'The Witcher' First Trailer Casts Spell on Comic-Con

Henry Cavill The Witcher - Netflix - H 2018
Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix brought the first trailer from its upcoming The Witcher series to San Diego Comic-Con on Friday.

Packed into Hall H in the San Diego Convention Center, fans were eager to get their first look at the new series, starring Henry Cavill as the titular monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, after a number of teaser images had been released over the past few weeks.

“What’s great about The Witcher is that it’s so much more than a fantasy,” showrunner Lauren S. Hissrich told the crowd in Hall H. “Really it's a story about a family.”

“I would call it an addition to the books. We honor the books but we got to give the characters a little more breathing room," Hissrich said of her adaptation of the novels.

The trailer opens with a shot of Cavill's Geralt walking through a crowded alley with a gravelly voiceover saying, "I've been hearing stories about Witchers..." before shifting to a few quick cuts of Geralt cutting down foes. "Is it true what they say?" the voice asks.

Elves are then introduced, a key part of The Witcher's lore and one of the many races that inhabit The Continent on which the story is set. "When humans and monsters arrived, elves taught humans how to cut chaos into magic," Cavill says. "And then, the humans slaughtered them."

Also introduced in the trailer are the series' other main protagonists, Anya Chalotra as Yennefer, a sorceress and Geralt's long-time lover, and Freya Allan as the young Ciri, a princess of a conquered nation and a would-be Witcher, herself.

"This child will be extraordinary," a man tells Geralt of Ciri as she stands in a windswept desert before a towering glowing tree.

Meanwhile, Yennefer is shown embracing her powers to become "the most powerful woman in the world," looking into the camera to reveal purple eyes and a chilling scream before a blaze of fire.

Also shown are shots of war, magic spells and political machinations among palatial throne rooms.

“I’m a big gamer. I’ve played the games a lot,” Cavill said of what attracted him to the role. “There was something about Gerald that struck a chord with me. He’s not your average hero. He’s a hard exterior, real-world type person and at the same time, deep down, he’s a real hero.”

Cavill also revealed that he did his own stunts for the series. “It’s very important for me that you know it’s Geralt and it’s not some guy doing Geralt stuff but it’s me in there,” he told the Hall H crowd before tossing to a clip of Geralt cutting through a throng of armored soldiers in a throne room. 

Hissrich added that "the casting process for all three of these characters was crazy. Throughout the process I had Henry’s voice in my head, which is a sign." 

Another clip was shown in the room of Yennefer, sitting on a beach next to the corpse of a female infant, opining on the futility of life before burying her.

Chalotra explained her view of her character. “I’d say her overall goal is to find true connection and an unconditional love that she’s never experienced."

“I’ve always wanted to be in some fantasy epic,” Allan said of her role as Ciri. “It was a dream role for me. It’s weird to think this time last year I was studying for my exams and now I’m a lead role in this.”

A short clip of Ciri traversing a mystical forest hinted at her magical powers before she was ultimately discovered by a small group of elves.

“She’s had a very sheltered upbringing and as a result she’s incredibly naive to what the real world is,” Allan said of her character. “A huge part of her journey is putting herself in other people’s shoes. It’s clear from the start that she has this might and drive but she has to find a new kind of drive to look past the horrific things she sees. It’s a journey of discovery.”

Naturally, the trailer also shows off a number of monsters, though most are shown in quick shots — until the teaser's close, in which Geralt faces off against a gargantuan spider emerging from a shallow pool in the woods. Geralt stands his ground, flashing a red-eyed glare at the titanic arachnid.

The Witcher is based on the popular fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, which were later adapted into a series of video games by CD Projekt Red. Both the books and the games follow Geralt as he battles mythical monsters and navigates the murky politics of the Nilfgaard Empire and Northern Kingdoms.

The show is part of a larger trend in Hollywood of adapting video game properties for the screen. Netflix is also currently working on an animated comedy based on the platformer Cuphead, while adaptations of Halo, Final Fantasy, Warhammer 40,000 and Skull & Bones are also in the works elsewhere.