The last time I did this, and with the same commentary host as last time, someone in the comments was annoyed that I was posting a video about a franchise I knew nothing about and didn’t add enough commentary. True, I never played an Elder Scrolls game or Death Stranding but I don’t think you need to in order to understand what the host was discussing, how doing a magic system wrong can break the lore of the game and ruin the immersive story you’re attempting to draw the player into. The system might have been fun to play with but swords made of magic and the power of alchemical transmuation being as easy as making toast brings up questions that makes the fictional world less real. I thought the message got across pretty well without knowledge of the games since I don’t have knowledge of the games and I got it. Even if you’re telling a story in a different media form the takeaway can only benefit you in the future.
So here we go again with The Closer Look, a franchise I have no interest or connection to, and yet makes it’s case in a way that you can follow along with it and gives you something to think about in my and your future story projects. I thought The Witcher was just a video game franchise but apparently it’s based on a popular series of fantasy novels. Recently Netflix decided to adapt the first book in the franchise, a series of short stories that became the foundation for longer novels to come. However, pressed for time the showrunners made some major errors that according to the host led to important events happening but without the emotion or thought put into how those events worked in the book and the end result loses a bit of the…if you’ll pardon the term…magic of the original. Adaptation from one media to another isn’t easy but this might not have been the best approach.
Catch more The Closer Look essays at his YouTube channel.
So what would have been the solution? Granted I’m unfamiliar with the franchise since fantasy is rarely in my interest and dark fantasy even less so. My thought had always been that a TV series or at least a miniseries could adapt a book better than a movie since it potentially had all the extra time it needed to fully tell the story, maybe an episode a chapter depending on how long the chapter is. However, what I heard here and what I saw in Dominic Noble’s comparisons between the Game Of Thrones books and TV series proves that isn’t necessarily the case. Even without being bogged down in internal thoughts, and comics showed there’s a workaround even there at times (while the theatrical Dune movie showed how to do that horribly wrong), there is something important in getting scene order right, having the right characters say their lines, and knowing what to and not to cut out for the proper context of the story to survive.
However, there’s the problem of budget. Netflix shows sometimes get referred to as TV shows, but that isn’t accurate. Without a smart TV or a cable/satellite company that allows you to access Netflix, Hulu, or other services through their box you don’t watch them on TV. You watch them on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. That said, Netflix does approach their shows the same way a TV network does. A certain budget is given, a certain number of episodes are called for. Note that one story in the anthology wasn’t even adapted to the show. So while making a story a two-parter or simply adding an extra half-hour (there have been shows with a 90 minute run time on TV in the past and many miniseries were 2 hours an episode) might be a solution, would they find enough sponsors to pay for it? I’m not sure how much magic factors into the franchise but between goat man and hedgehog man CG and make-up effects are a factor as well, plus sets, costumes, and prop weapons need to be made to resemble the Witcher world and the time period that inspired said world. They’re also trying to tell multiple stories to ensure all the character in the main books get their introduction, which can’t be easy either.
I think where they failed according to the host is that they failed to get the context of the story across and poorly placed the explanations necessary to follow along with and understand the lore and history needed to keep up with the characters, and ruined the context and themes of the story. It’s too bad, and you have to imagine it might get worse with only one story to adapt with future seasons given this is the only group of short stories about the characters. I kind of feel sorry for the fans but without an increased budget or episode count/run time I don’t see this being a good adaptation for you. It’s not an easy thing to transition a story between media, but it doesn’t sound like all of their writers were up to the task.