Best-selling “Watership Down” author Richard Adams dismissed those who called his classic novel an allegory, saying it’s simply a story about rabbits. But Noam Murro, the director of a four-part, animated adaptation, believes the story’s lessons are more subtle. “It’s embedded in the text but a lot of it is subtext, without wearing its allegorical stripes on its shoulders,” said Murro, 57. “That’s what makes a really great piece of art, versus something that’s trying to be didactic.”
The story, previously depicted in a bloody 1978 animated film, follows a group of harried hares who are looking for a new home when a human construction project threatens to destroy their underground warren. They set out for greener pastures, facing threats from humans and other animals along the way.
The new adaptation took nearly seven years to make and features cinematic vistas and rabbits with lifelike mannerisms. The characters are voiced by actors like James McAvoy (as leader Hazel), Nicholas Hoult (clairvoyant rabbit Fiver), Gemma Chan (Dewdrop), Peter Capaldi (Kehaar), Sir Ben Kingsley (General Woundwort) and Rosamund Pike (Black Rabbit, the angel of death).
Murro, who directed 2014’s “300: Rise of an Empire,” spoke with The Post by phone from LA.
How does your film differ from the 1978 movie?
Some moviegoers who saw the movie in their childhood remember it as a traumatizing experience because of [the]gore. We never wanted anybody to hide behind a couch while watching it; the idea is not to shock you. Violence is an incredibly important part of this story — that’s part of nature, whether human or animal. But it’s never about gore, or gratuitous violence.