I know of Andrzej Sapkowski’s ever-popular fantasy series The Witcher but have never read any of the wildly popular books. I am aware of the numerous games but have never played them. I’ve been meaning to watch the well-received Netflix show but haven’t begun it yet. So, why did I want to review the first adaptation of the books, The Hexer (Wiedzmin)? Because I love over-the-top high fantasy such as Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and several incarnations of the mad barbarian Conan (and my adoration of Syfy Channel movies has already been well documented elsewhere here).
The Polish production began as a television series before new footage was shot and combined with the existing elements to create a 2-hour full-length feature. While this is apparent throughout, it causes the most confusion at the start. A young Geralt is given to somebody due to the “right of surprise,” which seems to be when a person claims another after saving the life of their parents. This might make sense if one is familiar with the source material, games, or the higher-budgeted show. But here, that seems to cover it, I guess?
Anyways, the opening credits play out over the young lad’s adventures and training to hunt monsters as he grows up. But The Hexer gets underway when a now-grown Geralt (Michal Zebrowski) saves Princess Pavetta (Agata Buzek) from a monster. He claims the right of surprise on her betrothed’s young daughter, Ciri (Marta Bitner). On his way to collect the girl, Geralt clashes with heads of state, dragons, and a menacing band of mercenaries who chase him throughout the countryside.
“…Geralt saves Princess Pavetta from a monster.”
For all the confusion on the specifics of how this land operates (what causes the mutation that marks Hexer’s exactly?), or for that matter, what it’s even called, the film still works on a number of levels. Considering this was made for TV back in the infancy of CGI, the effects aren’t too shabby. Sure, they lack texture, but the dragons and other beasts move reasonably well. Plus, the actors try their darndest to sell the danger they are in.
On that note, the cast is the real star here. Zebrowski is effective as the stoic and intense Geralt. He plays the role with the right amount of bravado and humor while still allowing humanity and empathy to shine through. This is most evident in his interactions with Ciri, who Bitner portrays with a sense of resolve that suggests she understands more than her age lets on. The rest of the cast is also pretty good and sells the world’s high fantasy and strict morality very well.
The Hexer also moves at the speed of light. Given how long it is, that might sound odd, but it is true. Geralt’s mini-adventures are introduced with breakneck speed, which can be confusing. But because these characters, for the most part, are threaded throughout once one gets their bearings, the overarching plot makes some semblance of sense. Plus, more than anything, the production has a slightly cheesy aura making the whole thing quite fun. Shows like Hercules and Xena were popular for a reason, and the right audience will eat this up.
While it is confusing, and the television quality is readily apparent, The Hexer entertains. The cast is solid and the action decent, so lovers of high fantasy will have a good time. For fans of Syfy Channel fare, the goofy elements will keep them engaged as well.
"…lovers of high fantasy will have a good time."