The Witcher: Blood Origin marks the first live-action spin-off for Netflix's The Witcher, set thousands of years before the adventures fans have seen of Henry Cavill's Geralt of Rivia.
The Witcher has received significant buy-in from Netflix, as the streamer adapts Andrzej Sapkowski's series of dark fantasy stories, which have become ever more popular because of CD Projekt Red's Witcher video games.
However, the Witcher road has gotten a little bumpy after a couple of years of fairly smooth sailing, as Netflix star Henry Cavill recently left the mainline series. And things could be getting even worse, as Netflix's latest spin-off has not lit the world on fire.
The Witcher: Blood Origin Hits a Snag
Netflix's The Witcher: Blood Origin has been critically panned after debuting on the streaming series on Christmas Day, further cementing concerns that the franchise may be on the downturn after Henry Cavill's exit from the mainline series.
Blood Origin currently sits at 38% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an 8% Audience approval score.
Jonathon Wilson from Ready Steady Cut compared the project to "a tangentially-related hyperlink that you end up clicking while reading about something else on Wikipedia," while Variety's Joshua Alston said it the mini-series was like "a slapdash downloadable expansion pack" one may find with the Witcher video games.
Some critics (like Bob Strauss of the San Fransisco Chronicle) do praise series lead Michelle Yeoh, but still, end up calling the entire endeavor "a time waster:"
"Despite its narrative swiftness and impactful action (thanks to Michelle Yeoh, for lending her influence as well as her presence), 'Blood Origin' is just a time waster."
Angie Han from The Hollywood Reporter noted Blood Origins ends up being "little more than a curious appendix to The Witcher:"
"'Blood Origin' itself turns out to be little more than a curious appendix to 'The Witcher', rather than an epic standing tall on its own merits."
Sam Barsanti from AV Club alluded directly to Henry Cavill, saying "without the anchor that keeps the franchise grounded" Blood Origin is just another fantasy story "without any of the things that make The Witcher special."
Despite largely dismal reviews, the series did have its share of critics who enjoyed it. The Guardian's Jack Seale really enjoyed his time with Blood Origin, calling the series "never dull" and the spin-off's length:
"It’s never dull and, if you’re concerned that 'Blood Origin' sounds good but is on Netflix, which means it might wang on for 14 hours – nope."
JoBlo's Movie Network's Alex Maidy called the series both a "great introduction for fans learning about The Witcher" and "a treat for hardcore aficionados:"
"'Blood Origin' is a great introduction for fans learning about The Witcher and a treat for hardcore aficionados awaiting the new season of the main series as well as hold its own opposite the other fantasy series that debuted this season."
What Does the Future of Netflix's The Witcher Look Like?
It is amazing what a couple of years can do, especially when it comes to the world of streaming content.
Flashback to 2019 and The Witcher was the talk of the TV town. With that first season, it seemed that Netflix has finally hit on a Game of Thrones of its own, featuring one of the biggest stars in the world, Henry Cavill. And the future looked bright!
But now jump three years later and things are not looking so good for Netflix's monster-slaying epic. Cavill has officially stepped away from the mainline series, after being so passionate to get the project off the ground in the first place, and it seems the streamer's first attempt to broaden the Witcher horizon with a spin-off has not worked.
It is not all doom and gloom though, Netflix does have two successful seasons of The Witcher under their belt, and a well-received, but under-watched, anime based in the same universe.
However, looking at these Blood Origin reviews, plus the hill the mainline series now has to climb, bringing in a new lead (Liam Hemsworth) for the upcoming Season 3, it is now hard to envision a world where Netflix gets out of The Witcher business sooner rather than later.
The Witcher: Blood Origin is available to stream on Netflix now.