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Western Animation / The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

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The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf is an adult animated film animated by Studio Mir, based on the The Witcher series of books. It stars Vesemir, and serves as a Prequel to the Netflix series.

After saving a young boy from a Leshen, Vesemir (Theo James) suspects that the monster was controlled by someone after it says something in old speech. He's forced to work with Tetra Gilcrest (Lara Pulver), a witch with a hatred of witchers. The movie goes into detail about how he became a witcher.

The movie premiered on Netflix on August 23, 2021. A month later a second movie was announced.

This film contains examples of:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: When Vesemir is trapped in a vision, the coins that he sees Ilyana drowning in are rendered in very conspicuous CGI to add an uncanny element to an already uncanny scene.
  • Accidental Murder: Treta uses illusions to trick Vesemir into killing the mages of Kaer Morhen and Illyana.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: For the surviving Witchers by the end of the movie. In the books Triss states that the only surviving Witchers of the School of the Wolf were the ones who were out on the Path when the pogrom happened at Kaer Morhen, whereas here similar to the games Vesemir was present for and survived it, and unlike the games the rest were present as well as young recently post Trial of the Grasses students, instead of being older, fully fledged Witchers by the time of the massacre.
  • Adaptation Amalgamation: The story is essentially a mash up of the book Season of Storms and an original origin story prequel based in part on snippets here and there from the books and games about Vesemir's origins (e.g the Kaehr Mohren pogrom still happened but many details were changed in the name of creative liberty).
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Unlike their nuanced but overall heroic depictions in the books and the games, where the pogrom of Kaer Morhen was the result of years of resentment building up against a people who had served and protected the North for many years and didn't deserve it, fueled in part by the dehumanizing lies and slander of the Monstrum printed against them as well as how rare monsters were becoming to the average person with the School of the Wolf's success, Witchers no longer considered necessary, here the Monstrum's claims about them are more or less proven correct. The Witcher leaders of Kaer Morhen were behaving like evil overlords of Kaedwen, kidnapping test subjects, creating monsters and unleashing them on the North, preying on the peasants, coming along like greedy conmen after and tricking people into hiring them to defeat the very problems they were creating. With no care for how many innocents this dirty trick of theirs almost certainly ended up harming and murdering over the years. Arguably justifying Tetra's entire point against them and the massacre of Kaer Morhen in this universe. Of course this is slightly downplayed in that it isn't clear exactly how many Witchers were in on it.
    • In the books and games the Witcher students were subjected to brutal but logical and pragmatic training lessons, the instructors actually wanting as many of them to succeed as possible, where in this the students are subjected to tests so senselessly dangerous that it comes down to sheer dumb luck if any of them manage to survive. This brutality makes sense considering that there were too many Witchers and not enough monsters to support their way of life, and the Trial of the Grasses is implied to be a cruel but pragmatic way of weeding out the weaker candidates. It's implied at the end that Vesemir will reform the training to save as many as he can, bringing them more in line with their canon depiction.
  • Age Lift: In the books, Lambert is the youngest Wolf School Witcher, being less experienced than Eskel and Geralt. Here, they all became Witchers at the same time, and Lambert doesn’t look significantly younger than the others.
  • All There in the Manual: If you want to know when the events of the film take place in relation to the series, or where the locations are situated in the Continent, you will have to go to the website put out for this purpose.
  • Ambiguous Situation: While under Kitsu's illusions, Luka tries to get Vesemir to talk about a scam in which he tricked a priest into thinking he was cursed. This shares similarities to Tetra's backstory of a priest contracting a murder due to a scam, but its never confirmed whether this is the same story. Notably, the witcher in Tetra's backstory murders an innocent person for money and while Vesemir has some questionable morals, he's been shown to take risks to stand up for what he thinks is right, meaning either the incidents were completely separate or that Vesemir eventually grew out of his worst behaviors.
