Watership Down (1978) Blind Spot Review

Watership Down (1978)

Directed by Martin Rosen & John Hubley

Based on Watership Down by Richard Adams

Starring: John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox, Roy Kinnear, Simon Cadell, Harry Andrews, Zero Mostel

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A group of rabbits flee their doomed warren and face many dangers to find and protect their new home.

My Opinion:

This is my second Blind Spot movie of 2017 after watching & reviewing The Hustler in January. I’ve never read the Watership Down book by Richard Adams and have managed to avoid spoilers for years. I’d only ever heard that the movie is “sad” so I will of course avoid giving any major spoilers in this review.

I’m still not quite sure what to think of this film. I watched it over a month ago & it goes up in my estimation the more I think about it. It was very good & I liked it but know it’s one that would grow on me after multiple watches. I have to say that I wish I’d grown up with it as that would make me appreciate it in a different sort of way. I also very much want to read the book now as I think it would make more sense of the story (I was extremely tired the night I watched this. As usual). I want the kid to read more classics so I have a feeling she’ll be getting this book as a gift from mommy so we can read it together when she’s older. It’ll prepare her for the movie, which I wouldn’t allow her to watch yet. Yes, this film is indeed extremely violent for an animated “family” film. I’ll come back to that topic in a bit…

Watership Down is very different from modern-day animated films. I mean that in a good way, though. It has the soul & bravery that a lot of classic kids’ stories had in the 1970s but which have been sucked out of the sanitized & meaningless “Happy Meal toy seller” movies pumped out by Hollywood nowadays. To quote two bits of trivia at IMDB, Watership Down is “considered to be the most violent animated PG-rated film ever made.” Also, “The British Board of Film Classification is still receiving complaints about this film after it was made almost 40 years ago.

It’s funny to think that, although I didn’t see this as a kid, I’d have probably seen it by the age of six or seven and my parents would’ve thought nothing of it whereas no one would let a kid that age watch this film now. I just find it amusing what people protect their kids from nowadays. They’ll shield them from an allegorical classic such as this but will think nothing of letting them have unmonitored Internet & social media access. They’ll think nothing of letting them do so many things that are far more psychologically damaging than watching Watership Down. Don’t worry – I’m not getting on my soapbox since, even though I know I’d have seen this by the time I was my kid’s age if I’d had the opportunity, there’s no WAY I’d let her watch this! Lol. 😉 Not yet. I’ll check out the book first as that seems like the better introduction but, to give a slight spoiler warning, this movie goes full-on “Bunny Road House at the end! I expected a polar bear to fall on someone. I expected Sam Elliott (stud) to show up & help guide the bunnies to safety. Be nice until it’s time to not be nice, little bunnies!

I often say “I’m now interested in reading the book” after watching a movie that I liked but I rarely do it as I don’t like doing it that way around (I try to always read the book before the movie adaptation if it’s something that interests me). I mean it this time, however. It strikes me as one that will go far deeper in the book as the rabbits have their entirely own culture, belief system, language, etc. The movie touches on this very well and I loved the look and animation style used at the start of the film to help explain their culture but would assume, as is usually the case, that the book will explain even more. The story being an allegory of many things, but mainly humanity in general, I’d like to read the book to more easily draw the parallels.

Finally, for those interested in the book or movie, I’ll say that it follows the classic Joseph Campbell “hero’s journey” sort of theme, which always makes for a great story. The epic journey and mythological themes also reminded me of just how much I loved The Warriors. Yes, that’s right! I did indeed just compare Watership Down to The Warriors & Road House. That’s a massive compliment because those movies are awesome. Okay – I’ve talked myself into it now: I really really liked Watership Down. It’s a fantastically epic allegorical journey worthy of its “classic” status. And Road House Bunny Warriors kick ass.

To end this review, I thought I better make mention of the book’s author (Richard Adams) and the voice our main character Hazel (brilliantly done by John Hurt). Both sadly passed away very recently and it’s just a coincidence that I chose this as a Blind Spot movie as I’d been wanting to see it for years. So, in their honor, I’m happy to say that Watership Down is a wonderful story and I’m very glad to have added another John Hurt classic to my recent list of My Top Ten John Hurt Movies (a list which is still sadly missing a few big films I have yet to see). I’ve now updated that list & Watership Down is very high (ain’t nothing gonna beat Alien, though! EVER). I hadn’t realized just how many voices Hurt had done for animated films and, based on how great he was in this, I’m now moving Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord Of The Rings (in which he voices Aragorn) much further up my “To Watch” list. So far, I’m very happy with my 2017 Blind Spot choices.

