Over the weekend I watched the Netflix/BBC remake of Watership Down. Short review: I liked it, with just a few gripes.

Disclaimer: For those who haven’t seen the original, shame on you, and be warned there will be spoilers for this 40 year old classic inside.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. Shame on me.

My first complaint is with the opening scene. Both movies open with a different animation style than the rest of the film. This sets the stage and tells the tale of Frith.

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Rabbit lore has it that in the beginning Frith made everything. Rabbits ran amok and “wandered” everywhere. Frith asked El-ahrairah The Rabbit Prince to control his people and to that El-ahrairah mocked Frith. As punishment Frith bestowed upon every predatory animal a gift with the distinct purpose of making it easier for them to catch and eat rabbits. He then gave El-ahrairah some gifts:

“And El-ahrairah’s tail grew shining white, and it flashed like a star. And his back legs grew long and powerful.”

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I’ve always taken this to mean he was given a white tail to attract them and speed to outrun them. A twisted torturous curse. You can watch the beautiful opening sequence over at Turner Classic Movies.

In the new version the line’s written:

“Grow a tail to confuse those chasing you and legs to outrun them.”

This fundamental change is very unfortunate. Not cool.

Although it was a nice touch that they added,

“Grow ears to hear any of your thousand enemies from miles away.”

My second issue is with another scene that had a big impact on a younger me. In it Fiver warns his brother Hazel of the terrible things he’s seen in visions. The music here lends a sadness and as the blood pours down the hillside a tuba turns it to terror and dread.

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The new version just didn’t do it. Everything was there except good music.

Speaking of music, in general it was boring and brought nothing. And there was no Art Garfunkel, not even over the closing credits...

Which brings me to my last complaint (I promise). Again it’s the opening sequence, but it also ties with the end. The Black Rabbit of Death is mentioned and shown in the opening sequence of the original. In my opinion it needs to be in that first scene. It gives the end that much more weight and ties everything together. It’s one of two bookends. It’s powerful.

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No mention of it in the new opening sequence. Shitty.

Other than that, pretty good.

The video below speaks on how the new version compares with the book as well as the original movie. I share his opinion on the animation, good enough, I guess.

Oh, and ah...one more thing,

Y U NO PUT ORIGINAL ON NETFLIX!?