The Witcher: Blood Origin somehow manages to do the impossible. It produces a fantasy production worse than Rings of Power. While Willow and Wheel of Time have come close, it’s hard to know where to begin with Blood Origin.
Advertising itself as a prequel to The Witcher, set 1200 years before the events involving Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher: Blood Origin feels like a box ticking exercise of how not to write fantasy, with a whole bunch of archetypal, cookie cutter characters thrown together to stop a globe-ending apocalypse before it’s too late.
You’ve seen this story a million times before and to make matters worse, Blood Origin’s writers know it too. A clunky prologue introduces a familiar face who’s told about this tale and how it’s so different to what’s come before… and then reaffirms our own worries to tell a story that’s as clunky and generic as can be.
The thing is, simple fantasy stories aren’t bad if they’re told well or have likable characters. The Shannara books are a good example of this. They’re not particularly ground-breaking or original but they do have a lovely cast of characters you want to see succeed. But Blood Origin fails there too.
The editing is clunky across the board, with an opening episode working to introduce all our characters in the worst way imaginable. The scene feels like a mix between Suicide Squad’s 2016 “cards” and a Power Rangers introduction, using lots of exposition to explain who all these characters are. And then we’re introduced to them properly in the world, one by one.
Half of these main characters are the embodiment of Mary Sues; unstoppable warriors that have amazing strength and agility with little in the way of flaws. The few that do have character arcs are plagued with such hammy dialogue or crowbarred into romances that don’t work.
The antagonists of the piece don’t fare much better, with a dark mage named Balor joining forces with a disgruntled Princess called Merwyn to conquer the Kingdom. Merwyn’s issues stem from the fact she’s forced into marriage, so she enacts a huge slaughter akin to the Red Wedding (but with more deaths and a large winged creature) to then conquer all the realms herself. The three separate clans present – who have been at war for over 1000 years – just accept her rule and get on with it.
Part of the allure around The Witcher’s world came from the way its races were distinctly differently and each had their own gripes and issues with one another. This is played out throughout the games, books and source material. Source material that this show doesn’t even bother to try and honour beyond a couple of name drops here and there.
The worldbuilding is next to non-existent and the little examples of narrative building – like a growing famine across the realm – are touched upon but never actually explored in all that much detail.
Blood Origin isn’t content with just telling a bad story though. No, there’s a lot of nods to other IPs, and the show isn’t even subtle about it. There’s a direct Arnold Schwarzenegger quote thrown in, there are scenes taken right from The Incredible Hulk and even a scene ripped off from Castlevania, another Netflix Original.
Production-wise, Blood Origin clearly didn’t give any thought to its sets or costuming either. Given this is a fantasy show, and numerous stalls and carts in the background at villages show dressmakers and various fabrics of all colours, in episode 4 we see our main character, Eile, wearing a black vest and black trousers. It’s almost as if Netflix wanted to just chuck this out as quickly as possible to keep interest in The Witcher.
The irony with this statement is that Blood Origin is likely to turn you away from the franchise completely. There’s a reason why Henry Cavill is leaving the show and if Blood Origin is anything to go by, fans will leave in their droves too. This is the worst generic fantasy series to come from 2022 and in a year that’s seen Rings of Power and Willow, that’s certainly some claim. Stay away, stay far away from this Christmas misery.
The Witcher: Blood Origin releases in its entirety on Netflix worldwide 25th December 2022!
Verdict - 2/10