Netflix/BBC’s ‘Watership Down’ Is A Modern Take On A Classic Tale That Is Hobbled By Terrible Animation [Review]

The Playlist | 12/11/2018 | Julia Teti
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Would you have believed an epic tale of tyranny, betrayal, and talking rabbits would become such a beloved story nearly 50 years after its original publication? Author Richard Adams likely did not, but after nearly five decades, “Watership Down” has been continually adapted for generations of audiences. Teaming Netflix with BBC One, the latest retelling attempts to deliver the story to a new audience, utilizing modern technology and a stellar voice cast to help set it apart from the rest. Unfortunately, this new version of the classic tale fails to live up to the source material.

If the title feels familiar, here’s some background. Adams’ “Watership Down” was published in England in 1972. Having been rejected by a number of publishers, one eventually took on the curious tale of rabbits maneuvering a volatile world. The critical reception was glowing, and in 1978 an animated film was made. The 1978 adaptation, directed by Martin Rosen with voice talents the like of John Hurt, was well-received due to its close retelling of the story. But as an animated feature made for adults, any child who saw it was likely terrified by the visuals and intense story. Over the years, “Watership Down” was adapted into a tamer TV series, a radio dramatization, and various plays.

Reincarnation - Adams - Update - Animation - Miniseries

The latest reincarnation of Adams’ novel gets a needed narrative update, but with animation that only weighs it down. The four-part miniseries follows a group of rabbits as they survive the changing world around them. When Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) wakes from a violent premonition, he convinces his brother Hazel (James McAvoy) that they must leave their home and find a new one, before the fields they call home are developed by humans. Leaving with a few of their fellow rabbits, the company traverse unknown terrain, encountering a number of threats...
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