Watership Down - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Watership Down Reviews

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½ March 25, 2016
Beautifully animated and just dark enough to make for an incredibly engaging film for adults. Watership Down is a film I will show my children.
March 24, 2016
listed as a family film i do not recommend this grim dark and somewhat depressing slice of 1970's anime
March 11, 2016
Slow in spots bur still one of the best animorphic fables about the human experience.
February 24, 2016
Based on a classic novel, Watership Down sounded like a lesser-known but appealing animated film.

Watership Down appeals to me on the basis that then novel is a personal favourite of a close and influential friend of mine who said that reading the book is enough to turn one vegetarian. Any tale with that kind of power must be seen to be believed. I can't be certain of how much of the depth is carried over into the film adaptation, but I will admit that I didn't feel the same extent of effect from the film that he did from the novel.
Produced by Nepenthe Productions, Watership Down is not a venture by one of the more major animated film companies. Being a low budget production, the animation in Watership Down is a collection of colourful hand-drawn frames which have limitations on how much visual splendour they can boast. On the plus side of things it gives the film a technique of design which presents many of the images to carry the appearance of a classic children's storybook, and it also plays with many techniques that give the illusion of cinematography and contribute to the atmosphere of the feature. Yet there are many animation frames which are rather rough and do not maintain the same lasting value of the standard set by Disney animated films at the time. Since the animation is simplistic and traditional, this means that the characters all have the same basic rabbit faces which offers only a modicum of versatility in the emotions that the characters can depict, ultimately interfering with the effect of the voice acting. The voice acting itself is a rather underdeveloped element since many of the voice actors project the same generic tone of British sophistication which is meant to make the character seem more adult and less cute and cuddly, and this is a shame when considering the extensive list of talented names lined up for the voice cast. Watership Down may carry a sense of nostalgia with its classical animated style and it creates a lot of colour and some memorable imagery out of its low budget, but there is no denying that the technique ultimately ends up being rather stiff.
Nonetheless, Watership Down's animation is enough to provide a front for its story which seems to be the most important thing to the film. The thing I do really appreciate about Watership Down is the fact that it is far from a cheesy production. Watership Down is almost like a lost Don Bluth film. The aforementioned simplicity of the animated style is one factor, but what's more notable is the dark edge of the story. Though its colourful nature and sense of spirit makes it a child-friendly film, Watership Down is not a glossy family-friendly picture. It deals with real themes and existential material in the context of a story about rabbits which makes it more accessible to children, and the dark edge of the story respects its young viewers enough not to condescend them with a watered-down story. The fact that the film had the courage to depict animated blood should be enough of a clear signifier to this all. Watership Down is a tale of camaraderie and survival in the violence of the animal kingdom, bereft of the whitewashed song and dance of the Disney productions. The material can be confronting to some viewers, but the harsh reality of the violence in the animal kingdom and all the death that comes with it can offer some powerful dramatic strength. It can be weakened slightly by the fact that the pace of the feature is very slow since it has limitations in stretching the narrative when it lacks the same insight that can be provided by a written text, but this also offers a chance for viewers to slowly consider the full effect of everything.
However, the entire production has technical flaws which go beyond the simple visual experience. The volume of the character's dialogue in comparison to the musical score can be a little too far from each other for Watership Down to maintain consistent auditory grace. Viewers have to really listen closely to pick up what the characters are saying because their voices are too often buried into the background beneath the musical score and even the intended background noise. This is such an amateur technical flaw that despite the limitations of the film's budget it is still a challenge to overlook because it creates an experience in which comprehending the words is a real difficulty. The already underdeveloped voice acting of the feature is blunted all the more by audio levels which make the experience burdened by an unbalanced sound plane. Watership Down can be a film which is hard to sit back and embrace when it requires effort on behalf of viewers to actually understand everything. Still, the music itself offers a valuable presence.
However rough the audio quality may be, I can definitely cite my enjoyment of the musical score itself. The composition work of Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson manages to evoke a really classical feeling which creates a gentle mood during the slower sequences of the film. But it lays down its full effect when the narrative gets to its much harsher moments of atmosphere. The mood is embraced with full emotional effect as the music strikes into the hearts of audiences without going over the top, maintaining an effective balance between subtlety and large scale. The music in Watership Down manages to consistently carry the atmosphere of the film, and is perhaps its most consistently strong element even if the audio editing itself is problematic.

