There is a very strong chance that you like (or would like) the content released by Aardman Studios, even if you haven’t heard that name before. They are the creators behind the Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep franchises, as well as several other films like Flushed Away and Chicken Run. They specialize is the dying art form of claymation as well as injecting quirky British humor (humour) into their shows/movies. And because of this track record, their latest venture has generated a lot of excitement in our home. However, I will admit I was slightly disappointed with the outcome.
Here is the synopsis from the studio:
A plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to their simple existence. Lord Nooth plans to take over their land and transform it into a giant mine, forcing Dug and his clan to dig for precious metals. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy — the Bronze Age.
THINGS I LIKED
1. The Voice Cast is Brilliant. Aardman is able to get the best talent in the business in terms of the actors it attracts to lend their voices to their features. Early Man has Tom Hiddleston (Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Eddie Redmayne (Newt from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), and Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones). However, even with knowing going in who these actors were playing, they were mostly unrecognizable because of how well they did. It also had Richard Ayoade (The I.T. Crowd), who seems to make his way into every single British children’s film of late.
2. Lots of Great Visual Gags and Puns. As with their other films, the filmmakers really create some wonderful visual gags, payoffs, and puns. They go a little overboard in the latter department, but I will get into that later. I said to myself, “that’s clever” more than once.
3. The Animation is Amazing. The claymation in Early Man is quite brilliant. I am very happy that they have continued to keep this style of animation alive when I’m sure the temptation is very strong to move to CG/3D animation. They really have mastered this particular art form with every frame a joy to look at.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
1. The Film is a Love Letter to Soccer. I really think that the marketing of this film is a bit deceptive. In the first trailer there is almost no hint that this movie has soccer in it, and the second had a couple shots that suggested it was a part of the movie. Because of this I was shocked when finding out that the whole movie–start to finish–is about soccer (or ‘football’ as they call it across the pond). Even the official synopsis from the studio neglected to mention this detail. I am not a soccer fan, so I don’t think that I am the ideal audience for this movie. But I think it would have helped my experience if I had known that going on.
2. It has Lots of Inexplicable Humor (or ‘Humour’ I Should Say). There were lots of jokes that I know were meant to be funny, but I just didn’t get the references because they were either British or soccer-centric (or both). And they just kept coming, especially by the announcers at the end of the film. Of the few that I got, there was one about ‘Early Man United,’ which was a reference to Manchester United and is obviously the inspiration for the film’s title. It’s clever, but again, it isn’t something that most American audiences would get.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Early Man is love letter to soccer from start to finish. It’s clever, wonderfully voiced, and beautifully animated. It just wasn’t for me, however.