Quote from Watership Down by General Woundwort: “You will find the outsiders and when you do, we will destroy their warren, and leave no trace of them on this Earth.”
Directors: Noam Murro, Peter Dodd, Seamus Malone, and Alan Short
Writers: Tim Bidwell (4 episodes) and Richard Adams (1 episode and novel)
Major Cast: James McAvoy as Hazel, Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, John Boyega as Bigwig, Ben Kingsley as General Woundwort, Tom Wilkinson as Threarah, Gemma Arterton as Clover, Olivia Coleman as Strawberry, Mackenzie Crook as Hawkbit, Anne-Marie Duff as Hyzenthlay, Taron Egerton as El-Ahrairah, Freddie Fox as Captain Holly, James Faulkner as Frith, Lee Ingelby as Captain Campion, Miles Jupp as Blackberry, Daniel Kaluuya as Bluebell, Rory Kinnear as Cowslip, Craig Parkinson as Sergeant Sainfoin, Rosamund Pike as Black Rabbit of Inlé, Daniel Rigby as Dandelion,Jason Watkins as Captain Orchis, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Captain Vervain, Gemma Chan as Dewdrop, Lizzie Clarke as Haystack, Rosie Day as Thethutinang, Henry Goodman as Blackavar, Peter Guinness as Silverweed, Charlotte Spencer as Nettle, Peter Capaldi as Kehaar, Murray McArthur as Farmer, and Lorraine Bruce as Farmer’s Wife
Episode Length: 45 minutes
The original movie made in 1978 was recommended to me about 13 years ago. I watched Watership Down, loved it, and have yet to read the book. I know, I know. The original version has more violence and blood compared to the remake so this is more kid friendly. The drawing animation in the original is timeless, and you can’t stop watching the different rabbit warrens vying for control and survival in either one. There was criticism of the unpolished look of the rabbits given the advancements in technology. This doesn’t hold a candle to movies with a bigger budget, but I wasn’t too bothered by it. I will talk about the Rottweiler later. The other criticism was how the rabbits looked more like hares, but some wild rabbits do have longer legs. If you can look past the less than animation and what is construed as erroneous leg length and facial features, this four-part series is for you. Let me give you a little information before I give a short summary of Watership Down. The rabbits are broken into their respective warrens: Sandleford, Cowslip, Efrafa, and Watership Down. When they speak of Lord Frith, this is their sun-god. El-ahrairah is the Prince that was their leader in the beginning. Owsla is a rabbit police force. The word silflay means grazing and Efrafans belong to the Efrafa warren (as you probably deduced). A word of caution, there’s a lot of rabbits in this, and it’s hard to tell them apart at times especially when they dart back and forth.
The story begins with two brother rabbits, Fiver and Hazel. It is Fiver who has visions of the future and Hazel who partly believes in them. They decide to tell their leader, Threarah, anyway who doesn’t believe them. They are forced to take leave from the Sandleford warren with a few rabbits who believe them including Bigwig. Their escape is full of danger and they eventually find a new home when Hazel meets a peculiar rabbit named Cowslip. It is here Fiver has more visions except this time even darker. He realizes man poses danger everywhere, and the rabbits take leave with Strawberry. This leads to newfound respect for Fiver and humble pie for Bigwig. They arrive at Nuthanger Farm where Hazel meets a domestic rabbit named Clover. He makes several attempts to rescue her, but to no avail. This places him in great danger, and it is Clover’s determination along with Fiver’s vision that help him to safety. The remaining Sandleford warren is just that as Captain Holly barely makes it out alive as it’s destroyed by man. He has no choice but to follow Fiver and Hazel to Watership Down.
What is clear to all the rabbits is the dangers of the Efrafa warren, but Hazel doesn’t shy away from it. Being the Chief Rabbit, he sends Bigwig to infiltrate the dangerous warren in order to gain General Woundwort’s trust as well as Hyzenthlay, a female rabbit. They round-up rabbits willing to risk leaving Efrafa, but the Efrafa Owsla is never far away. You’ll start to feel for the rabbits who have been there much too long. The rabbits fear of failture, but they have no choice. It also helps to have Kehaar, the gull, who eats too much when he’s not flying around. Back in the safety of Watership Down, the rabbits reunite with Strawberry, Hawkbit, and Dandelion who is credited for creating the warren’s underground tunnels that are later used to protect the rabbits when General Woundwort returns with his Owsla. Being ever aware of danger, Fiver has another vision and sets off with Hazel to stop the destruction of Watership Down. They run back to Nuthanger Farm because dogs like to chase things. Remember when I spoke of the Rottweiler earlier? It’s too bad General Woundwort was fearless.
After all was said and done, I enjoyed this version because the rabbits had markings they had been around a while. Wild rabbits experience a lot of harsh elements. They have tears in their ears and scars on their faces from fighting. They are different sizes, some small and large although I’d love to know what the Efrafa warren was eating when they weren’t smacking each other around. There were some differences in appearance of the wild and domestic rabbits. Some of the scenes jumped back and forth too quickly, but the actors and actresses that lent their voices were great. Ben Kingsley as General Woundwart and Peter Capaldi as Kehaar were my favorites, and you have to enjoy the brotherly love of Hazel voiced by James McAvoy and Fiver voiced by Nicholas Hoult. I only had trouble with how the Rottweiler looked. The last scene of the Rottweiler left me unimpressed. This was the only time I laughed in the series. The relationships between male and female rabbits was more prevalent in this version, which broke things up a bit. I encourage you to watch the original as well and see which one you like better.