THE REEL: 'Early Man' football animation is full of fun and fiction

Saturday June 30 2018

A screen grab of the "Early Man" movie trailer. PHOTO | YOUTUBE


This being the year of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, it would be almost unfathomable if there wasn’t a movie that revolved around the phenomenon that football is. And so, Early Man was made.

The stop-motion animated movie starts with dinosaurs having a go at each other while cavemen are also going about their business. I know, it’s been proven they couldn’t have lived together in the same period, but this is a movie. Then an asteroid crashes into earth and there is a nuclear-type explosion that disrupts life as was before.

When the dust settles, a group of cavemen go to ground zero to find a meteorite that is spherically shaped. Touching it, they realise that it’s hot but their stubbornness to feel this strange rock sees them kicking it around. Apparently, this is how football started out.

Fast forward some tens of millennia later, and there’s apparently still some cavemen left at the area where the meteor rock was found. By now, the world has entered the Bronze Age. Somehow, in all that time that has passed, this place has evaded the glare of the outside world, which is why the cavemen are only a little evolved from the people they were.

The Bronze Age army of War Elephants, led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), stumble upon the land and make it part of their empire. They drive the cavemen out of the valley into the volcanic Badlands where they are to wither away as the Stone Age is done.

Dug (Eddie Redmayne), a young caveman who lives with the chief of their village, Bobnar (Timothy Spall), cannot let his people just fade away while being viewed as a peripheral of the world.



He hatches up a plan to visit the Bronze Age’s main city and try to get back their ancestral land. When he gets there, he’s caught and proposes to Lord Nooth that they hold a football match between the Bronze Age and Stone Age teams, and that whoever wins the match gets the valley.

Lord Nooth agrees knowing that his team is very good and can’t possibly see them losing to the primitive cavemen. Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams plays another heroic female role in this movie as local resident of Bronze city Goona.

This is a stop-motion “historical sporting animation” according to the movie’s Wikipedia description, but I can assure you that there’s absolutely nothing factual about it.

I was thrown aback when the cavemen came on and they were speaking English fluently. I mean, they just sounded like any other English (from England) person that you know right now. I figured it would have been something like what we’re normally used to half sentences, more descriptions and gestures with the hands to compliment speech, Tommy-good-Ricky-bad kind of primitive speech but no! The cavemen even had witty jokes amongst themselves.

Once I got over that shock, then I started to just enjoy it. It’s a good laugh, for those who know how English comedy can be off the rails.

Dug’s pet boar, Hognob (Nick Park), is really wily and he just does things how he sees they should be done. It seems like the characters even had fun during the making of the movie.

Director Nick Park, and writers Mark Burton and James Higginson, came up with a brilliantly made-up story about football. Where most football movies recently released (I’m talking about the last three years) have been mainly biographical or based on some facts, this one is refreshingly something totally fiction and fun.

Some scenes, things and conversations are so nonsensical that it’s just so funny when it hits you. I watched the movie with my young nephew and he was so glued to it. In its simplicity (stop motion is very tedious, but the story is straightforward) the movie is one you can sit down to watch with the family and have a blast.