Early Man (2018) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • Set at the dawn of time, when prehistoric creatures and woolly mammoths roamed the earth, Early Man tells the story of Dug, along with sidekick Hognob as they unite his tribe against a mighty enemy Lord Nooth and his Bronze Age City to save their home.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • It's the Neo-Pleistocene age, somewhere near Manchester. England is currently a badlands of sparse plants, volcanoes, and extremely brutal cavemen who spend their days warring with each other over the slightest provocation. Then, a massive asteroid crashes into the land, striking and killing the last two dinosaurs and causing a shock-wave of dust that buries all the cavemen in the area. When the smoke and dust clear, the impact has made a huge valley in the middle of the badlands, and in the center of the valley is what's left of the meteor, now polished smooth by the friction of the atmosphere into a spheroid shape. The cavemen dig themselves out of the dirt and go down to investigate, find out the object is too hot to touch, and start playing 'hot potato' with it. Eventually they start kicking it instead of tossing it around, and after it cools off, they realize this is a fun game and start adding rules and goalposts and referees. Thus, the game of soccer/football is born.

    Fast forward several ages. The valley, perhaps because of the meteor impact, has become the only truly fertile ground in the area, with the rest still a wasteland. Dug, a young and ambitious caveman, and his pet Hognob (who is a warthog who acts like a dog), are busy gathering fruit for the tribe, well before anyone else is up. They hear the footsteps and trumpeting of a mammoth in the distance, and hurry back to wake the others. The tribe is a motley group of not-too-bright cavemen and cave-women, but they act as a family and care deeply for one another, even accepting one member who has painted a face on a rock and thinks it's really a person and talking to the rock with him as if it's real. Dug tries to convince his chief that if they band together they could take out larger prey like a bison or a mammoth, but the Chief is very safety-conscious and also doesn't have much faith in the intelligence of his tribe, so he insists they stick to rabbits as they always have done. Dug continues to try to convince him, believing the tribe is capable of being more and doing more. The Chief takes him to a rock of old cave drawings of their ancestors kicking a football around. None of the cavemen know what a football is - it seems the sport has been abandoned - and they assume it's an image of their ancestors hunting small animals. He tells Dug that their purpose is to hunt small things, and after a quick morning prayer of thanksgiving for the fertile land they are blessed to live in, they set out and catch a rabbit, bringing it back and celebrating with drums and dancing around the campfire.

    As they are celebrating, Dug tries once more to convince his chief the tribe has more in them than just being simple rabbit hunters, and reminds him a single rabbit isn't very much food. Before the chief can argue, there is a sound of heavy footsteps. The cave tribe stop their music and dancing, and go out to investigate. A huge mammoth coated in bronze armor thunders through the trees, followed by two others who start destroying the cavemen's village with huge 'wrecking balls' made of bronze tied to their heads. The armored 'drivers' of the mammoths seem to neither notice nor care about the cavemen running around, any more than if they were animals. Dug's tribe flees to the badlands before they are killed, but Hognob is still barking at the intruders and Dug goes back to rescue him. Both end up falling in a ditch, and the Chief starts to go back for him, but sees a large tree fall and assumes Dug and Hognob were killed by it, sadly retreating with his tribe.

    Hiding under the tree in the ditch. Dug and Hognob watch as a pompous balding man descends from one of the Mammoths in a mechanical dumbwaiter. This is Lord Nooth, the governor of a nearby Bronze Age village. He looks around the wreckage of the cavemen's village and starts picking up rocks, pointing out to his men that there is bronze ore in them. He instructs his men to begin digging deeper into the caves to mine the ore. When one man asks what they will do about the natives, Nooth callously says the Stone Age is over and that they will have to make do in the badlands until they die out. This infuriates Dug, who grabs a spear and tries to kill Nooth. He leaps out of the ditch, but one of the swinging wrecking balls catches him in mid-air and he falls into a cart, unconscious. Hognob returns to the rest of the tribe alone, mourning Dug, also thinking he will be killed.

