Cast: James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, John Boyega, Gemma Arterton, Peter Capaldi, Olivia, Colman, Ben Kingsley
Director: Noam Murro
Network: Netflix, BBC One
There’s always a point in life when you are confronted with the most inevitable hardship, you’ve ever faced. What do you then? Well, if you’re a fearless and optimistic being then you fight it till the moment you win, despite knowing it will destroy you. That’s exactly the thing BBC One and Netflix’s co-produced animated mini-series Watership Down tells you to believe. Never lose your hope, your courage, and your spirit to fight.
There’s no great thing that this series does, but what it does is simply subtle yet relevant; tickling your thoughts about the world, humanity and yourself too.
Although it’s a second time that the famous 1972 novel’s story (Watership Down by author Richard Adams), has been adapted, it still feels like a refreshing take. When it was last adapted as a movie, back in 1978, by Martin Rosen and John Hubley, it was appreciated critically.
The latest take by BBC One (released on December 22nd, 2018), and streamed by Netflix from December 23rd, 2018, is a commendable one since this animated series keeps one thing constant – the essence and struggle of the characters. Throughout the four episodes, you are never let down by its impact of various emotional scenarios that it dives into. And yes it’s a story about the survival and adventures of a group of rabbits, still, you’re left asking questions to yourself too. Because there are lots of similarities you can make out.
The magnificence of the rabbits’ characters also come from the fact that they are voiced by famous actors like James McAvoy, John Boyega, Nicholas Hoult, and also Ben Kingsley.
The story is about the home-ridden group of rabbits who have to find a new warren for themselves, but are faced with constant obstacles and challenges in form of the ‘evil warren of Elfrara’.
Now, calling it an outstanding version of the novel won’t be justified but the way it’s been handled by director Noam Murro is admirable. Yes, the animation will disappoint you in scenes needing more expressive relations among the rabbits. It’s not having one of the best and highest standards of animated effects by any means. Many of the fans of the novel may ignore this series based on just this aspect. But still, it deserves your attention.
The voice cast is the biggest reason for you get hooked to it from the very start and till you reach the end, you’re left satisfied; inside your heart that you completed the journey with those rabbits too. They succeed in touching your heart, in many ways. And because there are so many, it just becomes all the more emotional and relatable.
Main characters like Hazel (voiced by James McAvoy), Fiver (voiced by Nicholas Hoult), and especially Bigwig (voiced by John Boyega) are hard to miss. And a very important role of a bird, named Kehaar (voiced by Peter Capaldi), is the highlight to look for. Despite he’s for only a few scenes, he leaves a great impact; especially towards the last episode he turns out as a ‘brave hero’. Other supporting characters like Clover, Bluebell, Captain Holly, and Hyzenthlay catch your attention too.
General Woundwort (voiced by the great Ben Kingsley), shines as a depiction of pure evil, just like a ‘human interpretation’. He is merciless, cruel, unforgiving, and as fatal as possible. Kingsley’s voice just makes him all the more compelling.
Female rabbits involving Clover (voiced by Gemma Arterton) and Hyzenthlay (voiced by Anne-Marrie Duff) play an important part in the storyline too, by playing key roles in tough, demanding situations.
On a broader level, this series may seem to be just an average-animated adaptation but when being observed in a deeper manner the relevance can be clearly understood. The relevance of being a human, having generous qualities, being free of hate, and any inhuman characteristic. You are taught the ways of life through a bunch of creatures who are never down on themselves, no matter what. They always stay together, fight together, ready to die for each other and share great empathy.
This series deserves a second season, without any doubt. Because it will be really-really exciting to see what the rabbits do next on their new adventure that their life takes them to. And hopefully, the animation will be even better next time.
For now, it’s still a great watch. If you’re a fan of cartoons, animals, tales of varying emotions, while also expecting some important life lessons, then Watership Down is for you, definitely. Not to mention the fantabulous theme song, Fire on Fire, performed by singer Sam Smith, which is tremendously charismatic to your ears.