|Directed by||:||Nick Park||Produced by||:||Peter Lord, David Sproxton||Screenplay by||:||Mark Burton, James Higginson||Story by||:||Mark Burton, Nick Park||Starring||:||Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall||Music by||:||Harry Gregson-Williams||Cinematography||:||Dave Alex Riddett|
Early Man Shows That Primitive Technologies Can Still Achieve Wonders
Handmade animation is a dying art form, but the stop-motion artisans at Aardman Animations are still carrying its tiny, intricately crafted flag. Early Man, the first movie by Aardman standard-bearer Nick Park in a decade, whisks us back to the Stone Age, when tools were primitive and the wheel was just a gleam in some visionary caveperson’s eye. But while the film is deliberately crude in some respects—Park once described his aesthetic as making sure that, no matter how carefully sculpted his clay figures were, he always left the thumbprints showing—it’s fastidiously detailed in others, dancing between broad humor and subtle, almost subliminal gags as it plays out the conflict between Neanderthals and their evolutionary successors.
Although an opening title winkingly places Early Man’s volcanic landscape somewhere near Manchester, England, the movie isn’t as obsessively steeped in Britishisms as Park’s classic Wallace and Gromit shorts. But the epochal battle between homos neanderthalensis and sapiens takes the most English form imaginable: a football match. (Calling it soccer in this context just feels wrong.) The prize is control over the valley where Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) and his fellow hominids make their home, gamely hunting rabbits and plotting ways to take down a wooly mammoth without suspecting that not far away, humankind has already entered the Bronze Age.