Watership Down (1978) starring John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox, Ralph Richardson, Denholm Elliott, Zero Mostel directed by Martin Rosen Movie Review

Watership Down (1978)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Fiver in Watership Down (1978)

A Bunny Boiler

"Watership Down" is the sort of movie which isn't my thing but I can appreciate it as something special. I think my problem with "Watership Down" is that I watched it as a young child and whilst we are talking an animation with talking rabbits and a U certificate it is a traumatic movie with deaths which in many ways is not for children. Not only that the actual storyline whilst a series of adventures surrounding a group of rabbits actually touches on more adult themes from civilization destroying nature to elements which mirror Nazis. As such whilst I can appreciate it, the intelligence of Richard Adams's story and the art work it has never been my thing.

When Fiver gets a vision of impending doom he and his friend Hazel along with a group of other rabbits leave the warren for a new home leading to a string of adventures as they encounter wild animals, traps, farm animals and dogs forcing them to keep on the move till they discover safety on a hill. But having started to set up home they learn that nearby is the Efrafa warren ruled by the vindictive General Woundwort who are expanding to take over other warrens, killing those who get in their way leading Fiver's friend Bigwig to try and infiltrate Efrafa to free those trapped by Woundwort.

Kehaar in Watership Down (1978)

So let me start by reiterating my feeling about "Watership Down" is because whilst it may seem like a cute animation of talking rabbits and the adventure they undertake it is certainly not cute. Here is a movie which deals with some adult themes from nature being destroyed in the name of development to traps which kill rabbits and it doesn't pull any punches. This is a movie which continually deals with the subject of death and often does so in quite graphic detail from the mass killing of rabbits when there warrens get filled in to the cruel pain caused by animal traps. And that doesn't even mention what happens when another animal kills a rabbit which we see a couple of times. As such "Watership Down" isn't some cute cartoon for young children, it may have fun but it also has a realistic and unsettling dark side.

Now the thing about "Watership Down" is that it does have this almost grown up story which mentions the destruction of nature but it also has an almost parable like story about Nazis. The whole series of scenes surrounding Efrafa are so obviously inspired by aspects of WWII which does make it actually quite a clever movie. And when you couple this with the darker side makes "Watership Down" a movie for teens and adults rather than young children. Now whilst it has never really entertained me as much as some I can appreciate the intelligence of the writing and it certainly makes it a very different sort of animation.

It is the same with the actual animations because whilst I was never mad for it I can appreciate the quality of it as there is a more realistic style going on. In fact at times "Watership Down" feels more like a work of art that an animation and you have to admire the skill of the animators for creating such a good looking movie. But it is a case that if you like the cute animations of Disney the chances are the more realistic styling of "Watership Down" won't necessarily be your sort of thing.

What this all boils down to is that "Watership Down" is a good British animation which does a good job of telling Richard Adams's story. But for me it was never brilliant but more of a movie which I can appreciate for what it is, for the story and the animation rather than actually enjoy it.