Watership Down is a low-budget production and must be treated as such: it carries some colourful techniques which help to evoke a storybook feeling while its musical score is rich, yet the former is stiff in parts and the latter can be too loud in contrast to the silence of the underdeveloped voice acting. And while the darker themes of the story remains admirable, the lack of character development and slow pace puts the drama on a meandering path.
½ February 15, 2016
A bit dated, but still a well done movie that is more for adults than children. Watership Down follows the story of a rabbit named Fiver (Richard Briers) who has a vision of his home being destroyed. His brother Hazel (John Hurt) believes him and brings him to their leader. Their leader dismisses Fiver's vision as nonsense and doesn't act on it. That night Fiver and Hazel leave their home along with a few other rabbits including tough guy Bigwig (Michael Graham Cox). The rabbits soon realize the world is a vast place that is dangerous at every step. They face death everywhere and have to band together in order to get the freedom they deserve. The animation is really special in this one. It uses a lot of watercolor like backgrounds with detail for the animals being a lot greater. The animation is a bit dated compared to todays standards, but for the time it was well done. The story has a lot of meaning behind just the story it presents. It brings up the meaning of helping others, fighting tyranny, discovering religion, etc. It's very grownup and I find it hard to imagine a kid would see all the meanings here. Overall, not a bad watch and I recommend checking it out for adults that are a fan of animation.
January 16, 2016
Memorable, bloody, heartstopping & brilliant visuals.
January 15, 2016
Brilliant! Here again children is what animated movies used to be. Only wish I could have seen this when I was younger. Anthropomorphism....defined and perfected.
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2016
It's as good as an adaptation of Adams' novel as we are likely to get, blending the hopeful fable elements with the moments of bleak violence pretty well. Bound to continue to traumatize generations of children for years to come.
November 17, 2015
In my life I have watched hundreds of animated features and it is very clear that Watership Down may be the most visually appealing on an artistic level. The background art is some of the most beautiful throwaway art I have seen in a long time. Using watercolors for bright scenes and charcoal or paint on Bristol board for the dark scenes help to lend an alternate feeling and texture to the viewing experience. That said Watership Down is much darker than I remember, and it manages to do in 101 minutes what it look Peter Jackson 558 in the Lord of the Rings. Sure, the story is much different, that's fine, but the overarching allegory is the same. From the opening scene through to the end my mind was linking the two together, which is where the similarity end. This film has my highest recommendation.
½ November 11, 2015
A very mature animated tale, "Watership Down" pulls no punches in it's telling of Richard Adam's novel. A magical, innovative prologue gives way to conventional watercolor tones, most likely due to the prolific John Hubley's removal from the project. The plot is darker than your average animated tale, but hard to follow at points, though several key scenes are breathtaking in their tenacity. Vocal work by John Hurt, Richard Briers, and others is commendable, if a bit muffled behind the music even in the newly restored version I was watching. Overall, an incredibly difficult film to watch at points due to its direct approach, but it's definitely worth a viewing.
November 6, 2015
Watership Down tells a very deep and hauntingly beautiful story, but it does go a bit too far with its violence considering it was marketed for a children.
September 26, 2015
Yeah, this wasn't really a children's animated movie. It feels like one at times, but then something dark and disturbing happens, and then all of a sudden, you feel like you're watching an adult animated movie. I quite liked how that was done. The story is about Fiver, a rabbit, who starts getting visions of how he and his herd are in grave danger. Upon telling everyone about his visions, most of the rabbits decide to follow him and his brother, Hazel, to safety. But, those who haven't followed him, indeed, get into some quite dangerous situations. From that point on, the rabbits are split up into two groups. The good group who wants to live a life of freedom and safety, and the bad group, Efrafa, who wants to have control over everything, and keep their rabbits as slaves. It's not really unpredictable what's going to happen next. The good group decides to save all the rabbits being kept in slavery over at Efrafa. I will not spoil the ending, but that ending was seriously brutal and quite depressing. The characters are all rabbits, with an exception of a cat, a dog and a bird. All of the rabbits are very well developed as chracters and once you switch positions of the rabbits with humans, it almost starts to feel like a war movie. There's infiltrating in the enemy's base, there's acts of heroism, sacrifices etc. etc. The animation style is really beautiful and reminds me a lot of Ralph Bakshi's cartoons. The voice-acting is very good, though the sound quality was a bit off, but I can't blame them for that, it was made in 1978 after all. The music is great and quite Disneyesque. All in all, an amazing animated cartoon with a moving and brutal story, filled with well developed characters and a deep meaning to it. I would recommend checking this movie out, and don't think of it as a children's cartoon.
August 20, 2015
a fantastic journey of a movie.
August 3, 2015
A film of terror, horror, and the unending torture of life. I can't stress enough: THIS IS NOT A KIDS MOVIE.
½ June 25, 2015
Many times I felt like the movie was supposed to make me feel tense or afraid for the safety and well being of certain rabbits, but I never was because the movie didn't make me emotionally invested in them, save for bigwig during the climax of the film.
June 22, 2015
This is a classic young adult film. It is not a film for young metropolitan Western children, who think that chicken nuggets grow on trees, by any means. The story is powerful and haunting, the animation appalling in sections, which prevents it from being perfect.
June 13, 2015
Saw this as a kid and loved it, motivated me to read the book which was even better. To this day I am still naming pets after characters in this story.
½ June 4, 2015
When it comes to animated films that many feel are unsuitable for children, several come to mind, but when you want to talk about something that's disturbing, scarring, or even soul-stirring, you can't get much closer than the 1978 animated version of Watership Down. Based upon the bestselling novel of the same name by Richard Adams, it's a film that, while successful in its native land of the U.K., left a generation of kids with some very vivid memories that informed their outlooks on life as adults. The lasting impact of Watership Down doesn't simply lie within its visuals or its characters, but also within the many themes and ideals that it brings to the surface. Among them are takes on religion, political subversion, dictatorship, and the human condition. All of these points of interest are woven into a simple storyline about a brace of rabbits who must leave their home in fear of a looming threat, brought on by feelings of dread and intuition. They travel far from their home, seeking out a new place to settle into, but along the way face many of life's cruel challenges. There's nothing that approaches fluffy or cuddly about this film other than the presence of anthropomorphic rabbits. The theatrical poster alone, which is an image of one of the rabbits caught in a snare trap, gives you information about the film's content, and to let you know that you're not going to be in for some wholesome family fun. It was a box office success in the U.K., but mostly came and went in the U.S. without much of an impact at the time. The story was later turned into a much softer and more audience-friendly TV series in the U.K., but other than the original novel, the truest version of the story is in its cinematic form. It's that rare kind of animated film that doesn't come along too often, affecting all ages of people who see it in an almost primordial way. As such, it's considered by many to be one of the finest pieces of animated storytelling ever committed to film.
½ May 31, 2015
HOW IS THIS A FRIGGEN KIDS MOVIE?! I mean why?! Why would people like to see cute bunnies fight to the death. And get ripped open by dogs. This slaughters children's minds.
May 29, 2015
Bunny politics. Gritty, violent and depressing film about animated rabbits. The world and tone has been crafted to perfection.
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