Let me save you some time; the message of Early Man can easily be summed up in one very simple sentence: your past does not define your future.
We have spent the last six years waiting for Aardman Animations to release a film. And we’ve waited even longer—18 years to be exact—since Aardman’s last excellent solo film; Chicken Run. Well, sit tight, because Early Man is definitely not the Aardman film we’ve been wasting away for.
Set in the Bronze Age, Dug (Eddie Redmayne) the caveman dreams of something more than the monotonous hunting activities of his dull-witted tribe. He spends his days deciphering the cave paintings left behind by his ancestors and yearns to face greater things. However, Dug receives more than he bargained for when the pompous Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) makes his entrance and does what white man does best—colonisation—and Dug and his tribe quickly find their home and hunting grounds stolen out from under them. With this, Dug courageously challenges The Bronze—Nooth’s personal football team—at what they’re known best for, with the agreement that the winner assumes full ownership of the valley.
Early Man explores, speculatively, the birth of soccer, as Dug and his fellow cavemen train in hopes of winning the tournament. While everybody loves a great underdog story, this film manages to completely obliterate the appeal of such a narrative with its overly predictable storyline and unbearably terrible script.
Many will flock to the theatres to catch a glimpse of Aardman’s new creation—mainly for the nostalgia factor—and some may even convince themselves that this film is amazing and was indeed worth the wait. But let’s not be disillusioned here. The film was a complete joke; it isn’t even qualified to stand alongside the marvel that was Chicken Run.
Initially, Early Man looks promising because the film’s exposition sets an intriguing scene, but from there everything rapidly goes downhill as it loses its suspense and transitions into a product of sheer predictability. The film doesn’t just quickly become boring, once you’ve reached halftime it feels as if it’ll be painful to watch its entirety.
While the characters were original, and the premise had great potential, the anticlimactic and predictable storyline—combined with the film’s immensely weak dialogue—ensured the film’s downfall. Overall, the final rendition of the film felt half-baked due to the severe lack of a substantial climax.
The targeted audience for this film may be young children, but that’s not an excuse for its dull dialogue and pathetic plotline. Never underestimate the high standards of entertaining a young audience, because the theatre I attended was filled with children wailing and parents were frantically hushing them; instructing them to remain seated and focus on the screen. Some mothers even caved and left their children to fend for themselves; 30 minutes into the film and I’m not even kidding, they gave up and bolted out of there.
Apart from the dialogue and storyline, Early Man‘s soundtrack and classic Aardman Animations claymation style was, as always, the best. It definitely spurred a wave of nostalgia and served as ample reason to stay until the very end.
Early Man could have been great if it had marinated slightly longer during its scriptwriting phase; it was almost a waste of the intensely time-consuming nature of creating claymation.