You just know that any film which manages to squeeze in meteor strikes, the extinction of the dinosaurs, a nod to Ray Harryhausen, and the beautiful game, in the first five minutes, is going to be all right. But, with Early Man, Aardman have have crafted something really special.
Aardman have always had a knack for making the small and the everyday seem epic and for those of us who share their wonderfully skewed world vision, Early Man is 89-minutes of snicker-some joy. If Chicken Run was their take on The Great Escape then Early Man is definitely their Escape To Victory. Only here, the plucky Brits are represented by Early Man, Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his clan of Stone Age misfits, fighting to save their valley from the machinations of evil Bronze Age conquerers.
Along the way, there’s the usual mix of laughs, heart-warming story telling, and thankfully ‘low-tech’ visuals. Claymation is the process that made Aardman’s name but the likes of Flushed Away and Pirates! An Adventure With Scientists seemed to suggest that the company was moving towards more mainstream animation and CGI-polished productions. While Early Man clearly does use some CGI, the feel is old school Wallace & Gromit. Nick Park himself commented that they were looking for a One Million Years BC, aesthetic, with finger-prints on the Plasticine all part of the design. They’ve succeeded in spades. It’s easy to imagine Dug and his faithful sidekick Hognob as the direct ancestors of Wallace and Gromit, with their fertile valley home (“just outside Manchester”) evolving into West Wallaby Street.
Tom Hiddleston, of Marvel-Loki fame, delivers a brilliant Python-esque villain, complete with outrageous French accent. Game Of Thrones’ Maisie Williams gives the women a heroine to cheer for in the shape of football-mad Goona. While Rob Brydon populates the film with familiar voices that will bring a smile of recognition and the odd chuckle.
Like all the best films, Early Man rewards eagle-eyed audiences and keen re-watchers with groan-inducing background jokes that get better every time you view. This is one film you’ll want to own.