'The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf': Action-packed fantasy drama for fans only (IANS Rating: ***)

Duration: 83 minutes

Director: Kwang Il Han

Voice Cast: Theo James, Lara Pulver, Graham McTavish and Mary McDonnell

IANS Rating: ***

By Troy Ribeiro

For the uninitiated, this 2D animated film is an action-packed fantasy drama based on the book and characters created by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski.

In the Universe created by Sapkowski, the witchers are mercenary monster hunters and Nightmare of the Wolf is a self-realisation story of Vesemir (Theo James), who grew up as a servant on a nobleman's estate, working long days "for a few coins". A chance encounter with a witcher named Deglan (Graham McTavish) inspires him to escape a life of poverty and become a witcher himself.

The narrative takes you into Vesemir's complex world, which is shrouded in mystery. Then, over a period of time, when a strange new monster begins terrorising a politically fraught kingdom known as The Continent, Vesemir, who relishes his position as a Witcher mentor, finds himself on a frightening adventure that forces him to re-evaluate his existence by confronting some demons of his past.

Narrated in a non-linear manner, the tale could be a bit overwhelming for those who are not fans of 'The Witcher' franchise. But for others, who are intrigued with the context, this could be a thrilling ride through Witcher history. There are no heroes in the film, just witchers motivated by "few coins" and those in the world who fear and hate them.

The characters are brought to life by the brilliant cast who deliver pitch-perfect voices. Theo James modulates his voice as the young as well as the older Vesemir with natural ease. And it is with his voice that you connect with Vesemir and care for him.

Mary McDonnell lends her voice with equal fervour to Lady Zerbst, a Kaedwen noblewoman who inherited her husband's seat on the king's advisory council after he passed at an early age and is a fierce supporter of the witchers.

Graham McTavish as Deglan, who seems to be a sort of a father figure to Vesemir, nourishes James's tenor with care.

Lara Pulver is impressive as Tetra Gilcrest, a powerful sorceress who descended from one of the Continent's first mages. Her voice creates the aura Tetra believes in, which is, "Magic connects all thing of beauty." Tetra and her followers work to keep peace on the Continent by ensuring that magic is not abused.

Visually, the 2D animation is quite faultless, but at the same time not too impressive either. There is enough on-screen action and brutality throughout the narrative. The frames appear like water-coloured comic paintings packed together to create high-energy action sequences where the character designs are mystical and the monsters look spooky. What also elevates the viewing experience is the fabulous soundtrack that accompanies the visuals.

Overall, though, this film would appeal only to fans of 'The Witcher' franchise.

(Troy Ribeiro can be contacted at troy.r@ians.in)