Kicking off the new year I feel is a very ‘Aaron-type’ movie, besides the fact I made it, it’s a plot device I wish was used more in movies. 🙂 I wanted this to be more than a ‘dog movie.’ I wanted people who also enjoyed dark plots and horror to enjoy it too.
Written by: Aaron B.
-Thanks to this Watership Down Fan Site for help with location names and spelling of characters. Spoilers ahead. –
After I read the novel “Watership Down” in high school, I kept imaging some other take on the story. The original film made in the 70’s happens to be my favorite animated movie of all time due to its uniqueness and style. I’ve watched it a few times and I still think it’s my favorite so far. I heard Netflix was doing an adaptation with the BCC way back in 2015, and I waited and waited for this.
Reading every article, watching the casting news and every little thing including trailers, I had been talking about this ‘dream epic’ adaptation of one of my favorite books for so long, and I really couldn’t believe when it was announced.
I watched one episode a night, so I’ll break down each one.
Episode 1- The big night. Sitting down to watch this was like a dream come true, from the opening with the tale of El-ahrairah. Then we saw Sandleford and just seeing how neat the rabbits looked and hearing them say the names Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig was so amazing, I really liked the designs for the most part, the environments looked detailed and neat. I know a big controversy with this series is ‘the animation isn’t good’ and ‘it looks like a PS2 game.’ In the first episode, I didn’t notice it all too much here, but I’ll touch on it soon.
The events were close to the book, and I was happy- I especially enjoyed the cliffhanger ending with Captain Holly and we see a glimpse of General Woundwort before the credits rolled. Something I did pay attention to the end credit music. I wasn’t sure if they’d use an epic instrumental or maybe some other version of ‘Bright Eyes’ by Art Garfunkel. Instead we get an original song by Sam Smith entitled “Fire On Fire”.
This is I suppose the theme for WSD 2018 and I love it. It’s not as beautiful as Bright Eyes and Art has a much better vocal range, rather it’s more of an epic song that fits in with something like “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” which perfectly fits the tone of what they’re doing. I suppose as I always said ‘Watership Down is Lord of The Rings starring bunnies.’ So, I love the new theme and after the first episode, I got goosebumps. Really because seeing a new adaption of one of my favorite epic tales was something I thought would never happen. Honestly? This so far was almost exactly like I pictured it. Not a story about bloody rabbits, but a journey with magic and dark themes. A journey that is about hope and adventure.
Episode 2- I was curious on how they would do Kehaar the seagull, one of my only faults with the 1970’s WSD is how he was handled. I liked him fine in the book, but it seemed like they made him way to annoying. I’m happy to say that while he’s not my favorite, I did enjoy him much more here. I really didn’t think I’d like the farm section as much, with breaking out the rabbits, but that ended up being super intense. I loved when they broke into the house at night as well, I don’t remember if that was in the book or not, but it was nice. I liked the darker tone of this episode as well, they seem to get slightly more disturbing every episode.
Episode 3- The second to last episode I knew had to be quite bold, since I knew what it was leading up to and I knew episode 4 was going to be pretty much drawn out battle between the two warrens and the way they built this up was very good! Bigwig being a spy and seeing his plotline was super engaging, I feel that this episode was the darkest out of the four. There’s a lot of somber moments and I feel like General Woundwort really showed a lot of evil here. I give super big props to the voice actor Ben Kingsley who really conveyed his twisted ideas and gave an intimidating performance, I feel like he stole every scene he was in. The highlight of this episode for me was right before the ending, when Bigwig is asked to kill one of the female rabbits and that haunting song plays as the rain pours.
None of the plot choices bothered me, they had section focusing on the female characters and I liked it, especially Hyzenthlay and how hopeless she was under Woundwort’s reign. Really good storytelling.
Bigwig ended up being my second favorite character in the story because of this episode, Hazel is number 1 since I feel like he has a lot of qualities I aspire to, but I won’t get to into that. I also liked the scar on Hazel’s leg after he got shot, it was ugly and looked much better than the hand drawn wound in the original. I guess that’s an unfair comparison, but it’s how I felt at the time.
