Critical Condition: Watership Down

Watership Down | Netflix, from Sunday

☆☆☆Netflix and the BBC revive the fantasy tale as a potent, stunning, and a tad too ugly vision of a rabbits’ world not that different from our own. Sent fleeing from their den by human development, the new four-part story tracks Hazel (James McAvoy), Fiver (Nicholas Hoult), and a slew of other plainly drawn bunnies as they try to survive … Holding with the novel’s heavy themes — and the original film’s scarring nature — Netflix’s adaptation is very much not for small children.” — IndieWire.

☆☆☆☆ “The original film was rendered in hand-drawn animation, with watercolour-like backgrounds, which underscored the contrast of beauty and brutality. This four-episode Watership is CGI, because that’s apparently what we do now with animation remakes. The details — bristles of fur, ripples of water — are remarkable. Until something moves. Then the limitations, whether of craft or budget, become apparent. The stiff, floaty, uncanny motion looks like something from a ’90s CD-ROM video game.” — New York Times.

☆☆☆ “While the rendering of the rabbit fur is impressive in high-definition (the credits include more than a dozen ‘hair and fur artists’ from India’s Prana Studios) and the countryside gorgeously realised from photographs of the real Watership Down near Kingslere in Hampshire, the rabbits themselves appear to have escaped from a decade-old computer game – blank-eyed and stilted, all jerky movements and oddly rangy limbs.” — The Telegraph.

☆☆☆Tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting [Richard] Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams. Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

☆☆☆☆ “That’s the real problem with the new Watership Down: it simply isn’t scary enough. Which is a surprise considering director Noam Murro’s credits include 300: Rise of an Empire, proving he has no issue with screaming innocents being hacked and sliced to death … Nobody is suggesting the BBC should explicitly set out to unsettle unsuspecting viewers and no doubt there would be an outcry if Watership Down arrived slathered in buckets of blood. But without the darkness is Watership Down really Watership Down?” — Independent.

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