Starring: John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox
Director: Martin Rosen
Running Time: 101 mins
Watership Down is a British film about a group of rabbits who are forced to flee their home, and in their attempts to survive out in the open, face many life-threatening dangers from all around.
Well, this is a really, really dark film, especially considering that it’s meant for family-viewing. It may have the beautiful look of all traditionally animated films, and that will be appealing for kids, but the actual story is pretty horrible, coupled with some shockingly graphic scenes that make this a pretty terrifying film for almost anyone, young or old.
The film follows a group of rabbits who audaciously escaped their warren, despite the protestations of the chief rabbit, because one rabbit had a premonition of the fields around their home being covered with blood. Already, it’s a pretty upsetting affair, but it’s the clear hardships that the fleeing rabbits face as they are forced from their home that are really heavy-going.
On the one hand, you want to love these cute little bunny rabbits, but this film does an excellent job of showing the brutality of mother nature, and that even these rabbits can be cold-blooded killers. That’s a pretty interesting and shocking theme to see unfold as they make their journey across the English countryside, but it does beg the question of whether this film really is suitable for kids.
A lot of the deeper and more emotionally harrowing themes will go over kids’ heads, and they’ll see the rabbits’ journey more like the one in Homeward Bound, but it’s the final act, where the rabbits come across another warren run by a disgusting old rabbit who rules with an iron fist, that it really gets too much.
Firstly, that evil rabbit is pretty scary himself. He’s covered in scars, one of his eyes is blind, and he has a horrible voice to go with his dictatorial style. But what’s worst is the way that this film represents the fight sequences that the rabbits attempting to oppose him become involved in.
Again, for anyone over the age of 12, it’s not traumatising, but it remains hugely disturbing and graphic, but for younger children, this is where it will be really difficult to watch. The fights are gory and violent, and feel as real as anything, with a very effective, but truly painful ripping sound effect playing every time a rabbit cuts into another with its claws, making every cut seem more horrible than the last, and making the fights even more uncomfortable, although impressive, to watch.
Overall, Watership Down gets a 7.5 from me, because it is a fascinating and very heavy-going drama about the brutalities of nature, but you must be very careful showing this to young children, because it’s very graphic and extremely upsetting.