The only negative I found in this episode was at one point in the opening as one of the female rabbits is searching for Hazel, some of the camera movements looked odd to me. I mean, it is a TV show, so I do also understand that the budget doesn’t allow for perfect cinematography. I also think they handled the cliffhanger well, I wasn’t sure where they’d leave it and I think they did the best possible option.
Episode 4- I was sad to watch this today, I really wanted it all to keep going, but I guess I’d rather have something rather short then dragged out. The opening of Woundwort’s childhood was interesting and something that wasn’t in the book. Did it do its job of making me feel for the villain? I don’t know honestly, I feel like he did so much evil and was so egomaniacal that it’s hard for me to see him as anything more than scum, but it was interesting to see this, it confused me at first, but then it quickly goes forward to the present.
The best visual in this episode was by far Kehaar swooping through the air, they had a slow-motion shot of him flying, with the rain falling and the lightening flashing. Such a good visual, reminded me of something out of “Legend of the Guardians”, the movie that came out in 2010. The bulk of this episode rested on the battle between the warrens. My goodness, they did such a good job with this, not shying away from bloody scars and death-they really made it like something out of a war movie.
The death of Captain Holly was something I didn’t think would happen, I don’t know if it happened in any version of the story, it was effective for sure. While I said episode 3 was the darkest, episode 4 is the most violent as it should be for a war. The intensity of rabbits breaking into the warren and the screams for help was both depressing and gripping, even though I knew the outcome. One thing I will say was the epic score was amazing here by Federico Jusid, it reminded me of a classic epic tale with the choir booming as the dog chasses down Hazel and goes to the warren to kill Woundwort. Just so good and it’s how I pictured it in my head as I read the book.
One thing I DID like about Woundwort was he wasn’t a coward when the dog came, yes, he’s evil-but a tough bastard. I like that in a bad guy, he fights his own battles and fought Bigwig of course. I was curious on how they’d end it, would it be similar to the source or would they do something different? I kind of hoped it would be similar, and it was. I loved how after the battle we had lush landscapes and baby rabbits playing, showing the future of the warren. The little bits of comedy were fine, I never laughed much during the show which really doesn’t matter. You don’t laugh during something like “Lord of the Rings”, so it wasn’t something I was looking for of course.
The lines I loved the most were when Fivver approached Hazel as he was about to nap in the grass and said something along the lines of ‘goodnight brother, it’s been quite a journey.’ Like he knew Hazel was going to die but didn’t want to admit it fully and wanted a fond fair well, that did get me a tiny bit choked up since I didn’t expect it. The last visual of a rabbit shaped cloud as the sun set was beautiful and how you could faintly hear Bluebell telling the tale of Hazel to the children was a very nice touch, in fact I think the lines he was saying were from the book directly. Did Bluebell write Watership Down? Hm. That would be an interesting conspiracy theory. Lol.
Overall- I loved this. Was is perfect though? Did it meet every expectation? I’m going to say out of 100%? 90% yes. Overall it was exactly what I wanted. As a true fan though, I can’t help but see tiny little things I would have improved on. Of course, some of this maybe they did the best they could, as it was a TV show and not a multimillion-dollar Hollywood movie. Some of it was script related though as well.
The camera work was a bit odd at points and looked a bit artificial, to much like a video game at some points. Some of the fight scenes looked like they could have been polished a bit in the first episode, BUT where the fighting counted, it was great in the finale, so I won’t take points off for that.
I admit, it would have been amazing to see this on a Hollywood budget, while the animation was good-I feel like with a Hollywood budget it would have been amazing. Something like a DreamWorks movie? Again though, for a TV show I was really impressed with how it looked, and I think the TV show format told a more engaging story than a two-hour movie could have, so I much prefer the TV format for this story and I’m glad it ended up this way in the end. Sacrifice a tiny bit of ‘good graphics’ to tell a more gripping and faithful adaption of the novel, I’ll take it. I really want to own this on Blu-Ray, incase steaming services end and I can’t re-watch it.
