jim’s assignment of that task excited me.”
A fresh picture, which adds to the character’s mystery, has also been unveiled, hinting at some type of link that Kiri would have with Grace. Kiri is seen inside a lab, staring at a monitor with a recording of Grace on it. Despite not being biologically connected to Jake and Neytiri, Kiri seems to have human traits that other Na’vi do not have, such as five digits and eyebrows, adding to the character’s mystery.
With an obvious link between the two, as well as both characters being performed by the same actor, viewers can only guess on how significant Kiri’s involvement will be in the plot. The character will also appear on a subscriber-exclusive cover of Empire Magazine, which depicts her swimming underwater appreciating Pandora’s aquatic life, as shown in the first teaser.
Weaver and Cameron will work together again for Avatar: The Way of Water, having previously played Ellen Ripley in Aliens and Grace in the first Avatar film. Along with Weaver, Stephen Lang will reprise his role as Colonel Miles Quaritch, the man responsible for Grace’s death, in the sequel. Quaritch, like Weaver’s character, perished in the first film, fueling curiosity regarding his participation in Avatar: The Way of Water. While the roles of both actors remain unknown, fan speculation may continue until the highly anticipated film is released later this year.
On December 16, Avatar: The Way of Water will be released exclusively in cinemas.
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