The studio’s latest stop-motion epic is a timely story about a stone age English tribe playing footie against sophisticated continentals
It might be set in the stone age but the latest claymation epic from Wallace and Gromit creators Aardman touches on two of the timeliest issues of the coming year. First, the 2018 World Cup: this is squarely a story about football, and therefore likely to find a global audience even if its sense of humour remains lovably, colloquially English. Second, this is a story concerned with Britain’s sense of history and identity. By accident or design, Aardman have made a Brexit movie!
That could be an overzealous interpretation, admittedly, in a climate in which everything seems to be about Brexit, but the evidence is difficult to ignore. Early Man focuses on an insular, small-minded tribe who live in a giant crater, cut off from the outside world (the prologue identifies their location as “near Manchester”). They’re surprisingly diverse for such a small group, with varying skin colours and accents, and voices supplied by the likes of Timothy Spall, Selina Griffiths, Johnny Vegas, Gina Yashere and Richard Ayoade. Mop-topped young Dug (Eddie Redmayne), is inquisitive and smart by comparison with the rest of his tribe: why don’t they try hunting a mammoth instead of just rabbits? What are those spherical objects they’re kicking in the ancestral cave paintings? “They couldn’t draw rabbits back then,” the chief tells him, but the prologue has already revealed that this is the tribe that invented football, even if they’ve forgotten their heritage.