  • Anti-Hero: Vesemir will do some unscrupulous actions such as rob the dead or con people out of their money, but he only kills people in self-defense and only kills monsters that he views as a threat to himself or the people around him.
  • Animesque: Like with some of Netflix's animated productions, Nightmare of the Wolf has an art style reminiscent of Japanese anime.
  • Asian Fox Spirit: Kitsu, the mutated elf, is able to transform into a fox.
  • Big Bad: Tetra Gilcrest, a sorceress who wants to wipe out all Witchers. In the end, she succeeds in arranging the attack on Kaer Morhen that kills all but a handful.
  • Break the Haughty: Vesemir starts out as a hedonistic and unempathetic Witcher, gleefully robbing a man's corpse at the beginning and showing no compassion for the weeping child who just watched his father and sisters get slaughtered. Then he finds out that his mentor was actually creating the monsters, Kaer Morhen is massacred, and Illyana dies right next to him.
  • The Chain of Harm: Vesemir denies the Witcher candidates food for days, doesn't let them sleep, and beats down a young boy who calls him out on it, later dismissing the ones that die. We then flash back to his training, where we see that Deglan initiated him the exact same way. Before he dies, Deglan asks Vesemir to break the cycle with the children that survived, and the ending indicates that he will.
  • Call-Forward:
    • One of the children that Illyana leads to safety in the climax turns out to be a young Geralt.
    • Vesemir mentions Eskel, Lambert, and Remus as the most likely candidates to survive the Witcher trials. One of them has already appeared in the show's first season and the other two are confirmed for the second, implying that they're the other three boys that escaped with Geralt.
    • Filavandrel makes an appearance, helping Vesemir with a case and saving the mutated elf girl at the end.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Kitsu the elf controlling the monsters plaguing the forest was mutated by Roderick and Deglan, as part of an effort to create new monsters so humanity would find Witchers too useful to wipe out. This applies to Tetra herself as well for the Witchers, when one of them murdered her mother long ago.
  • Death by Irony: For most of the Witchers, when during the attack Tetra unleashes a horde of monsters on them, like the ones they've been creating and unleashing on the North to exploit the chaos they made for profit over the years. For extra irony, it appears that Deglan, the one Witcher we know was responsible for it, ultimately dies to human hands rather than the monsters.
  • Enemy Mine: Vesemir and Tetra are sent on a mission together, and there's some banter back and forth, but a lasting alliance is not meant to be.
  • Engineered Heroics: The mages at Kaer Morhen have been secretly experimenting on captured monsters, trying to engineer new ones in order to provide the Witchers with things to hunt.
  • Expy: Kitsu the elf/mahr hybrid is one of the Aguara from Season of Storms (which the film takes a lot of inspiration from in general plot wise, to the point of near Adapational Amalgamation). Both are female foxy shapeshifters derived from female elven girls (that abduct said girls and take them as their own) who can create powerful magic illusions and both seek vengeance against a Witcher and his comrades for the perceived death of their "child" but ultimately spare said Witcher. Their names also mean "fox" in a foreign language (Guarani and Japanese respectively). Aguara are naturally occurring antherion though in SS, whereas here they are genetically made crossbreeds. Unless this is to imply aguaras actually where created from elven/mahr experimentation originally and over time this knowledge was lost and they passed into myth as "always being there"....
  • The Extremist Was Right: Unlike in the books, where the assault on Kaer Morhen was largely the result of prejudice, in this version the Witchers' leaders absolutely were guilty of the terrible things they were accused of, though it's unclear how many people were in the know beyond that.
  • Fan Disservice: Kitsu spends much of the movie naked. Given that she's been mutated to the point where she resembles a Humanoid Abomination, it's not pleasing to the eyes.
  • Fantastic Racism: Tetra loathes the Witchers, trying to get the king to wipe them out.
  • Flash Back: The first half of the movie flashes between Vesemir's childhood and the "present day."
