Ardent fans of “The Witcher” might welcome any related content to pass the time between seasons, and there’s certainly been no shortage of big fantasy prequels this year, including “House of the Dragon” and “Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.” Nevertheless, “The Witcher: Blood Origin” basically feels like a mildly diverting snack between meals, and at four episodes essentially a longish movie.
Set 1,200 years before events in the series, the story goes back to an elven world before their realm merged with that of humans and monsters, which makes it look like there’s been a sale on Spock ears. The basic template is “The Magnificent Seven” (or “Seven Samurai,” if you prefer), with a group of warriors and wizards assembling to thwart an evil princess (Mirren Mack) seeking to consolidate power.
The assembling part of the story, however, has to happen pretty much on the fly, thus centering on a trio of skilled warriors: Fjall (Laurence O’Fuarain), a former protector to the princess; Éile (Sophia Brown), a gifted singer when she isn’t lopping off limbs; and Scian (Michelle Yeoh, as usual classing up the joint), a sword master who trained Éile and treats her accordingly.
There’s more to it than that, including the matter of connecting these events to what transpires centuries later, but really not all that much. Indeed, even an at-best casual viewer of the “Witcher” franchise (guilty as charged, here) could mildly enjoy “Blood Origin” simply for its violent and balletic action sequences, the best being a sequence when the aforementioned swords-wielding trio fight side by side for the first time.
Most of the narrative centers on O’Fuarain and Brown, who manage to yield fairly good chemistry – squabbling at first, before growing closer – given the limited scope of the characters.
From a broader perspective, Netflix has seemingly fallen prey to a degree of irrational exuberance about “The Witcher’s” initial success, also ordering an animated movie, “Nightmare of the Wolf,” when the focus probably should have remained on sustaining interest in the flagship series. Throw in the pending exit of Henry Cavill – whose casting was certainly a coup going in – to be replaced by Liam Hemsworth, and this appears to be one of those common occasions in Hollywood of counting up coins prematurely.
That’s not to say “Blood Origin” is bad, only that in this package, the whole thing feels a trifle half-baked. As for whether it’s worth tossing this latest “The Witcher” accessory a little over three hours of viewing time, that likely depends on one’s enthusiasm for next year’s third season.
“The Witcher: Blood Origin” premieres December 25 on Netflix.