Maybe at some point, I’ll get my hands on at least a DVD. Maybe from Britain? This must be my favorite series of 2018, something I waited so long for ended up happening and it really was fantastic and if you have Netflix, watch it. Even if you think ‘rabbits aren’t my thing’, there’s so much to enjoy here. If you love the book, what are you waiting for? To me, this is one of the best book adaptations ever to come out as far as TV is concerned. The animated film is still my favorite animated movie ever, this lacks the imagination of the original but to me, this is a much more powerful and emotional telling of the novel. Both are excellent and very different. Which do I prefer? I have to say, with much surprise-the 2018 version. Yes, the 70’s one is super unique and it’ll remain a movie I won’t forget, but this series as I stated, perfectly represents the tone and the spirit of an epic adventure and to me.
So, I hope you all enjoyed my newest short story, “Buck.” It’s a story I’d been wanting to write for a long time, and I hope all of you find it enjoyable and the artwork ended up being awesome!
So, I was going to make a Christmas short film, but honestly my heart wasn’t really in it. I tried filming it, but I just wasn’t feeling it, so I decided to start thinking of 2019 short film projects, which I already have an idea-I won’t reveal it too much, but it’s an internet show, much like something on Netflix, I’m hoping to get going on it within the next few days and writing scripts for each episode, it’s a rather ambitious idea, but I like a good challenge.
Now, onto my novel, “Forlorn”, my cousin is editing it as we speak! So, after he edits it, I’m going to go through it one more time, and then I’m hoping my dad will read it and then it will be ready to publish! I’m hoping for an Xmas release, if not then, January 2019. We are nearing so close to the release! I’m hoping to have a release party at my local library, that would be really cool.
Connie sat the terrified human on the bed upstairs. She spoke in as calm of a voice as she could muster. “Aiden, we’re going to wait until Stetson comes back. If he doesn’t, I’ll go looking for him.” Stuttering, Aiden held her paw gently. “D-don’t go, please.” Connie took this time to clean up, to rearrange her weapons and make sure that whatever happened she’d be prepared. For so long she had been alone, now that she had someone to look after, she wouldn’t fail them.
Marco couldn’t walk very fast, the injuries still plagued him. He had gone to the doctor, and they wanted to keep him overnight, but he wouldn’t have it. He wanted to make Stetson’s life a living hell. A furry hurting a hunter was embarrassing, even more embarrassing was the fact that the woods are littered with orange-vested bodies which Stetson and Connie killed.
Breathing heavily, he saw Connie’s house in the distance. He would get his son back. He knew that whatever furry he killed in the future, he’d proudly display. No more hiding his hobby. Furries needed to fear him. Maybe even some humans needed to fear him.
The wind kicked up. Sending shivers through the large man as he lumbered closer and closer to the house, his gun raised and ready to fire. The inside of his mouth felt frozen and ached like nothing he’d ever experienced. He couldn’t take pills, they would fall right through the jagged hole on the side of his mouth.
The sound of the ATV engine approached, and intense headlights filled Marco’s eyes before he had time to turn to take the shot at Connie through the bedroom window, he was slammed by the metal vehicle. Looking up at Stetson from his fallen position, he saw the battered, mud covered vigilante. The front wheel of the vehicle was pressed into his right leg, sitting on his knee cap.
Keeping the engine going, the buck sighed. The snowflakes fell hard onto his fur, creating a slightly moist feeling. He didn’t feel the cold, he didn’t feel the gentle blanket of snow beneath his feet, he only paid attention to Marco. Stetson’s entire body didn’t feel right, his big muscles ached, and he knew from the fall from the tree, at least two of his ribs were bruised.
Looking down at Marco, he couldn’t help but smile a bit as he saw how badly damaged his cheek was. “Gotta say Marco, you hunters are persistent.” The bearded man tried to move his leg out from under the wheel, aiming the shotgun at Stetson, the deer swiftly kicked Marco’s face, causing him to give up the weapon. With blood oozing from his nose and seeping into his eyes, Marco begged for his life. “Please Stetson. I-I’m sorry! I’llstop trophy hunting! I’ll STOP! I’m sorry about everything!” His words were slurred from his injury, but Stetson understood it plainly enough.
