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The Watership Down Trailer Features Conflicted Rabbits and Existentialism

The BBC has released the first trailer for the upcoming Netflix miniseries Watership Down, and it’s full of conflicted rabbits that rely on their unbreakable bonds to survive in a cruel world. Based on Richard Adams’ acclaimed 1972 novel of the same name, Watership Down is an adventure story set in Southern England. The narrative about culture, communication, and relocation inspired a 1978 feature film, which became infamous for its dark narrative, and for inspiring filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro, Wes Anderson, and Zack Snyder, to name a few.

Last month, the BBC announced the celebrity voice cast, which includes James McAvoy (Glass), Olivia Colman (The Favourite), John Boyega (Star Wars), and Rosamund Pike (A Private War), along with other notable English performers. The first images were also released, teasing a trailer that would be anything but a traditional kids story.

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After weeks of anticipation from Watership Down loyalists, the BBC has officially premiered the first trailer; a clip that highlights the rabbits’ internalized fears and quest for absolute freedom. Whereas most animal stories typically begin with lush naturalistic visuals, the Watership Down trailer opens with an animated rabbit dreamscape, thus setting the tone for the contrast between good and evil, along with the film’s primary themes. Throughout the 90-second clip, the rabbits display their camaraderie with comedic banter, but the good moments are followed by literally dark images, all of which underline the inherent struggle of living a life devoid of constant fear. There’s an epic quality to the trailer, much like the world-building in Game of Thrones, and the celebrity voices add a touch of familiarity. Overall, each sequence packs in plenty of narrative information, whether it’s overt or slightly under the surface.

While the A-list names attached to the Watership Down miniseries will draw in various demographics, the addition of pop star Sam Smith will surely appeal to younger viewers. The English singer-songwriter co-wrote the film’s original title song “Fire on Fire,” and has been on record about his excitement for being involved in the retelling of a story that’s “so powerful and timeless.” While Watership Down’s director, Noam Murro, only has two previous feature film credits to his name, one of them is the 2014 movie 300: Rise of an Empire, an epic historical fantasy war film based on the Battle of Artemisium. 

Watership Down will undoubtedly have dark moments, but how dark will they be? In a time when mainstream audiences seem to prefer psychological horror to overt gore, it’s likely that the filmmakers will focus more on the rabbits’ journey rather than killing off supporting characters. We’ll find out when Watership Down premieres on Netflix December 23.

More: The 25 Best Films on Netflix Right Now

Source: BBC / YouTube

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