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Western Animation / Early Man

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For the record, our hero's the caveman.note 

"You’re pretty brave, caveman. And stupid. Actually, more stupid than brave, really."

Early Man is a 2018 British Stop Motion Sport Comedy animated film, from Aardman Animations, StudioCanal, Amazon Video, BFI and Directed by Nick Park. It stars Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams and Timothy Spall

Meet Dug (Redmayne). He's just an eager, go-getting caveman who's enjoying the Stone Age during the Dawn of Time with his best friend boar Hognob and tribe.

But one night, everything comes to a screeching halt when armoured mammoths come out of nowhere and with them, Lord Nooth (Hiddleston), who declares the Stone Age to be done and over with and to make room for the Bronze Age and forces the tribe out of the valley.

Suffice to say, Dug isn't going to take this turn of events sitting down, so he conspires with Hognob and new lady-friend Goona (Williams) to save Dug's tribe in a tale of adventure, excitement, determination, and soccer.

Previews: Teaser, US Teaser, Trailer, US Trailer

Tropes include:

  • Aerith and Bob: Some characters are named Dug, Treebor and Barry; others are Nooth, Goona, Bobnar, Eemak...
  • All Animals Are Dogs: Hognob acts and vocalizes like a dog than a pig, such as letting out barks and howls.
  • Anachronism Stew: For Rule of Funny reasons. The opening scene, said to be set in the "neo-pleistocene", features a classic Hollywood Prehistory setting with cavemen and dinosaurs coexisting. The rest of the movie takes place "ages later", with a stone-age tribe coexisting with a bronze-age civilization that has domesticated mammoths, but also some modern spins (most importantly, football). Not to mention that at some point the characters eat primordial soup.
  • And Starring: Tom Hiddleston and Timothy Spall receive "and" billings after Eddie Redmayne and Maisie Williams respectively at the beginning of the credits. Nick Park receives the final "and" billing after all the other voice actors.
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: Double Subverted. Dug thinks Hognob wouldn't be allowed to play, but when Hognob takes Bobnar's place as goalie, the audience seems to take it in stride.
  • Antagonistic Governor: Lord Nooth was explicitly appointed governor of the new Bronze Age city by the queen, who turns out to be quite fed up with his antics and intolerant of his corruption.
  • Big Bad: Lord Nooth.
  • Bird-Poop Gag: During the game, the duck poops on Lord Nooth.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Dug and his tribe are easy to root for where Lord Nooth is a big, greedy, Fat Bastard.
  • Bookends: The film begins and ends with the characters going on a hunt, which involves a rabbit.
  • Brick Joke: A woman pays to see the big game using a large bronze dinner plate. Guess what hits Nooth square in the face at the end? After hitting Nooth, it falls on the woman's hands and she claims she got a refund.
  • The Cameo: There's a single shot of the stadium (just as Queen Oofeefa is making her arrival) in which it's just barely possible to make out the tiny figures of Wallace & Gromit in the audience.
  • Central Theme: Don't let the actions of your ancestors affect how you act now.
  • Companion Cube: Mr. Rock, a crude stone obelisk with a smile painted on, whom the tribe treat as a real person. His "death" when the bronze miners knock his "head" off is even treated seriously.
  • Depth Deception: When Hungry, a dim witted tribe member spots a duck nearby and decides to kill it for something to eat. He picks up a big rock and hurls it at the bird, only for the rock to bounce off its head like a pebble. As it turns out, the Duck is in fact gigantic and quite far away, but soon begins to give chase and attack the tribe in anger, unfortunately wrecking the pitch.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In order to avoid detection, Dug dons a suit of armour which looks suspiciously like what you would wear in American Football. When he's thrown out onto the pitch, he has no idea what he is doing and struggles to keep up with the game.
  • Domesticated Dinosaurs: Not actual dinosaurs, but the Bronze Age people have domesticated mammoths and muskoxen (which, while still alive in North America, went extinct in the Old World between 9,000 (Europe) and 2,000 (Siberia) years ago while the Bronze Age started 5,000 years ago).
  • Down to the Last Play: The Brutes score the tie-breaking goal in the game's final minutes.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: An in-story example. After inventing football and teaching it to other tribes, Dug's ancestors found that they kept losing match after match, until they simply gave up playing.
  • Exact Words: Nooth's guards fall prey to this.
    Nooth: Take [Dug] away and kill him. (audience gasps) Slowly. (cue the guards slowly taking Dug away) Argh! No, I mean take him away at normal speed and kill him slowly, idiots!
