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This IS me (by schwitters)Default

The Primroses Were Over

In the absence of Christmas Dr Who, my principal festive viewing was the two-part BBC/Netflix adaptation of Watership Down.

I didn't have a problem with the CGI, as many viewers did - even though a few days earlier I'd given up on the Netflix CGI White Fang two minutes in as being too horrible to endure. There were also complaints that the rabbits looked more like hares; my biggest beef was that they were shown with pads on their paws, whereas any furry knows they just have fluff.

There were a few changes to events and characters; most worked very well, while some seemed irritatingly pointless. And why was poor little Pipkin left out entirely?

The story and characters were brought up to date in a way that never jars with the original ethos; I can't imagine any earlier version of Hazel saying "Do you feel ready to talk about what happened, Holly?" but it's perfect for a good 21st-century leader.

All adaptations struggle with the dearth of female characters - the new warren's lack of the does needed to dig burrows and produce the next generation is a major plot driver, and Richard Adams was frankly better at writing men than women (many of the characters in Watership Down were based on his experiences in the army).

This version deals with it by bumping up the roles played by Hyzenthlay and hutch rabbit Clover, has the Black Rabbit of Inlé voiced hauntingly by Rosamund Pike, and gender-swaps Strawberry, the rabbit who joins the group from Cowslip's warren, expanding her part to a wonderful comic turn from Olivia Colman.

The voice talent was excellent all round, though the standout for me was Peter Capaldi as seagull Kehaar: raucous, selfish and very Scottish. John Boyega made an excellent Bigwig, one of my favourite characters. (As a youngster I was all about Fiver, but these days I favour brave, no-nonsense Thlayli, the Obelix to Hazel's Asterix; I'm also very fond of Bluebell, because 'the one who makes jokes in times of trouble' would probably be my role in a rabbit warren.)

Some of the more horrifying scenes of the 1978 film, like the destruction of Sandleford, were toned down, but there was still plenty of scary to go round: Fiver's perception of the roof at Cowslip's warren as made of bones freaked me out considerably, and there was an extra plotline in which General Woundwort invites the captive Clover to bear his kits in the creepiest way imaginable.

I was braced for a poignant ending - as we all know, it seems to the elderly Hazel that he won't be needing his body any more, so he leaves it on the side of a ditch and goes off to join the spectral Owsla.

I was not prepared for Fiver, who has clearly foreseen what's coming, sitting beside Hazel-Rah and telling him what a good friend, brother and leader he's been, nor for hearing one of the rabbits start to tell the story of Watership Down to the little ones using Richard Adams's words from the opening of the book.

It took me ten minutes to stop crying.
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Comments

I had not planned to watch this, but your write up makes me think I might after all.
I hope you enjoy it! I went in a bit cynical but it won me over.