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • The reason Tetra tries to wipe out the Witchers is because one murdered her mother.
    • Vesemir's Jerkass, hedonistic behavior in the beginning is revealed to stem from a lifetime of poverty and the trauma of growing up as a Witcher.
  • Glamour Failure: Tetra mentions that while illusions can cover the sense of taste, the aftertaste remains bitter, which she uses to dismantle the illusion hiding Kitsu's castle. In the climax, Vesemir manages to figure out he's in a Lotus-Eater Machine when he tastes the wine.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Nobody is the hero in this movie.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Downplayed, as Tetra carries a heavy grudge and hatred against witchers in general, but she starts warming up to Vesemir after he saves her life and joins her in casual conversation. She tells him a story about how a sorcereress was killed by a witcher who framed her for poisoning a noble. Vesemir thinks the story is just negative propaganda and instead of sympathizing, mocks her by admiring the witcher. What he doesn't realize is that she is telling him her Freudian Excuse and by mocking her, he's only worsened her biases against him.
  • Hollywood Tactics: During the Sack of Kaer Morhen the witchers make no attempt whatsoever to use the fortress as, well... a fortress. When the assault comes they come out and fight right outside the gates, instead of closing the gates and attacking the enemy as they try to go over or breach the walls. They get caught in the open and are overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Tetra may be pursuing her own agenda that leads to the massacre at the sacking of Kaer Morhen, but she is right that some Witchers deliberately were engineering situations where they can exploit and profit from the horrific deaths of the people of Kaedwen they themselves were causing.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Tetra is a Master Archer and knows how to use her arrows in tandem with her spells.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: During the final battle, Vesemir is trapped in a dream where he's married to Illyana. He manages to escape. There's another, much less pleasant layer of illusion in which he beheads Tetra and loses a hand, but he manages to break free of that as well.
  • Magic Dance: Tetra uses one to cause an avalanche, burying Kitsu's castle.
  • Magitek: The mutagenic alchemy used to create monsters and witchers is explicitly magic which is used to conduct genetic modification and splicing of genes of different species, using modern scientific nomenclature for the process.
  • Match Cut: Coins rain down the screen during a montage of Vesemir's hedonism, then transition into the many blood soaked medallions still hung up at Kaer Morhen, demonstrating the trauma lying beneath the Witchers' idealized lifestyles.
  • Mauve Shirt: Sven, the one-armed witcher. He doesn't rise to being a full character, but he gets a few notable bits, like chastising Vesemir and Luka for their Lack of Empathy towards the Witcher recruits, and proving to be a full on Handicapped Badass in the Kaer Morhen battle.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Illyana and Vesemir were childhood friends before he went to Kaer Morhen, and they don't meet again until they're seventy years old and Illyana is an old grandmother while Vesemir looks barely into his thirties thanks to the witcher drugs. They do share a couple passionate kisses before she dies, while he lives for several decades, if not centuries more.
  • Monster Protection Racket: The Witchers are accused of staging monster attacks to con the gullible populace. The accusations are correct. The Witcher leaders have been creating new monsters so the Witchers are deemed too useful to get rid of. Tetra mentions an incident where a Witcher convinced a priest that he was cursed by a witch and the Witcher offered to kill the witch and lift the curse. After the witch was dead, the priest started feeling much better and generously rewarded the Witcher. Tetra figured out that the Witcher poisoned the priest and then framed and murdered an innocent woman. The woman was Tetra's mother.
  • Motivational Lie: Tetra gains Kitsu's help by lying and saying that the elven girl was killed.
  • Mutual Kill: Already fatally wounded, Deglan kills Tetra from behind right as she was going to finish of Vesemir.
