When I read that The Witcher's executive producer, Tomek Baginski, had blamed Americans and young people for the show's "painful" simplifications of the source material, I simply shrugged.
Netflix's depiction of Andrzej Sapkowski's fiction is, at times, truncated, tonally different and simplified from the source material (let alone CD Projekt's hugely successful series of The Witcher video games). But is that supposed to be news to people, or something massively unexpected?
Oh come on, it was entirely to be expected, and understandable, too. As soon as The Witcher as a property entered the world of streaming content, where metrics like completion rate are master, the show's makers were always going to have to make a product that would be consumable by the widest spread of people imaginable.
Simplifying the source material may be disappointing for fans of the original fiction, but it doesn't excuse Netflix's The Witcher from delivering a bad show. Indeed, my own personal take on The Witcher TV series is that Netflix's changes have diluted the fiction too much, with it serving up a soap opera take that feels only Witcher-y on the surface and often descends into generic fantasy.
And it appears that the wider audience agrees, with Season 3 of The Witcher currently sitting at a mere 20 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
But, look, it's a mass-market Western TV show version of Sapkowski's Wiedźmin world. All of this was what was most likely to happen. Plus, and here's the kicker, it's not as if there aren't options for people like myself who want a more authentic to the books (and often games, too) watching experience. And I'm not talking about just staring at a picture of Tub Geralt, either. Enter Alzur's Legacy.
Watch Alzur's Legacy - The Witcher Fan Film
I was put onto Alzur's Legacy, which PC Gamer first reported on back in 2017, by a Polish friend of mine who has a deep love of The Witcher, having consumed all of Sapkowski's original books as well any spin-off comic books and games. It's a non-profit fan-made film in Polish with English subtitles (and other languages, too), released in 2019, set in The Witcher universe but, unlike the Netflix show, it doesn't follow the exploits of Geralt.
Instead, Alzur's Legacy's plot begins a quarter of a century after the last events of the original Witcher Saga and centers on witcher Lambert, of Kaer Morhen's School of the Wolf, and sorceress Triss Merigold as the latter chases down a rogue, renegade sorceress from Aretuza who has stolen the famous and incredibly powerful mage Alzur's Almanach.
And, let me tell you, while the budget is clearly very low, and I'm sure a fraction of what the Netflix show has at its disposal, Alzur's Legacy absolutely captures the soul of Sapkowski's fiction and feels more authentic in a way the big-budget show does not. It's dark, wry, soulful, and filled with haunting music and visuals, as well as sorcery and, of course, potion-making. Oh, and there are songs, peasants in need, a doppler and even the great bard himself, Jaskier (Dandelion).
There are many small things that this comparatively far shorter venture in the world of The Witcher does well, such as always letting the viewer know exactly where the story is taking place (something that Netflix's show frequently fails to achieve), while its character's dialogue doesn't ever seem bogged down or labored. Blissfully, I caught nobody saying destiny once.
I've got to say the look of the sets (especially the taverns, which are just perfect), costumes and props also look more in keeping, too, and the central relationship between Lambert and Triss is really natural, with a soft soulful vibe and great acting on display by the two leads Mariusz Drezek and Magdalena Rózanska.
The cinematography, for my money, is frequently superior, too, with echoes of the late, great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa in many shots, especially when depicting landscapes and traveling figures. We get to see and feel the landscape Lambert and Triss progress through at a more natural pace as well, which grounds them in the world.
This compares favorably in my opinion to the Netflix show, where many scenes are shot closer, leaning into the soap opera feel, while episodes frequently bounce around in location and time at a rapid pace. Personally, I much prefer the look of Alzur's Legacy, which gives its characters and environments space to breathe. For its low budget, this movie does a great job of depicting the world its characters live in.
It's obviously got its own flaws and limitations, which mostly stem from its low budget (don't be expecting CG monster fights here, which is obviously a miss considering a witcher's day job), but it feels hard to be too critical of what Alzur's Legacy doesn't offer (or can't do), considering what it does offer – and for free, too.
And, look, at the end of the day if Netflix's The Witcher is making money and drawing in a broad audience then, for Netflix, that's job done and a happy bank manager. For me, I'd obviously prefer a more faithful take, but I find it hard to get genuinely upset about a likely continuation of what we've been served already. After all, if it gets more people interested in Sapkowski's work then great, as that will hopefully lead to more content being created in The Witcher's world.
But, that said, I do feel that future series of Netflix's The Witcher would immediately be at least 25 per cent better if they just adopted a bit more of the look, tone, and feel of Alzur's Legacy. But that's me talking as a fan of the original fiction, and someone who has given up on the most current season, at least for the moment.
I think most fans of The Witcher books and games will definitely get something out of Alzur's Legacy, and it could be just the tonic needed to counter the Netflix show's more mass-market approach. You can watch the film in full on YouTube, with a wide range of subtitles available.
Also, here's a hot tip. You can actually download a 9GB version of Alzur's Legacy that is significantly better quality than what is available on YouTube. You can download the movie file for free and also the separate subtitles file needed for your region as well. Combined these give you a far better watching experience than on YouTube and it also means you can easily watch the film on any device as well as store it for re-watching in the future.