  • Fat Bastard: Lord Nooth is a big one.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Duck. It looks just like an ordinary modern day duck, except it's about 50 feet tall and has rows of sharp teeth.
  • French Jerk: Lord Nooth has a thick French accent and is quite the pompous jerk.
  • Graceful Loser: The Team Captain of Real Bronzio. After losing to Dug and his tribe, he is clearly devastated as this is his first ever loss, but after Dug offers him a sporting handshake over the ‘good game’, he responds in kind and congratulates Dug on his victory.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Queen Ofeefa is the one giving Lord Nooth his orders, including the most plot-significant one that he'd better not lose the football match against the cavemen. However, it's subverted when she actually appears in person and turns out to be a Reasonable Authority Figure, taking the loss gracefully and complimenting the tribe on their victory.
  • Implied Death Threat: Not death per se but the Queen, through the message bird, warns Nooth to not screw up in the game against the cavemen by threatening to send him down the mines. Making the point even clearer is the message bird crushing a couple of walnuts in its hand.
  • Implied Love Interest: Dug and Goona have a couple of tender moments and she seems to have joined the tribe at the end of the film, but nothing's ever really confirmed.
  • It's All About Me: According to Goona, every team member of Real Bronzio believes this, and it couldn’t show more in the final match. Dug’s tribe use this to their advantage and beat them.
  • Killer Rabbit: A literal, sabertoothed one appears in the trailer, attacking the cavemen. In the movie proper, it's not so much a killer as he is smarter than the cavemen.
  • Left the Background Music On: The suspenseful music that plays in the teaser as Dug hunts for a rabbit? It's actually the entirety of his tribe. And they end up distracting Dug.
    Dug: Ugh, you lot are really putting me off!
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Hognob the hog.
  • Mythology Gag: The bunnies look like the ones from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, but with saber-teeth.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • In the teaser, the tribe is attacked by a sabertoothed Killer Rabbit. In the movie proper, the rabbit never attacks the humans, it just outsmarts them from time to time.
    • Early trailers made it out to be another early-man adventure a la The Croods; it's actually an underdog football/soccer movie.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Hognob.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot!: The Queen's message bird repeats her "technical issues" before delivering the actual message, and then mistakes Nooth's referring to the Queen as a "silly old bat" for his response and flies off.
  • Oop North: A caption at the start of the film indicates that the story takes place near Manchester. Rochdale has never looked better!
  • Overly Long Gag: The scene where Dug falls down the stadium chairs goes on for at least 25 seconds. In a clever use of Lampshade Hanging that is shown but not said, Hognob at one point looks at his wrist as if checking a watch to see how long this gag is.
  • Own Goal: Dug's unofficial debut playing football for the Bronzies has him score an own goal after failing to make an overhead kick.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Nooth shows Dug the cave paintings beneath the valley which show that Dug's ancestors never won any matches and eventually gave up, Nooth declares that they were "Totally crap at football." Downplayed.
  • Prehistoric Monster:
    • The sabertoothed rabbit, which chases Dug's complete tribe in the trailer. In the movie it just outsmarts them.
    • A Giant Man-Eating Duck, which chases the tribe after one of them pisses it off. They manage to tame it by the finale, and it becomes an invaluable ally.
    • There are also several giant insects living in the Badlands, including a pillbug, a spider and some caterpillars (that end up being skinned for making football shoes).
  • Pun-Based Title: Although the film has a prehistoric setting, the "Man" in the title refers as much to the setting — Manchester — as it does with "mankind". The foreign language titles ruin the pun title.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: The Bronze Age city has busy traffic, showers and a soccer stadium complete with checkered balls.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Hognob wants to be part of the team, but Dug figures that boars aren't allowed to play. In the end, Hognob fills in for Bobnar as the goalie and helps the tribe win the game.
  • Reactive Continuous Scream: Between Lord Nooth, his masseuse and Hognob, after realizing that it was Hognob that gave Nooth his massage.
  • Scenery Censor: Dug is exposed as a caveman when the football player whose armor he took walks out onto the field completely naked (as he was showering), with his private area covered by a flag.
