Much like Richard Adams's wonderful novel, this animated tale of wandering rabbits is not meant for small children. It is, however, rich storytelling, populated with very real individuals inhabiting a very real world. The ... more »animation is problematic, sometimes appearing out of proportion or just subpar; but it seems to stem from an attempt at realism, something distinguishing the film's characters from previous, cutesy, animated animals. A band of rabbits illegally leave their warren after a prophecy of doom from a runt named Fiver (Richard Briers). In search of a place safe from humans and predators, they face all kinds of dangers, including a warren that has made a sick bargain with humankind, and a warren that is basically a fascist state. Allegories aside, Down is engaging and satisfying, and pulls off the same amazing trick that the novel did--you'll forget that this is a story about rabbits. --Keith Simanton« less
1978 film based on the 1972 novel by Richard Adams, which he'd related to his daughters and they in turn insisted he write. Based on universal archetypes and the epic motifs of Homer and Virgil, Watership Down mirrors the timeless struggles between tyranny and freedom, reason and blind emotion, the individual and the corporate state. One might argue this isn't really suitable subject matter for children, but then again. There is one surreal, visually stunning sequence where a rabbit's warren gets gassed, which might very well traumatize.
There is some dialogue which is quite faint and difficult to hear in the film, so I would suggest subtitles. Have been reading great things about the Criterion Blu-ray version, but have not seen it yet.
This movie spawned the #1 hit single "Bright Eyes" by Art Garfunkel, which is essentially a song about death. The song (sung by someone else) is also used in the soundtrack of the later 39 episode series which ran from 1999 thru 2001. Sadly, only bits and pieces of this series are available in the U.S. A fourteen disc Region 2 set can be purchased across the pond, which has all 3 seasons. Features the voices of Kate Ashfield, Richard Briers, Dawn French, Jane Horrocks, Ian Shaw, Stephen Fry, Kiefer Sutherland, and the late Rik Mayall and John Hurt. The series is a bit more child friendly, at least until season 3 arrives. Still, this is one of the darkest, spooky, and tense children's shows around.
"...but first they have to catch you"
mwreview | Northern California, USA | 02/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film for the first time after a friend who had seen it in the theater in 1978 recommended it. I was prepared to watch a children's movie and was struck by the seriousness of the subject and the realistic scenes.The film begins with the mythology of the rabbit which is rather odd but in a cute way. This introduction foreshadows the hardships and enemies the rabbit species will face. From there the story seems to touch on at least two issues: fascism/Marxism and environmentalism. The latter is only briefly touched on. The small rabbit Fiver, who has unexplained powers to foresee the future, urges a group of fellow rabbits in his "warren" to leave before their land is destroyed by some destructive force. Actually, it is man who tears up their fields, but it is only described briefly by a survivor. In their journey to the safe mountain top (utopia?), they encounter several enemies and a funny bird friend (my favorite of the characters). Once they reach their destination, they realize that they have no females in their group (the only "doe" having been killed) and must return to dangerous territory to acquire mates. Their worst enemy, ironically, is a member of their own species; a fascist rabbit who threatens to have any dissenter from his warren killed. Also, ironically, inventions of man (i.e. a boat) are used by the rabbits in their struggle to survive. A musical segment with music sung by Art Garfunkel interrupts the fairly fast-moving story. The violence in this film is surprisingly realistic and graphic. Some rabbits do not make it, so very young children may need to be prepared before watching. I also looked at a VHS copy of this film, and DVD is far superior in terms of graphics and color. The extras on this DVD were a little disappointing considering that this film is a classic (i.e. a glossary of rabbit words that is not even complete). Still, this animated film is one that adults may appreciate more than the kids."
