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Watership Down

Discussion in 'Audio/Video/Books' started by Loganberry, 20 January 2019.

  1. Loganberry

    Loganberry Element of Custard

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    I'm putting this thread up mainly as an excuse for me to ramble on about the BBC/Netflix version (which is about to leave the iPlayer, so be quick if you want to see it!), but I guess any adaptation -- or even the original novel -- will qualify under "Audio/Video/Books" so feel free. :)

    Having watched the new version twice now, I feel it's a good addition to the ranks of Watership Down adaptations, albeit far from flawless. WD is my favourite book of all time, so I'm probably more emotionally invested in it than most people, and I suspect that's made me overly defensive of it and overly irritated by some of the changes.

    It's been up on the iPlayer for nearly a month, so I don't think I need to spoiler-cut this, but be aware that I will mention several key plot points...

    * The animation was fine for the most part once I'd got used to it. I feel some people are being overly critical of it, to be honest. There are some nice touches (pay attention to how the rabbits breathe) and apart from bizarrely giving rabbits paw-pads which they do not have and ears more suited to hares, they look fine. Some of Kehaar's flying scenes are a bit on the iffy side visually, I'll admit.

    * Clover's massively expanded role worked far better than I'd imagined it would, and I generally found her an interesting character. The main downside of this was that Hyzenthlay still didn't get as much of the plot as she deserved. I don't think any adaptation has truly given that rabbit her due -- in the book her role in the liberation of Efrafa is absolutely crucial.

    * The main cast were solid enough. John Boyega as Bigwig was probably the stand-out, though Ben Kingsley's General Woundwort was as unsettling as all hay -- as he should be. I really enjoyed Peter Capaldi's Kehaar, too. There weren't many who I thought didn't fit their roles, which was nice.

    * Some of the plot changes (from the book) were less successful, though quite possibly they annoy me as a long-time fan more than they do newcomers. For example, Bigwig accepts Hazel as Chief Rabbit far too early for my liking, and this leads to the "My Chief Rabbit" scene with Woundwort being diluted. The lack of a "dog loose in the wood" during the first river crossing means there can be no call-back when they have the idea of using the dog from the farm. I'd also quite have liked Hazel's attempt to bargain with Frith from the 1978 film to be used again.

    * I was surprised at just how many Lapine names and other words were used. Perhaps slightly too many, given that most weren't explained, eg we never got told why Hazel called Fiver "Hrairoo". (It means "Little Thousand" -- Fiver was the runt of his litter.) I'm also not sure the full impact of Bigwig's "Silflay hraka, u embleer rah!" to Woundwort came through. It literally means "Go out and eat [er, horse apples -- ed.], you stinking chief!"

    * I was not a fan of Sam Smith's end-credits song. I don't actually mind them not using "Bright Eyes", I just would have preferred a different style. The score and incidental music were good enough, but not a patch on Andrea Morley's superb score for the 1978 film.

    I'll stop at this point as this post is getting very long, but I could go on much longer if anyone was silly enough to let me! :p Overall I think I'd probably score this version at 7/10. Not bad, with some interesting ideas and a solid voice cast, but a little let down by some self-inflicted wounds.
     
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  2. Oilyvalves

    Oilyvalves Railway Pony

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    I've already chatted with Mr @Loganberry on another platform about this, but I thought it would also be worth sharing my thoughts on here since the thread has been created. Spoilers below, I guess.

    I'm in the camp of not really knowing anything about Watership Down going into this new adaptation. OK, I knew some things. I knew it was about Rabbits, and I'd also picked up through general osmosis that the story would deal with somewhat adult themes (such as power struggles and death). But overall with would be my first exposure to the characters and story.

    I saw the 4-part version over 2 stints this Saturday and Sunday just gone, and I quite enjoyed it :). In fact, it's been sticking in my head as I mull it over these past couple of days, in the same way that really good episodes of MLP have done in the past. So I think it's safe to say it had quite an impact. I'd have probably wanted to give it another watch in a week or so's time, if it weren't for it now being off iPlayer (I don't have Netflix).

