Parks and Recreation‘s Ben Wyatt once not-quite-famously said of Game of Thrones that it was “not just for fantasy enthusiasts. They’re telling human stories in a fantasy world.” He was correct. And now that Thrones is over, every network is looking to claim the crossover fantasy hit crown. Today, Netflix threw its hat—er, sword—into the ring at Comic-Con International with The Witcher.
Based on book the series by Andrzej Sapkowski that later got turned into a videogame franchise, the story follows Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill, aka Superman), a witcher who hunts monsters, has no emotions, and has a horse for a best friend. (This is a bold oversimplification.) It also, more importantly, has a cast full of beautiful people, grandiose sets, and lots of violence and boning—all the things that made Game of Thrones appealing to viewers who didn’t care about swords or sorcery.
“What’s great about The Witcher is that it’s so much more than a fantasy,” Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, the showrunner and executive producer, said during the series’ Comic-Con panel, banging the drum. “You’ll get your monsters; you’ll get your magic; you’ll get sorcerers and sex and violence. Yes, there’s sex. Everything you want. But really it’s really a story about a family.”
Only about half of those things are apparent in the first trailer, which Netflix released at the panel’s end, but it does seem poised to deliver as promised. And if there’s one thing that’s evident in the trailer and the clips shown to the audience in Comic-Con’s Hall H, it’s that this thing looks expensive. HBO famously spent a lot of money on Game of Thrones, and now Netflix seems willing to do the same.
Will it pay off? That’s harder to tell. The footage shown at Comic-Con looks stellar. Also, thanks to the book series and videogames, the story has a built-in audience. Game of Thrones can, at times, seem like lightning in a bottle, a fantasy series that by luck or accident broke through and appealed to lots of demographics equally. It won’t be easy for The Witcher to replicate that success. But it does have one advantage: bingeability. Netflix will drop the whole first season at once, so fans won’t have to wait two months to find out if it’ll be disappointing—or eight years.
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