    Unnoticed by the Bronze Age soldiers, Dug is taken back to their village in the cart. Wrapped in a blanket to disguise his bearskin clothes, he wanders around the more modernized village, which in fact turns out to be a massive city perched high on a plateau above a river of lava. The only grass in the place is inside a large castle and arena which dominate most of the landscape - the rest is a dusty, bare city with people selling their wares out of tents. Dug discovers such things as sliced bread, bronze pots and pans, and other modern things his people have never seen. One seller, a young lady named Goona, berates him for messing with the bronze wares she's selling. When he tries to explain he doesn't know what Bronze is, she is shocked. However, before they can converse further, a gong and a chant from a high tower signals all the people of the city to the arena. They have to pay 50 gold pieces to be allowed to enter - Dug, who has no money and is caught up in the crowd, is pushed by before he can pay. He has guards chase him for skipping out on paying, and running through the dungeon-like passages under the arena, finds his way into a room where a man is taking a shower. He steals the man's clothes and armor and comes back out in disguise, but other men in the same uniform grab him and, mistaking him for their comrade, bring him out into the arena with them.

    Lord Nooth comes out of the castle at one end of the Arena and demands to know who will challenge his champions, and a group of painted, bearded viking-like men roar out that they will. Lord Nooth's soldiers mock them, and Dug braces himself for a battle. However, it soon becomes apparent that the 'sacred challenge', which the people of this city take extremely seriously, is actually a football match between two rival Bronze Age cities. Dug is made the goalie, but he has never seen or played football before, and his teammates keep yelling at him for his mistakes. It isn't until a football hits him in the head that Dug has a flashback to the paintings on the rock the chief showed him, and realizes they are of his tribe's ancestors actually playing this game he's stuck in. He tries to emulate an image from the rock and do a back-flip kick, but scores an own goal. The crowd boos, and the man whose clothes he stole - the real Goalie of Lord Nooth's team - appears, exposing Dug as an impostor.

    Lord Nooth is furious that Dug would invade the hallowed ground of their arena, but Dug retorts that Nooth's soldiers did the same for his home so he has a right. Nooth callously repeats the sentiment he expressed earlier that there is no place for Early Man on this earth, and orders two of his personal guards to torture and execute Dug. Dug retorts by stealing a trident and puncturing the football, and loudly challenging Nooth's team to a football match. Nooth initially refuses, because of the scandalous nature of letting cavemen into their arena, but when his adviser makes an offhand comment that the vulgar masses would pay to see such a scandalous spectacle, the greedy Nooth realizes he could make a fortune and, assuming his specially trained team can't loose, accepts the challenge. The stakes are high, however - if Nooth's team loses, they forfeit their right to the rich bronze mine in the valley. If Dug's people lose, not only do they lose the valley, they lose the right to live on the outskirts in the badlands and will be Nooth's slaves working in the mines until they die. Dug is granted only one football to practice with, and returns to his tribe, who are delighted to see he survived. However, they are less than thrilled when he tells them of the bargain he has struck with Nooth, as none of them even know what football is.

    Dug reminds his people of the paintings, and it dawns on them that if their ancestors could do it, they might have a chance. The Chief is the only pessimistic one of the bunch and he soon is proved right - his people are terrible. He himself doesn't even participate, just watching and trying to convince Dug to go back to Nooth and call off the match. Eventually, one hungry tribe member tries to kill a massive duck-monster and angers it, and it chases them, stepping on and destroying their only ball. The chief orders Dug that night to call it off, because they have no hope. Dug considers it, but looking down at the beautiful valley that he calls home an imagining never seeing it again is just too much for him, and he sneaks back into Nooth's city to try to steal some more footballs.

    Meanwhile, Queen Oofeefa, the ruler of the Bronze Age cities in that area, has found out about Nooth's deal through her spies. She is livid, being more perceptive than Nooth and realizing that Dug wouldn't have made the challenge if he thought it was as hopeless as Nooth has assumed the situation to be. She warns Nooth via message bird that he had better not lose so vital a match. Nooth's adviser also tells him if they lose, Nooth will likely be removed from his role as Governor of the city and coach of Real Bronzio, the football team he has put together and trained to be champions. Nooth is more concerned about the revenue he will lose, but he scoffs at the notion that Real Bronzio could lose to a bunch of what he calls "brutes".

    Dug infiltrates the stadium/castle a second time. He and Hognob start searching for the storage area. After being baffled by his first experience of a glass door, tripping on a wet floor sign and falling down the stairs noisily to the turf, Dug is knocked unconscious by the impact. Hognob is about to go down and rescue him, but then Lord Nooth calls out from the castle to demand what the noise is, assuming Hognob is his butler Stefano. Hognob hurries in and gives Nooth a massage, hoping that will distract him. Nooth doesn't look around at any point, so the deception goes unnoticed, at least for the moment.