    Talking first about my impression on the general story. I hadn't really expected the police/military side of it, kicking off with the Owsla and then moving on to Efrafa. I guess I'd pictured more of an informal 'every rabbit for themselves' type community. So that was an interesting revelation. It was also intriguing how WD strikes the balance between intelligent sentient characters, and the natural behavior of actual rabbits. An example of this being the classic 'rabbit in a headlight', although the near-death scene with the snare did feel a little off to me. There were some obvious moral messages in there which were nice, although the way some of them came through did feel a little preachy.

    Moving on to this adaptation. The story kept me engaged in wondering what would happen next throughout most of it. The pacing did feel a bit uneven to me at times. There were a few moments when it felt like the end of the 'episode' was approaching, then it just.. carried on. Out of the 4 parts my favourite was the 3rd, because everything just seemed to 'click' into place and really draw me in. The fourth part had a slight sense of inevitability about it, although the last scene plays out well. Although I'm glad that the overly romantic stuff isn't from the original.

    The animation worked fine for the most part. The only times it kinda fell down for me were when a scene involved dirt being thrown around or dug through (animating that must be a pain). That slo-mo of Kehaar swooping in through the rain was pretty sweet. And they seemed to give a lot of life to the rabbits themselves (lots of twitchy noses!) :D. The voice cast all seemed to do a good job too.

    The names were sometimes a bit tough to keep track of. Particularly with (as Logan mentioned) the generous use of Lapine words. I'm afraid the line that Bigwig yells to Woundwort outside the warren near the end of the film went right over my head :p. And most of all, I had no idea where the name 'Watership' came from!

    I'll actually go against Logan and say that I quite like the ending credits song. Admittedly, the first time it played, that style of song seemed a little cliche, but it grew on me with the other parts. Going back and watching the full music video now actually makes me feel quite emotional:

     
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  3. hawthornbunny

    hawthornbunny Crime Against Fabulosity

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    Let's just say that if Fluttershy were translating, she would probably diplomatically omit that line :)
     
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  4. Somerset Cider

    Somerset Cider Old Pony

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    I have now re-watched back to back with the '78 film and am still just a bit disappointed. It still does not feel that special.
     
  5. Loganberry

    Loganberry Element of Custard

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    I really hope it will turn up on disc at some point, but I haven't seen anything about that so it may be a while even if it does happen. I certainly wouldn't want it to be a Netflix exclusive from now on -- I hope at least the BBC have repeat rights.
    I have to agree with this, and I felt a few of them were a bit ham-fisted. There are lines warning of humanity's threat to the natural environment in every version, but in the book and 1978 film they're not quite so... "Look everyone, a moral message!"
    I wonder whether that's partly because the book is also in four parts ("The Journey", "On Watership Down", "Efrafa" and "Hazel-rah") but these don't fit terribly well with the way the adaptation is structured.
    Heh. I'm pretty sure Richard Adams would not have been too pleased about lines like "Did I ever tell you that I love you?" :p
    The 1978 film left it out and used something simpler (Bigwig just says, "Hraka! ...sir") and I think that may have been a better decision. In the book, the Lapine terms are introduced very gradually, in context and/or in footnotes, so by the time you get to Bigwig's line you understand every word without needing a translation.
    I don't actually know this one! Given the type of countryside around the real Watership Down, there's a temptation to think that the "ship" bit is a corruption of "sheep", but place-name origins are often less simple. A quick Google just now only turned up people asking the same question.
    How dare you have a different opinion to me! :D I think this is probably another example of me being strongly attached to the 1978 film's music, including its end-credits music (which isn't "Bright Eyes").
    I've been thinking about this comparison for a while, and I'm tempted to agree. I do like the new version more second time around, but if I were forced to choose one or the other to watch one afternoon, there's a high chance it would be the 1978 film. Maybe the expectations of us WD fans were just unreasonably high, in the same way that Tales from Watership Down was underwhelming to most people (including me) even though it's not a bad book -- just not as good as the original WD.
     
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