From the upstairs window, Connie and Aiden looked at the front yard. The bloody and muddy furry standing triumphantly over the battered hunter. An image neither of them thought they’d see. The bright headlights from the ATV perfectly lighting the action as it unfolded. “Marco. If I let you live, that won’t be a good example for all the others. Sadly, you’re only one in hundreds of humans who enjoy these sick little hunting games.” Yelling at the top of his lungs, Marco closed his eyes tightly. Hoping this was a nightmare. Pressing his boot onto Marco’s neck, the deer pressed hard. Marco’s breathing became nothing but giant wheezes and soon, the pressure became too much for his body. His neck snapped, sending his head cocked to one side,nearly turning it all the way around.
Hearing Connie’s front door open, Aiden came rushing to Stetson and wrapped his arms around him tightly. Looking down at Aiden’smessed up hair, he hugged back. This was the first hug he received in a longtime. Crying, the human nuzzled Stetson’s chest. “L-love you.” He muttered out,the deer thought he heard him right. Love?
At first it seemed puzzling. But then, maybe it all came through. Aiden was trapped, abused and then rescued. Not just by a furry, but by a furry who was once a dad and had natural fatherly instincts, even though they had not really surfaced in a long time. Stetson sat in the snow,Aiden didn’t let go of his warm body. Not caring the deer was caked in mud,worms and snow. All the fear Aiden had felt had boiled up to this.
The fear that Marco would kill him, the fear that he’d see Stetson die on his quest for revenge. Hugging someone he felt close to was something he needed. Rubbing Aiden’s back, Stetson realized that he too needed time to relax and feel comfortable. Like before, the cold didn’t bother him. Sitting in the icy snow, holding a human who hadn’t felt love like this perhaps ever in his life. The two of them barely move.
Aiden shifts his position, sitting in Stetson’s large lap. The flashbacks to Daisy were not painful, they were a soft, gentle reminder of his days as a dad. Stetson couldn’t help but shed a small tear, he knew that maybe his days as a caretaker would be far from over. Whether or not Aiden would live with another furry family or go to human parents didn’t matter. The buck would see the human as often as he could. He’d always makesure Aiden was okay, wherever he ended up.
Connie began to blackout. The last thing she may feeling her life is the suffocation from this brute of a beagle. Her back began to hurt as he pressed her into the floorboards hard. She knew her only shot to kill the dog was risky, on his belt a hunting knife was in its sheath. Reaching under him would be difficult, grunting she forced her hand under his big belly, stretching her arm to the limit until she thought her tendons would snap from the stretching, she grabbed the handle of the serrated blade and reached to the left side, she jammed the blade into his neck. She didn’t remove it. Triggerbarked in pain as she twisted the knife, blood shot from his neck like a fountain. Connie’s paw became sheathed in thick, red liquid. Like spots of rain, blood fell onto her face and eyes, she shoved the large dog over, stabbing him a few more times, listening for his breath become labored, to shallow, to nothing at all.
Standing up, she put the knife in her pocket and grabbed her gun. Heading upstairs, she had to be careful not to splinter herself on the broken pieces of wood, she rushed to the room Aiden was hiding in, hugging her tightly he sighed in pure terror. He thought for sure she’d be dead. Unlike Stetson, Connie was used to being hugged her entire life and always welcomed it. “Holding up okay, Aiden?” The human nodded and didn’t let go. She let him have a moment of cuddling.
Marco finished digging. He put his large shovel down, he smiled. Not caring that he could no longer speak due to his cheek injury, but his feelings of hatred grew with each passing hour. He didn’t care ifStetson ended up on his mantel or someone else’s. He wanted him dead. Not just dead. He wanted him to suffer. Under the thick dirt of the woods seemed like a fitting end. No one would find his carcass, and if they did-maybe some other hunter would tie him to a truck and use him for decoration. No matter what,Marco would be happy.
