Watership Down 2018 is a new four-part adaptation of the classic novel with a stellar cast, starting with “The Journey”. Is that – The Unexpected Journey?
But how can it be four episodes when only two are seemingly scheduled? The original film is only 91 minutes long, and also a U-certificate despite its gore, while this new version is technically four parts, of around 50 minutes each, but this BBC/Netflix co-production is broadcast with the episodes doubled up and shown over two nights, so you have two 100-minute films on consecutive evenings.
The rabbits fear mankind coming to ruin their grounds, with them referring to cars as hur-dur-durs, along with other made-up words to get them through their days and, hopefully, staying alive, whilst man builds a new housing estate… and probably a bypass, since bypasses have got to be built!
Watership Down is notorious for one of their number getting caught in a snare trap, along with the other horrors that await them.
I can understand them wanting to remake this, since it’s 40 years since the 1978 original, but that looks amazing with its animation and, here, they use CGI which looks like it’s a cut-scene from a dodgy late ’90s / early ’00s videogame like Thief II: The Metal Age and Kingpin: Life Of Crime.
As a story, it’s fine, but Watership Down 2018 just looks rather odd and I can’t quite get a handle on it, and given how dark and wordy it is, I think it’s going to put a lot of people off from watching the entire thing. Plus, John Boyega (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens) can’t act to save his life. As for the rest, yes, there are many big names here and it’s a great coup to get them all in one production, but… since there are so many of them, mostly talking in quick succession, I can pick out a handful of recognisable voices, but the rest all blend in to one another.
All that said, if you thought a 200-minute version was long, that’s nothing compared to the animated series which ran from 1999 to 2001 and lasted 39 episodes over the three series, and with each episode running for 23 minutes, that’s a total of 897 minutes!
On the plus side, if you know the 1978 film inside out, then this will have more to add (but of course, it was originally a book by Richard Adams), but on the downside… ooh, nooooo… that CGI…
In fact, I’m not the only one who thinks that, as you can see from a selection of tweets shown during the first broadcast. Only one of the top tweets DOESN’T mention it!
Watership Down 2018 concludes tomorrow on BBC1 at 7.20pm. The series is not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but you can buy the 1978 original on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as the aforementioned 39-episode series on DVD.
Catch-up on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days after transmission.
Episodes 1 (The Journey) and 2 (The Raid): 5/10
Episodes 3 (The Escape) and 4 (The Siege): 4/10
Director: Noam Murro
Executive Producers: Rory Aitken, Eleanor Moran, Ben Pugh, Josh Varney
Producers: Georgia Dussaud, Cecil Kramer
Novel: Richard Adams
Writer: Tom Bidwell
Music: Federico Jusid
Hazel: James McAvoy
Fiver: Nicholas Hoult
Bigwig: John Boyega
General Woundwort: Ben Kingsley
The Threarah: Tom Wilkinson
Clover: Gemma Arterton
Kehaar: Peter Capaldi
Strawberry: Olivia Coleman
Hawkbit: Mackenzie Crook
Hyzenthlay: Anne-Marie Duff
El-Ahrairah: Taron Egerton
Captain Holly: Freddie Fox
Faulkner: James Faulkner
Captain Campion: Lee Ingleby
Blackberry: Miles Jupp
Bluebell: Daniel Kaluuya
Cowslip: Rory Kinnear
Sergeant Sainfoin: Craig Parkinson
Black Rabbit: Rosamund Pike
Dandelion: Daniel Rigby
Captain Orchis: Jason Watkins
Captain Vervain: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Farmer’s Wife: Lorraine Bruce
Dewdrop: Gemma Chan
Haystack: Lizzie Clarke
Thethuthinang: Rosie Day
Blackavar: Henry Goodman
Silverweed: Peter Guinness
Farmer: Murray McArthur
Nettle: Charlotte Spencer
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.