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Here come the battling fantasy blockbusters 

Henry Cavill in the new series of “The Witcher”.

There’s war in the air as streaming platforms pit their fantasy blockbusters against each other, writes streaming columnist NICK OVERALL. 

THIS year the streaming platforms go to battle with their fantasy blockbusters.

Nick Overall.

For Netflix, moody monster hunter Geralt of Rivia has returned for season two of “The Witcher”.

Henry Cavill plays the titular character this series is named after, a genetically mutated “Witcher” who trades gold for hunting ghosts, ghouls and everything in between.

The show tries hard to be more than a strapping action hero slashing at creepy creatures, wrapping itself in a loose coat of existentialism by repeatedly hitting viewers over the head with the question: “What is a monster?”

Sometimes there’s just enough ethical quandary wrung out of the idea to serve up a genuinely thought-provoking experience. 

The cruelty and hubris of man proves much more beastly than monsters, and the ones Geralt hunts are more often than not a creation of the humans that want them slain.

While these deeper explorations are hit and miss, fantasy fans can count on the effects-heavy action scenes in between for bursts of eye-catching fun.

The show has been ported to TV from Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, which were also adapted into an extremely popular video game franchise.

Here in TV form, season one struggled to cohesively tie together the stories of three characters occurring at different points in the fictional world’s history.

With season two now bringing together these characters into the same timeline, “The Witcher” shows promise of becoming the fantasy hit it desperately wants to be.

But, it’s got Amazon Prime Video’s “The Wheel of Time” to duke it out with.

This series is based on American author Robert Jordan’s ’90s fantasy series that spans a whopping 14 volumes with more than 10,000 pages – plenty of content to siphon a mega franchise out of.

Rosamund Pike plays Moiraine, part of a powerful sect of women able to harness an ancient source of magic and who are in search of “The Dragon”, a being prophesied to either save the world or destroy it.

It’s an impressive production and Pike in particular is spellbinding in more than one sense of the word.

However, overhanging it is an almost mechanical atmosphere, one that comes from the show feeling like it’s checking every box it possibly can to be similar to other popular shows of its genre.

In putting the show on screen, Amazon had a mandate to create a series that rivals “Game of Thrones” in popularity and scale and it feels like that directive looms over every episode.

If “The Wheel of Time” wants to make itself one to remember a few revolutions down the track, it’s going to need some more of its own personality, rather than just trying to be something else.

Why not an aesthetic such as the zany, brightly coloured ‘90s book covers? Just spitballing.

For many, it’ll be an entrée to Amazon’s other fantasy blockbuster this year, the highly anticipated “Lord of the Rings” spin-off series.

JRR Tolkien’s epic saga is getting a prequel that will be set thousands of years before the events of “Fellowship of the Ring” and “The Hobbit”, but the finer details remain scarce.

What is known, is that the company has already signed a five-season deal totalling over a billion dollars.

That’s not including the $250 million spent on acquiring the rights alone.

All the while, off in the distance, a dragon lies dormant in its cave, wounded from an ending that saw armies of fans batter it down, but still patiently resting atop a golden pile of spin-offs.

I facetiously refer to “Game of Thrones”, which also has a new prequel series set to release sometime this year and is likely to premiere on Binge as one of 2022’s biggest hits.

Called “House of the Dragon”, the show will wind back the “Thrones” timeline to a few centuries before the events of the main show and offer a deep dive into House Targaryen’s quest for power.

This will be the make or break for the franchise following an ending to the original series many didn’t feel worthy of the build up

The legacy of “Game of Thrones” therefore lies heavily on the head of this prequel and it’s going to have to work hard to keep viewers from jumping ship to “Lord of the Rings”.

Don’t actually care about any of this? You’re not alone.

A survey from the UK’s “RadioTimes” this year found “Game of Thrones” was in the top five TV shows people lie most about having watched to appease fans in social situations, second only to Netflix’s “Stranger Things”.

So there you have it, even the people who haven’t watched the show have watched the show.

Just remember to say the red wedding was definitely not a joyous or romantic event.

 

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Nick Overall

Nick Overall

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