Viewings: Netflix’s “Watership Down”

Netflix/BBC Watership Down
Photo credit: Netflix/BBC

Having read Richard Adams’s novel as a child, I was eager to watch the adaption of the novel on Netflix. Despite some critical reviews, I found it very engaging…and, clearly, its themes have withstood the test of time.

While I don’t agree with some of it, I’m not going to do a point-by-point debate of James Poniewozik’s review in the New York Times; he is entitled to his opinion, and I have neither recently read the novel (published in 1972) nor watched the 1978 animated adaptation, so I can’t make an informed comparison of it to the Netflix/BBC mini series.

That said, I found the story, broken into 4 separate episodes, highly compelling and thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Poniewozik expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the CGI in which the movie was rendered, particularly with how motion looks. I’ll admit that there is a certain lack of naturalness to the motion, like when rabbits jump and the river rushes by, but this is CGI, not live action. I don’t think it detracts from the movie in the slightest. And I’ve watched some CGI movies that were so realistic they were a bit creepy.

Netflix/BBC Watership Down
Photo credit: Netflix/BBC

I also disagree with Poniewozik’s description of the movie as “blandified”. While there are references to destruction – flashes of it – and some (limited) violence, I, for one, am tired of the gratuitous violence that’s become ubiquitous in today’s movies. I understand, for example, that when a fox or a dog kills a rabbit, there’s blood and gore…and I don’t need to see it on the screen to know what’s occurred. The violence is shown judiciously, with much (but not all) being left to the viewer’s imagination. I, for one, appreciate director Noam Murro’s carefully considered approach.

The movie was so enchanting that I watched all four parts in one sitting without planning to. While I stayed up later than I normally would to finish the series, I just couldn’t fathom interrupting the flow and returning to it the next day…and when the movie was over, I was glad I’d stayed up.  I’m going to have to watch it again – and buy the book!


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