It’s definitely nice to see that claymation films are still a thing. When you think of claymation, you think of Nick Park and the Wallace & Gromit series and now he is back, along with a great cast and a prehistoric setting that is surely ripe for comedy.
Synopsis: Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures roamed the Earth, EARLY MAN tells the story of courageous caveman hero Dug and his best friend Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy to save their home. (eOne Films)
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, and Maisie Williams
Writers: Mark Burton and James Higginson
Director: Nick Park
Rating: PG (Canada/United States)
Running Time: 89mins
For showtimes and more, check out Early Man on movietimes.com.
You probably have seen this story before more or less but there’s just something about seeing it played out as stop-motion claymation that somehow makes it feel different. Underdog stories have existed throughout the history of film and this was still the case here. After a tribe of cavemen have their valley plundered by the greedy Lord Nooth (Hiddleston), it is up to the courageous Dug (Redmayne) to rally his fellow tribe to get it back though this will be easier said than done.
Dug’s tribe of primitive cavemen (and women) were exactly that which made them fun to watch with plenty of surprisingly funny moments and some silly creatures along the way, including a pig named Hognob (Nick Park) and a comically large duck just to name a few. They were a simple group, satisfied with their way of life for several generations. Their lives were disturbed once the technologically advanced Nooth arrived to plunder bronze from their precious valley.
The contrast between the primitive Dug and the advanced society behind Nooth was interesting and could have been one of the biggest selling points but it didn’t go nearly far enough with it. Despite this, it led to Dug meeting a shop stall owner with higher aspirations named Goona (Williams). The story kind of introduced a romantic relationship between Dug and Goona, however, it didn’t go far enough with this either to make it mean anything more.
The film could also be considered a sports film as soccer (or football) played a large role in the story. The only way in which Dug’s tribe could get their valley back was if they could beat Nooth’s soccer team. Dug’s tribe of cavemen obviously weren’t soccer players so having to take on Nooth’s champions seemed like an insurmountable undertaking for anyone, let alone a caveman. With Goona at his side, they had to train the other cavemen in time for their big game. This played out like any other sports film, however, the caveman aspect set it apart and was compelling to watch, even with the inevitable outcome, being a kids film.
With most animated films relying on CGI, stop-motion films let alone claymation films have been few and far between. Putting a film like this together is hard work for sure therefore the work from the animators here should be commended, especially since most scenes featured several characters on screen at once. The soccer game sequences, including the crowd shots, were exciting to watch.
The voice acting was solid across the board and did the best it could have done with the story. The characters may not be memorable but all the actors contributed with solid efforts. Redmayne’s Dug was a likable enough main character thanks to his quirky voice. Williams’ Goona was charming. The most memorable character will surely be Hiddleston’s Nooth. Hiddleston’s french accented villain was often funnier than not, allowing him to steal a fair share of scenes.
Overall, this was an entertaining animated film with a solid underdog story and plenty of funny moments along the way including the performance of Tom Hiddleston as the film’s over the top villain. While it may not be the most memorable film, it’s definitely still worth the watch.