The deformity on the left side of his opened face wouldn’t matter, the fact that the gash Stetson had caused his cheek to open and one could see the inside of his mouth clearly, teeth, tongue and all. The fact he would have to eat through a g-tube his entire life didn’t matter either. All that mattered was Stetson being dead. He had dragged his body about a mile away from Connie’s house. Now it was time to deal with that pretty coyote and maybe get his son back.
The deer couldn’t move, taking in a breath felt suffocating. The cold walls bound him in like a trap. The first thing he knew not to do was panic, it didn’t take long for him to realize he had little air and was underneath the cold, hard ground. As he forced his way up using his fists, he had to make sure not to cave himself in. He hoped he could lift his head and use his large antlers as a sort of makeshift shovel, but as soon as he tried, he knew he couldn’t. The space was too tight. Whoever the hunter was, he got him into a trap. Pushing way more, it was hard to take tiny gasps for air,he felt his large body sweat as he pushed and pushed. A clump of dirt entered his mouth on accident. His eyes watered. Would he choke on this and die here? The lives of Aiden and Connie ruined? No. He couldn’t let it happen. Redemption was needed. For them and for his own heart. Something good had to come out of this other than pure vengeance. Feeling the tip of his finger hit the evening air felt like a Godsend. Groaning loudly, he punched his way through to the ground, his upper body was nearly to the top. The first to come up were hisantler’s dripping with mud and thick soil.
Coughing violently, he pushed himself up using two arms, his jacket was missing, his tank top was ripped and so covered in dirt, only a faint outline of it could be seen. His fur matted and tangled, his jeans heavy with rocks and everything else that was underground. He knelt to the forest floor, throwing up clumps of rock and soil. He clutched his chest,breathing as much as he could.
Standing up, he tried to figure out exactly where he was, but everything looked the same. It wasn’t a good sign, whoever dragged him here, dragged him far into the wilderness, he had to get back to Connie and Aiden, no matter what the cost may be. Sniffing the air, Stetson headed in the direction which felt the most familiar, he knew the woods quite well. Kneeling, he felt the soil on the palm of his hand, feeling where the dirt sunk a tad bit where he had been dragged.
Walking to Connie’s house would be a chore, he knew a general direction to where it was, but he knew it would take a long time. He had no weapons, only his bare hands to help him through whatever he needed to do.
His ear flicked to the sound of an engine approaching.Engine? What type of engine? A car? A truck? No. It was a small vehicle,the sound isn’t big. It’s higher pitched. First thing’s first, hide. Where an engine goes, a hunter follows.
Hoisting himself on the tree directly below where he was buried, he saw a pair of headlights approach. The area wasn’t to clear, thespot where he was underground was now a giant hole, the red ATV parked, aslender hunter wearing camo pants and a bright orange vest holding a gun hoppedoff, he left the engine running.
The slight smell of gas entered Stetson’s nostrils. He narrowed his eyes, looking down. The hunter was looking for the remains of the deer presumably. With a flashlight hooked to his gun, he aimed it to the hole. Thinking he was alone, he began to talk to himself. “Where the hell did he go? Marco said he was right here for me to get.” Stetson’s ears stick straight up into the air.
Marco?! That ugly slime ball is alive! How?
No time to think about it now. Leaping from the tree, Stetson slammed into the hunter who barely had time to react. His boot crushed his neck like a toothpick between two fingers. Grabbing the hunter’s weapon, he cocked it and hoisted it over his shoulder using the convenient strap.
Tiredness began to take over, but he couldn’t let it hurt him. Not now. Not for a long time. Hopping onto the four-wheeler, he revved the engine and drove through twigs and fallen leaves. The deer hadn’t driven an ATV in a long time, when he was a teenager he did since he always lived in the woods with his parents, it didn’t take him long to remember how to accelerate and break. This transportation was perfect for traversing the dense woods, he made little work of the obstacles in his way, going past large rocks and trying not to hit trees.