  • Never My Fault: Even when the crossbreeds are discovered and the King orders the Witchers exterminated, Deglan refuses to take responsibility for the massacre about to occur, saying that humans turning on them was inevitable either way. Both Ilyana and Vesemir acknowledge that he's right that humans would have come for them eventually, but neither are about to let Deglan off for giving them a justification.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: Tetra initially seems to raise some valid points particularly when it turns out Deglan has been engineering the monster attacks to drive up Witcher business. By the time she starts using Kitsu and her monsters in the raid on Kaer Morhen, it's become clear her moralizing was just posturing to cover for her own personal vendetta.
  • Only Sane Woman: Lady Zerbst is the only person in the king's council advocating caution and recommending that no action is taken unless actual evidence is presented.
  • Parental Abandonment: When people can't pay Witchers, they hand over their children instead. Luka's parents didn't even have a pretense, just dropping him off at Kaer Morhen because they didn't want another mouth to feed.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: While many of her objections to witchers are rooted in valid concerns, Tetra also shows herself to be bigoted against them, as well as elves. She also displays sexist and classist contempt towards Lady Zerbst.
  • Punny Name: With a bit of irony mixed in it given the tragic circumstances of the character. Kitsu is an innocent elf mutated into a fox-like creature. The japanese word for "fox"? Kitsune.
  • Raise Him Right This Time: A variation. As he's dying, Deglan finally realizes where he went wrong with the Witchers, and begs Vesemir to raise the new Witchers better than he did.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: While he looks a bit snooty and stereotypically incompetent, the king refuses to persecute the Witchers without any evidence. Unfortunately for Luka and the rest of the Witchers, Tetra gets the evidence she needs and the king gives her his blessing to wipe them out.
  • Red Right Hand: Tetra's mastery of fire magic. Sorcerers that specialize in fire tend to be unstable and jump to idealogical extremes.
  • Robbing the Dead: Vesemir does this after the Action Prologue in lieu of payment.
  • Saved by Canon: Owing to its nature as a prequel, Vesemir and Geralt will survive the events of the film. Vesemir also mentions Remus, Eskel, and Lambert as the ones most likely to survive training, and all three appear in the series.
  • Silver Vixen: Even at 70 years old, Illyana has definitely aged gracefully and Vesemir notices.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: Deconstructed. The first test for Witcherhood is dropping the boys in a forest full of monsters and then dragging out whoever lives the night, justifying the massive casualties by saying that those that didn't survive weren't fit to be Witchers. However, it's made clear that it's only blind luck who survives, and the whole test is basically a "numbers game" since they can't actually afford to feed and train as many boys as they get.
  • Slut-Shaming: Tetra repeatedly and publicly alludes to Lady Zerbst's less-than-noble origins, implying that she was some sort of prostitute or mistress who slept her way into the nobility, as a way of discrediting her. The reality is somewhat less salacious; Illyana was a maid who fell in love with and married the son of the elder Lord Zerbst.
  • Snark Knight: Vesemir often blows off stress and anger by making insults toward people that antagonize him. Deconstructed as this ends up creating more anger from people around him and tends to worsen the situation later on, if not immediately.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Going on a quest with Vesemir doesn't make Tetra magically see the error of her prejudices, even after he saves her life more than once. The fact that some Witchers were responsible for the situation doesn't help matters either.
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Tetra acknowledges that witchers are taken and transformed as boys with no choice in what they become, and that most of them had no idea about the monsters. That doesn't stop her quest to destroy every last one of them.
  • Tragic Keepsake: When he was still in training, Vesemir saw a young boy crying and tried to reassure him that he'd find a way to survive. The boy was killed in the first trial, and Vesemir wore his medallion, identified by three claw marks left by the monster that killed him, for the rest of his life.
  • Tragic Monster: Kitsu used to be an ordinary elf who was experimented on till she became a mutant. This is probably why Vesemir decides to spare her by the end of the movie.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: With monsters dying out, Deglan feared that humanity would turn against the Witchers and wipe them out unless there were creatures out there that humanity feared more than them. So he had new monsters created.
  • You Need a Breath Mint: As a child, Vesemir holds his nose when Deglan speaks close to his face during their first meet.