    When Dug comes to, he hears a voice and realizes he is not the only one who has sneaked into the arena. Goona, the pan-seller he met earlier, who was also in the arena the day he challenged Nooth, sneaked in after he did and is practicing her penalty shots. She is clearly an excellent footballer, and Dug watches in admiration. However, when he moves nearer to get a closer look, he steps on something and she hears. He tries to flee, but trips, and she catches up to him. When Goona meets him, however, she reveals that she is extremely impressed by Dug's dedication to his tribe's cause, and approves of his challenging Nooth. She practices every night in secret. Her dream has always been to play for Real Bronzio, but as Dug already observed, the team has only male players, and Nooth wants to keep it that way, having the same dislike of women that he does of cavemen.

    Dug offers Goona a deal - if she will come help him train his tribe, he will let her play on their team. Goona leaps at the chance and even helps him to get some footballs from the storage closet. The two are discovered and use some of the balls to knock out guards, fleeing up the stairs and through Nooth's palace. The timing is perfect, as Nooth just turned around and discovered that it was Hognob and not Stephano massaging him. They rescue Hognob and they hurry out of the city, back to the badlands.

    In the morning, Dug introduces Goona to his tribe. They are all happy to meet each other and hopeful of what her experience can do for them. She warns them what they're up against, telling them of each player's strength. However, she explains their one great weakness is that they do not see themselves as a team, each player focusing on his own stardom and quick to berate or belittle the others. Dug's team is a family, and Goona believes that if they can sharpen their skill and get the Real Bronzio team to turn against each other, they have a reasonable chance of winning. She then uses the fact they have no training facility but just the badlands to work with to her advantage, training them using rocks, lava runs, and bones. Even Chief, skeptical at first, starts to enjoy himself and get up hopes as he watches his tribe's great enjoyment and dramatic improvement. Chief himself plays goalie, and also becomes good at it. Hognob wants to play, but Dug isn't sure if that's a good idea, and makes him sit it out. The cavemen continue rigorous training, create their own uniforms and even tame the giant duck to help them in their training. Queen Oofeefa's spies watch all this and she becomes seriously worried.

    Nooth's miners discover the pictures of the cavemen's ancestors playing football, and this shakes Nooth's confidence considerably. Furthermore, Oofeefa's message bird comes to him and gives him a serious dressing down for having agreed to something as risky as the football match, warning him he'll be in serious trouble if they lose. Nooth still believes his people can win, but reasons a little extra assurance won't hurt. His men examine the paintings more closely, as well as several more they found down the mine that Dug's people don't know about, and make a startling discovery which Nooth thinks he can use to get Dug to call off the match. He has his men kidnap Dug and drag him to the mine.

    Nooth forces Dug to look at the pictures, which show that Dug's ancestors did indeed invent football and play it all those years ago, but gave it up and threw their football in the river after they realized that other tribes were learning to play and beat them every time they played together. This shakes Dug to the core, as he has all along held to the hope that they have innate ancestral abilities to play football. Nooth whispers a deal to Dug, then abandons him deep in the mine to think it over. Dug has horrifying visions of his people enslaved, whipped, and dying in the mine, blaming him for it. By the time Hognob tracks him down, Dug decides he just can't risk their losing, and he runs out of the mine to accept Nooth's bargain. Hognob, afraid of what Dug will do, goes and gets the Chief, dragging him down the mine. Chief sees the pictures, realizes what Dug has gone to do, and is horrified.

    In the arena, the crowds have gathered tenfold to watch the game. Nooth is charging double fees for admission, which angers many, but they pay it because they want to see the match. Oofeefa herself actually makes an appearance, stealing Nooth's throne and making him stand to watch the match. However, Nooth is confident, as he has struck a deal with Dug. When the ceremony begins at the start of the match. Dug, instead of saying the ceremonial words, announces a scripted response fed to him by Nooth, in which he forfeits the game and offers the valley and his sole service as a mine slave to spare the rest of his family. Oofeefa and the crowd are disappointed, especially when Nooth announces there are no refunds and that everyone must go home.

