The Hexer
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-02-16 DVD Movie M (Mature) Heritage Films

Very rarely I go out of my way to learn more about a particular game, its lore and its characters. In fact, I only did so for EverQuest, reading several stories about the creation of the world, the deities and other fantastic tales of wizards, elves, liches and magic. And then The Witcher came along.

Shortly after playing the game, I learned of the English release of Andrzej Sapkowski's collection of short stories which inspired it. I tracked it down and found a copy of The Last Wish at a local bookstore, and while I was there I figured I'd order the movie as well - regardless of how much I was told it was pretty bad.

I came to the conclusion that it's not that the DVD is bad, it's just that it could have been so much better... Mostly because I didn't expect to be laughing my ass off while watching it, after digesting the seriousness of "choices and consequences" present in the game. But I'll get to that!

The Hexer (or Wiedzmin, in Polish) was released with English subtitles in 2001, but we can hardly call it a movie, as it is really a compilation of scenes from the TV series of the same name. Just to give you an idea, I am glad I read the book while waiting for the DVD to be delivered, or I wouldn't have understood half of what was going on. And even then, it's still confusing.

Basically, you are introduced to Geralt, and briefly get an overview of the mutation and training he went through as a child. And from there, it's basically bits and pieces of different situations, with parts that I could relate to what I had read in the first book. It's a shame that you only get a glimpse of the characters and situations, as they are all quite interesting in the stories and here are but blurs.

The dialogue is often badly subtitled and some of them become fairly nonsensic. Take this one, for example. The scene takes place in a bathhouse, where Geralt rests covered by a sheet up to his head, waiting for someone who barges in asking questions... and that's about all I gathered. It goes like this:

- Who are you?
- Maybe someone important.
- You may be waiting for me or not.
- Secret service requires passwords and responses.
- You say them if you know them.
- I f*** your passwords and responses.
- They made sense where you didn't reach.
- I've come to take a bath and will tell my master what you've been doing.

Yes. You read that right. That's exactly how that conversation goes. It ends up in a fight, but I'll be damned if I know what was going on there...

But the weird translation didn't stop there. From these subtitles I have learned that before challenging a dragon, you should taunt it by walking up to it and stating the obvious: "You bad dragon!"

There was also a very confusing statement about shortcuts: "Here lie such as you on a shortcut" - what is this supposed to mean exactly? Do people fall over dead or maybe just tell a bunch of lies on a shortcut? Don't take the shortcut because you're... laying down? What the heck? At that point, I was just confusing myself even more by trying to figure out what exactly things meant.

The druid Mousesack has been subtitled as Mousebag. Then again, sack, bag, I guess the translator figured they're all nuts. At some point, Geralt goes after a cat in the night, aptly translated as "Pussy, pussy!". I thought he didn't like cats! And whatever happened to a simple "Here kitty kitty?" Maybe it wasn't really a cat he was after... if you get my drift.

The swordfighting scenes were my favorite, for sure, particularly the one with Renfri. And on a few occasions, there was even a bit of magic to go along with them. Unfortunately, the production value was pretty low and the special effects aren't all that... special. Makes me wish for a Hollywoodesque remake, but I admit I really like that wyvern. Or at least, what I thought was a wyvern.

As for special features, there is a "making of" video and a theatrical trailer. Unfortunately, these seem to have been forgotten by the translators who did the rest of the subtitles. Maybe we're better off, who knows what kind of strange things everyone would be saying there in English...

Overall, what I'm trying to say is that even with all the awkward moments and innapropriate laughter for such kind of "movie", I still enjoyed watching it. Even if I had to pause numerous times to compose myself and wipe those happy tears away. I'd actually like to watch the series in its entirety, because then it all would be worthwhile. Bad subtitles or not, I'm sure it would make a lot more sense that a bunch of broken stories clumsy put together in a two-hour feature.

Alternatively, my college does offer a Polish for Beginners course. Maybe I can attend and come back in three months to watch it without subtitles...