  • Schizo Tech: Lord Nooth first meets Dug's tribe while riding a tame mammoth covered in a mix of Bronze versions of Celtic, Indian, and Medieval German armor. His soldiers's armor seems based from the Minoan Dendra Panoply. And the mammoths are fitted with balls and chain and excavator shovels.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The introduction ("The Neo-Pleistocene Age... near Manchester - around lunchtime") recalls a similar gag in Monty Python's Life of Brian ("Judea A.D. 33 - Satuday afternoon - about tea time").
    • The aforementioned Ceratosaurus and Triceratops are a reference to One Million Years B.C.. Also they're respectively named "Ray" and "Harry", a nod to special effects artist Ray Harryhausen.
    • Dug's hair is similar to that of the Chelsea player and manager Ruud Gullit.
    • A Butcher’s stand shows up in the background during the first scene in the Bronze City, named “Jurassic Pork”.
    • The Queen of the Bronze City and the head of the Football Organisation is named “Queen Oofeefa” in a nod to FIFA, the international governing body of the sport.
    • Nooth is the Premier Leader. Although the name has changed several times due to partnerships, the main English teams play in the Premier League.
    • Real Bronzio gets their names from Real Madrid, one of the most successful teams in the world that also tends to have overpaid celebrity players.
    • The giant ferocious duck is a reference to the prehistoric bird Bullockornis, popularly nicknamed the "duck of doom".
    • A sort of meta in-joke, but the star player of Real Bronzio is Jürgen and has a German accent. Ask any fan of England which country they'd love to beat the most and it'll be Germany. (The reverse isn't true - Germans want to beat the Netherlands,)
      • Even more meta, Dug loses his confidence when Nooth shows him that the cavemen always lose. This is an obvious underdog moment, but the national English team hasn't won any major trophies since 1966. And they did indeed invent the sport!
      • Meta again... The cavemen in the big match are wearing the same strip as England wore in the 1966 World Cup final. The Keeper wore a yellow shirt but Hognob just used his natural fur when he was substituted in. The cavemen win (as did England) and Nick Park seems very keen to remind his audience of that.
    • "Early Man... united" is a play on Manchester United, one of the best-known teams in the world. (Often shortened to Man United; real fans will never say "Man U" due to that being tied to a 1958 plane crash that killed eight players.)
    • Goona's name is a play on "gooner," a slang term for fans of Arsenal FC - another well-known team and a long-standing rival of Man United.
    • "They think it's all is now" was a memetic statement made at the climax of the 1966 World Cup final between England and West Germany. With England ahead 3-2 in extra time, some of the crowd began to spill onto the pitch just before England scored a fourth goal in the final seconds to win the championship.
    • The Brutes win the game by way of Dug making a overhead kick so powerful, it sets the ball on fire and blasts through the net and the wall behind it. These exaggerated football antics seem to be directly lifted from Captain Tsubasa or Inazuma Eleven.
  • Speak in Unison: When Dug is found out as a caveman:
    Nooth: A caveman?
    Referee: A caveman?
    Stadium Audience: A CAVEMAN?
  • Spit Take: Goona does one when Dug is outed as a caveman. Humorously, it gives the bald guy sitting in front of her a toupee.
  • Stock Trailer Music: "Pocket Full of Gold" by American Authors.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Nooth feels this way, as mentioned under Exact Words.
  • Take That!: Jurgend, the Real Bronzio striker who pretends to have been fouled to win the penalty at the end of the match, is named after Jürgen Klinsmann, a German international striker who was frequently accused in England of habitually diving.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The Queen anticipates Nooth would try to talk back so she has the message bird grab Nooth by the necklace and squeeze hard to get him to shut up and listen.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Nooth knocks out the referee with his own rulebook.
    Lord Nooth: Do you have your rulebook with you?
    Dino: Of course.
    Lord Nooth: Good, 'cause I'm going to throw it at you.
  • Title Drop: When Dug wakes up Chief Bobnar, he complains it's too early, to which Dug responds, "But Chief, we're the early man".
  • Toothy Bird: The message bird and the duck.
  • Visual Pun: When Dug arrives on the city, he falls next to a zebra crossing made with the skin of a literal zebra.
  • War Elephants: The Bronze Age people ride armored mammoths.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Tom Hiddleston was clearly going for an over the top French accent for Lord Nooth. God only knows what Maisie Williams was going for.
  • You Go, Girl!: Goona is an excellent football player, but can't play for Real Bronzio because the team is male-only. Naturally, she sides with Dug's tribe, teaching them how to play, and in the match she wins the adoration of the crowd.