Antz is a film where you have to look past its problems, mostly the fact that it feels really dated, in order to see its true glory. Yes, it is a moderately enjoyable film, and is probably one of the best animated films that Dreamworks has ever made. It also feels very much like a 1998 film, in that its animations are sometimes lacking, and all of the CGI work feels incredibly dated.
What I mean by this is that technology has advanced quite far in the 13 years since this film has been released, and with the quality of the animations and the improvements in the CGI department, Antz just doesn’t look and feel right any more. It’s like going back and watching one of the first movies filmed in color. Of course it isn’t going to have the same depth and range as films nowadays do, and you have to look past that and appreciate it for what it was.
What Antz used to be was one of the most advanced animated films at the time. It was also only the second one to be released in America, being preceded only by Toy Story. Talk about some big shoes to follow. What’s surprising here is that Toy Story was released 3 years earlier than Antz, but actually holds up better in the animation category. Maybe this comes down to dedication, or possibly just better resources or more skilled people.
Anyway, Antz takes place in an ant colony, and primarily follows a single ant named Z (voiced by Woody Allen). Z is an individualistic ant, who is tired of doing things for other people. At the bar one night, he meets the colony’s princess (Sharon Stone) in disguise, and the two get along well together. Unfortunately for him, she will never see him again, or so she says.
Eventually, in a crazy plan created just so that Z can meet her again, he switches places with a soldier ant (Sylvester Stallone). He believes he is only going to a pep rally for all of the soldiers, but in reality, he is going to war against a neighboring termite army. Z is the only one to survive, but ends up escaping the colony with princess in tow, in search of a place called “Insectopia”. He is now a wanted fugitive, while she slowly befriends her captor.
And that’s about where the actual story kicks off. There are some points early on about the benefits and drawbacks of both individualism and collectivism, a notion that kind of gets dropped mid-way through so that we can focus on the duo’s attempts to find Insectopia. This part is interesting, because it actually feeds the mind. After it is dropped, things start to get boring, and this happens way faster than I thought it would.
I guess I just didn’t care about random ants enough to care when two of them got separated from the group so that they could pursue their own little adventure. That has to be it, because not much else changed. Yes, the political ideology battle is removed, but the dialogue was still funny, and the characters were still the same. Just removing politics from the picture can’t have been the reason, could it? I don’t even like politics much!
Hmm … maybe it was the fact that, once anything that could challenge your way of thinking was removed, Antz suddenly felt like a movie aimed at children. This is what I’m going to go with, because it’s the only thing that I can really come up with. The characters are solid, but they aren’t deep. They each get a distinct personality, but not much else. The story is bare-bones, and nothing surprising ever occurs. It actually does feel like a film, after a certain point anyway, that is only really to be enjoyed by children.
This is a weird change, because there are some events earlier on that would never make it into a G-rated kids show. Things like mild profanity, or ants being melted or burned alive. Those types of things just aren’t shown in films aimed at children, so including them seems like an odd choice to me. It’s like Antz is trying to be edgy and cool, so that it’ll appeal to an older crowd, but then it takes that away part way through. This makes no sense to me, because, by that point, none of the younger audience will still be watching–their parents won’t have let them. Or maybe I’m just out of touch with what the under-6 crowd watches nowadays. Maybe people can, or at least, could, include such content and get away with it.
Near the beginning, I liked Antz. It was funny, charming, had a real edge to it, and also possessed some intellectual merit. Then, mid-way through, it took the final two parts of that away from me, and left only a film that seemed aimed at children. For an animated film to be a great success, you need to leave something in it for all audiences. If you do, the crowd can look past some dated animation in order to appreciate the film underneath. In this case, I couldn’t.