After a meteorite strikes the ground cavemen gather around it. As they surround the meteorite, one of them decides to kick it, thus creating the game of soccer. Many years later, the cavemen have forgotten all about soccer, and now hunt rabbits. The bronze age begins, invading the caveman’s land which creates a war (of soccer) between the stone age and the bronze. The rabbit hunting tribe is forced to reconnect with their ancestors to play a game of soccer, and win back their land.
Nick Park and Aardman Animations have been behind some of the best claymation films have to offer. Together they made “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep,” but their most popular venture is “Wallace & Gromit”. All of them have been extremely well received and are adored by their fans. With “Early Man,” however, their success may have stumbled. Their latest project is very much a hiccup in the Aardman filmography. The rushed plot, poor character development, and lack of character motivation eat away at what could have been an excellent movie.
“Early Man” does have some strong aspects. The whole voice cast give excellent performances. Doug (played by Eddie Redmayne) is a goofy, innocent, and charming caveman, easily compared to Redmayne’s portrayal of Newt in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Maisie Williams plays Doug’s semi-love interest, Goona, but was mostly just a huge soccer enthusiast. It is hard to say whether or not Doug and Goona were supposed to be in love because the character’s interests were pretty poorly executed. Goona just wants to play soccer and that was pretty much the only reason she helps Doug. Doug just thought she was pretty. The standout of the film was Tom Hiddleston playing the villain, Lord Nooth. It was surprising to see Hiddleston’s name next to the character in the credits because Lord Nooth sounds nothing like him.
While the film does falter in the writing department, its production quality is the type of top notch claymation one would expect from Aardman Animations. Nick Park and his team of animators created yet another whimsical-looking world. The iconic Aardman eyes and the cheesy smiles are bound to make any audience member smile. There is just something so childlike and fun to the look of the film. Except for one prehistoric dinosaur duck, which is probably one of the scariest looking things the animation studio has ever come up with.
Soccer fans will probably enjoy “Early Man”. Aardman die-hards and claymation fans will probably love it. It will more than likely break even, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be a money maker. Overall, there was potential here, but it’s a pretty big misstep for a usually superb director.
“Early Man” was directed by Nick Park and stars Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston. It was released on February 16th, 2018 and is rated PG.