Refugees or escaped POW's Not just cute rabits
Michael Love | Michigan, USA | 12/14/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like many of the reviewers before me I first watched this back when I was a child and yes it did provoke a range of emotions in me. I cheered when they escaped on the boat; I was sickened in the recount of the fate of the first warren. I admit it 15 years on I still cry at the end of the movie. Don't be fooled into thinking just because it's and animated feature about rabbits that this film will be suitable for younger kids, it is NOT. Watership down has quite graphic representations of brutality and death. Putting those facts aside it does tell a compelling story about a band of refugees looking for some place to resettle and live their lives out in peace. It just happens that the refugees are rabbits. This is a story of survival. It is a mature story told in a make believe way. It is told with an edge of realism that contradicts the candy coating of the animation and character species. I just bought a copy of this so my wife and I could watch it. Melanie (My wife) having not seen it before and not knowing what to expect was left speechless when Violet was gone. If I were to rate the film I would give it at least a PG maybe even a PG 13 for its possible NIGHTMARES for younger children. I give the story 4 stars for being entertaining and well told"
Thought provoking. Political themes within rabbit world.
trilltrill | CO,USA | 11/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't even remember when I first saw this movie. I know that I was quite young. I know that many reviewers have said it is for mature audiences, and I agree... to an extent. You see... the violence and the blood may be too much for some children. You know your children best, and you know what they can handle. So, make a call accorrding to your experience. Personally, even at a tender age, I *knew* that the movie wasn't just about rabbits. I couldn't quite grasp all of the themes, but I understood the basics. I think that children really are more capable of understanding than is sometimes thought. This film is a very good political statement. It isn't just about humans wrecking the bunny lands. It is about the interactions between certain groups of rabbits. It's really amazing that Richard Adams could create such a tale using animals. I highly reccommend this movie to everybody. Though it isn't intended to give you warm fuzzies, I think that many people could take something away with them. A family friend bought the film for her niece thinking that it was going to be a cute movie with bunnies. Please don't buy the film for your child unless you believe that your child can handle some violence and heavy themes. If I hadn't seen the movie as a young child, I don't know that I ever would have watched it or read the book. So, I think it is a good thing that I saw it. It all depend on the child. It's a great movie, though."
But it ISN'T for children!
bresia | 09/09/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is nothing "bad" about this movie. The fact that it has rabbits acting not so cute and cuddly does not make it bad, or give a bad message to children. It portrays the struggle to survive against those who wish to dominate and control. It shows the challenges a good leader must face in trying to achieve a better life for his (or in the case of Hyzenthlay, her) people. It sets a shining example for leadership in the main character, Hazel; as well as who NOT to aspire to be like (Woundwort).This movie is unfortunately seen as a kiddie movie just because of the fact that it is animated. I see it time and again in the kid's section of the video store, and that is not where it belongs. It is a serious drama, one with violence and adult themes and situations very young children would not understand. It is an adult movie, or at least if viewed by a child should be done so under adult guidance. Parents wanting yet another 90 minute babysitter would do better purchasing the latest Disney tripe. But if you want a movie you can enjoy with your child, one that will leave them pondering tough issues regarding society, politics, life and death, a movie that will not dumb them down but make them think, and even want to read the novel, then this is the one."
SAD YET A WONDERFUL MOVIE !
bresia | 04/29/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this as a little kid barely able to understand the concept of death, and its consequences, Boy did this movie hurt and bewilder me, after crying my little eyes out I left the movie theater devastated, is this what happens to all of us eventually, not the way these brave bunnies lived and died but death it self. It wasnt until much later (years) that I could bring myself to watch this ultimately brilliant yet sad movie again, it broke my heart a second time but I could appreciate the beauty and can now see how fiction mirrors reality. This is a tale of Rabbits seeking a safe new home, we follow their journey in heart wrenching detail, filled with danger and great sadness, there are some lighter moments that gives the viewer some emotional relief, but ultimately you are left feeling for these wonderful characters.I recommend this movie, warning those who are first time viewers, if you are expecting a cutesy kiddy type movie then forget it, Watership Down can be viewed by kids with parental guidance so they (the parents! as much as the kids) can be comforted when the story gets too much, keep a box of tissues handy, cause that song BRIGHT EYES gets me every time I hear it, so be warned. I will always love this movie and hope you will too."