My Rating: 8/10

Here’s Art Garfunkel doing the Bright Eyes song from Watership Down. The song is actually only very briefly featured in the film – I expected to hear the whole thing…

**FYI: Netflix & the BBC are making a new Watership Down mini-series with a pretty impressive cast (James McAvoy, John Boyega, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley, and Gemma Arterton to name a few). This will apparently air sometime this year. I can’t find more current information on it but you can read an old article about it HERE at Variety.com. Will be interesting to see but I’ll read the book first. I’m sure this version will be a watered-down Watership Down… 

Oh, I actually managed to go to a movie over the weekend! And it was almost as violent as Watership Down. See you tomorrow with my review of John Wick: Chapter 2. 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009) Review

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev

Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson

Starring:

Michael Nyqvist
Noomi Rapace
Lena Endre
Sven-Bertil Taube
Peter Haber
Peter Andersson
Marika Lagercrantz
Ingvar Hirdwall
Björn Granath
Ewa Fröling

Plot Summary:

Wealthy retired businessman Henrik Vanger hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to investigate the mysterious 1966 disappearance of his favorite grandniece, Harriet. Blomkvist is aided in his investigation by a deeply troubled but genius young hacker by the name of Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo).

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My Opinion:

I know this is a very popular book & film series. I read the first book a few years ago. Yes, I thought it was good. The mystery was very compelling & I read the thing really quickly because I couldn’t wait to find out what had actually happened to Harriet Vanger. Top marks for the mystery! And then there was the character of Lisbeth Salander. Such an intriguing character! As I’ve only read the first book, I don’t know much about her. I didn’t enjoy the first book enough to read the rest but, if I ever do, it will only be to read more about her character & what happens to her & Blomkvist. You find out very little about her in the first one – I hope her character is more fully explored in the rest?

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As for the movie, it follows the novel very closely from what I remember other than (naturally) having to leave some things out to save on time. In the novel, the Vanger family is huge and so complex – I remember there was a family tree in the book that I had to keep going back to when I couldn’t remember who someone was in relation to everyone else. The movie seemed to leave a lot of this out but I think it still managed to be a bit confusing for viewers who hadn’t read the novel beforehand. I found all of the Vanger family members very underdeveloped in the film and was glad I’d read the book first so I had a bit more understanding of each of them.

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The film focuses much more on the far more interesting characters of Mikael Blomkvist & Lisbeth Salander. Which is fine as they’re the main characters in all the books (um, right?) but I think the intriguing mystery suffers a little bit in the film – it was much more exciting in the book. Part of this is me, though – I often don’t enjoy a film as much when it’s an adaptation of a book I’ve already read. And I get annoyed when the film isn’t faithful to the book but then get a little bored when it IS as it’s then an inferior version of what I’ve already “seen” in my head. Plus, with a mystery, once you know how it ends there’s not as much excitement in hearing the story again, I suppose.

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As for the actors, they all do a fine job. Yes, Noomi Rapace is very good – I know she’s been praised for the role. When looking this up for the review, I found it interesting that the title of this in Swedish, Män som hatar kvinnor, is “Men Who Hate Women”. Yes, that title makes sense. Lisbeth Salander has some kind of horrible history that’s hinted at in the film. And then there’s all the raping… Yes, lots of that. This is why I wasn’t really planning on reading the rest of the books and I’m not sure if I’m bothered about the rest of the films or not, although I’d like to know more about Lisbeth. Plus, there’s not enough hacking for my liking! She’s this brilliant hacker but they don’t go into that TOO much in the book or the film. I’m hoping there’s much more of this in the further books/films? I’d like far more hacking & far less raping. And Lisbeth kicking more ass. Will I get these things? Do you recommend I at least watch the further films? (Doubt I’ll bother with the books but I may enjoy the films more that way anyway).

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Summary:

A very compelling mystery that’s not explored in near as much detail in the film as in the novel, which I found a little disappointing. The family who are a part of this mystery are underdeveloped in the film. But the mystery kind of only really serves as a backdrop to the two main and much more interesting characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander anyway – I was satisfied with their portrayals in the film. There are very disturbing themes in the film that I can’t fully go into in case you’re one of the only people left who doesn’t know a thing about these books or films. Overall, this “genre” has just never been my sort of thing. The book & film ARE better than I’m making it sound and I suppose I would recommend them. If you’re not easily disturbed by misogynistic violence…

I hope Lisbeth kicks more ass in the further films.

My Rating: 7/10

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**This was the second place choice when I asked all of you which film I should review next. First place review is here: Exit Through The Gift Shop.

Thanks again for all your input. 🙂 Up next will be The Man Who Fell To Earth.