    Suddenly, there is a loud roar, and the giant duck flies in, with the entire caveman team (still called "the Brutes" by Nooth and the Bronze Age people, even on the scoreboard) on his back. Dug tells the Chief what he's done, but the Chief tells him there is no way they are quitting, after Dug has pushed them to become a greater and stronger tribe than they ever were before, and reminds him their ancestors are dead, and don't matter right now. The Chief believes they are good players and have a chance. Thus inspired by his formerly-pessimistic Chief's confidence, and the eagerness of his tribe to at least give it a go, Dug recants his surrender and the match begins. Nooth is irritated but not too worried. Queen Oofeefa is very displeased but decides to watch and see what happens.

    Much to everyone's shock, Dug's tribe scores a goal within the first twenty seconds of play. The Real Bronzio team counters with a goal of their own and Nooth reassures the Queen that the one goal from the cavemen was a fluke. However, Dug takes Real Bronzio's goal as a further challenge and demands his team play harder. They score two more goals, one of which is scored by Goona. Recognizing her as one of their own, and starting to be impressed by the caveman team, the Bronze Age crowd begins cheering for her and the others. Nooth is disgusted when he realizes that Goona is a girl, but when he expresses this he realizes that Oofeefa disapproves of his discrimination and he takes out his frustration on his team, threatening them with quite literal death if they don't get their act together. Real Bronzio has, as Goona predicted, dissolved into a bunch of bickering and backbiting, but they take the threat seriously and play on, getting another goal of their own.

    Nooth decides enough is enough and makes an excuse to go down onto the arena. He knocks out the referee and then dresses in his outfit, announcing he is the new referee. He then orders his team to hurt Dug's team as badly as possible. Even the Bronze Age audience realize the duplicity, and liking the sport for its fair nature, are disgusted. Oofeefa herself is shocked and disgusted as the Real Bronzio players are forced to injure Dug's team, and no fouls are called. However, when Dug steps in front of a Bronzio player right at the last couple seconds of play, a penalty is called by Nooth, to the absolute outrage of the onlookers. Chief is taken off the field, too injured to continue playing, and a penalty kick is called. As he is being carried off to recuperate from his back injury, Chief tells Dug that he's sorry for having held him back all these years Dug has wanted to do greater things, like hunt mammoths instead of rabbits.

    The Bronzio player lines up to make the kick but there is no goalie. Dug finally decides to put Hognob in the game, but they are certain that the match is over - it is tied at 3 goals apiece and Real Bronzio's team never misses penalties. Even Oofeefa, who has now become impressed by Dug, and totally disillusioned with Nooth, looks sad at this prospect. However, Hognob blocks the penalty kick, but just barely. It ricochets high into the air. The Real Bronzio team all leap after it at once and get tangled together in doing so. Dug's team, however, works together to rocket Dug high up in the air, and he kicks the ball into the other goal, thus winning the match 4-3 in the last seconds. The stadium goes absolutely wild with cheers, and a horrified Nooth flees in the melee, hoping no one will notice. The Bronzio players are stunned, some of them weeping, thinking Nooth will punish them. However, the cavemen all go to their opponents and help them up from where they have fallen, shaking their hands and telling them they played well. The captain of Real Bronzio is touched, and returns the favor, telling Dug his team gave them a great match. Oofeefa descends from the throne and tells Dug that he and the other Cavemen, through their teamwork, have reminded her and the people what the sport was really about - a good time to be had by all and played fairly. This is something they had forgotten.

    Nooth attempts to gather as much money as he can and flee in the mascot's costume, but is stopped by the duck, who shakes him and scatters bronze coins everywhere, before dropping him to the ground where he is arrested and carried away. Oofeefa then presents Dug and Goona with the trophy, and the team celebrates. She then orders Dug and his team to leave the arena, and to return home to the valley. Dug and Goona are carried off by the rest of the team in triumph.

    Some months later, a new painting has been added to the rocks, of Dug and his team carrying the trophy home. Goona has decided to live with Dug's tribe, but using her bronze-tipped arrows instead of a stone spear like the rest when they go hunting. They go after a large shadow, thinking it's a Mammoth, but then the shadow roars at them and becomes the shape of a dinosaur-like creature and they flee. As it turns out, it's the rabbit they tried to catch and eat at the beginning of the film making shadow puppets to spook them, and he giggles. Images in the credits show that the members of the Real Bronzio team have befriended the cavemen, coming to visit and join in their campfire celebrations after hunts.

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