These days we have the technology to produce animated films with relative ease and efficiency. It’s infinitely simpler to harness the power of advanced software, than say manipulate clay models by hand to create every single frame of a picture. But the audacious Aardman Studios have done just that yet again with what producer Nick Park describes as a “prehistoric underdog sports movie”.
The stop motion technique has an undeniably appealing aesthetic. The painstakingly crafted characters of the comedy Early Man and the rich world they inhabit, form a charm offensive that is instantly engaging and breaks down any resistance the audience might have to going along for the ride.
Strange as it may seem, the film centres around a football match between a small Stone Age tribe and a city of Bronze Age folk. In a bizarre quirk of history, the more advanced bronze people consider the sport, which was played by their ancestors, a fully fledged religion. When Lord Nooth, their Trump-esque leader, threatens the tribe people’s home, plucky protagonist Dug challenges him to a match.
If the small group of spear wielders win they can have their lushious valley back. If they lose they will live out the rest of their days working down a mine. The only problem is they have never played the game before…
Early Man relies heavily on slapstick. Barely a minute goes by without someone tripping over themselves or being struck by a blunt object. It’s a riot of laughs from beginning to end. In one stand out scene, a pig has to pretend to be a masseuse. This prompted giggles and guffaws in the cinema.
The film boasts a collection of famous voices. Tom Hiddleston plays the pompous villain to great comic effect, while loveable good guy Dug is voiced by Eddie Redmayne. Richard Ayoade and Johnny Vegas are instantly recognisable to the ear as hapless cavemen. The soundtrack features some tried and tested songs from bands like Kaiser Chiefs and The Vamps, as well as its own dynamic, spellbinding score. The music carried the movie, a great deal of which is fast paced action.
Those old enough to remember them will hold Nick Park’s early Wallace and Gromit films in high esteem, for their ingenious clay contraptions and outlandish plot lines. These days Aardman is better known for 2015’s Shaun the Sheep Movie. At 84 minutes, Early Man is a short and sweet film, something which young people and those with a modern attention span alike will appreciate.
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