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Soundtrack review: Early man (Harry Gregson-Williams & Tom Howe – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Early man (Harry Gregson-Williams & Tom Howe – 2018)

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“Early Man” is a 2018 British stop-motion animated adventure comedy film directed by Nick Park, written by Mark Burton and James Higginson starring the voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams and Timothy Spall. Set during the Stone Age when prehistoric creatures and cavemen roamed the Earth, a young caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his wild boar Hognob (Nick Park) unite Dug’s tribe to save their valley home when it is claimed by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) and his Bronze Age City by playing football. They receive help from a Bronze City vendor named Goona (Maisie Williams). Harry Gregson-Williams and Tom Howe wrote the score.

The score opens with the sensible flute driven “Dug’s theme”; it’s a warm and pleasant introduction into this score especially since I often expect animation compositions to start silly. I am happy to hear a dramatic action theme in the next cue “Prehistoric prologue” because so far the score is about as distant from your usual light animation sound as possible. I remember Christopher Lennertz does this sometimes, he lets the images distract and amuse the viewer while making his music for some comedies full dark and serious. Not soon enough do I write these words that the prehistoric choirs and vocalisations kick in and and tone of the score takes a turn to whimsical.

I like that whatever happens in the score, be it a dramatic moment, a silly playful one or a mysterious one, the composers keep the prehistoric sound vivid with simple wooden instruments and quirky sounds that make me think of the limited tools at the disposal of the characters back then. This makes the music very simple as well and often not entertaining enough to sustain a standalone listening experience. The combination of prehistoric and fun works every now and then for a laugh and I am thinking this score could have been right also for a computer games set in that age. There is a stark contrast between those silly cues and serious action pieces like “Bronze attack”.

“Early man” was an uneven score with which I had a hard time connecting. There were moments that seem to go somewhere, action pieces that made me feel something but most of the time the music just stood in a limbo between silly and serious, between generic and forgettable and I just had a hard time finding a lot to like in it.

Cue rating: 77 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 55

Album excellence: 9%

Highlights:
Dug’s Theme
Bronze Attack

Tags:
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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