Being one of the two ant-based films released in 1998, Antz is a an animated comedy adventure film that is the first ever feature from Dreamworks Animation and in my opinion one of their better ones.
It is about Z, a pessimistic and neurotic worker who is unsatisfied with his already predestined life path in the colony. The plot is probably the movie’s strongest asset as it is so incredibly sophisticated and mature. I like how it deals with different themes, especially totalitarian society, the regal affairs as well as of course individuality. Those are all very well explored due to excellent dialogue and some really polished writing. That is the reason why this film is not for children at all and they would find it boring. But that is okay as the movie is intended for adult audiences which is evident in its approach and it really paid off as it’s just as smart and mature for adults to appreciate it. I like the monologues in this movie which is why the beginning is so good. And the ending is also really well done and humorous. The film is driven by its plot and it is unfortunate that other aspects of Antz are not as good as the story.
The characters are to me not a standout and here is why. For a movie that is about individualism, it sure does have some flat and uninspired characters. Yes, Z is absolutely terrific as the neurotic and irritated protagonist. His monologues drive the movie and he is really well written and quite atypical for a main character. Princess Bala is also good, but nothing too remarkable. And the rest of the characters are all typical and never as good as the protagonist. General Mandible is a cliched villain and other characters are just there or are goofy sidekicks. Really, the characters should have been better in my opinion.
But the acting is a standout here. This movie is underrated when voice acting is concerned because it should be mentioned every time famous actors in animation are mentioned. Antz is literally studded with A-list actors. Stallone and Hackman both did a good job. Sharon Stone is really good in her role and really fitting because she has such a beautiful and regal voice quite suiting the character of a princess. But this is Woody Allen‘s show and he is absolutely amazing. He did such a great job here that I am astounded how he did not get more work in the animation afterwards. His voice is perfect for it, although you can recognize who it is a bit too easily. But he is superb bringing a lot of his signature self-deprecating humor to the point of wondering whether this is his movie.
Now, the animation. It is the weakest aspect and the one thing that greatly diminishes the impact of the whole picture. This is the reason why CGI will never be as classic or as timeless as hand-drawn technique. Antz is dated. There is no other way to see it. It has dated animation. There are some exterior scenes that are mostly well done, but this is for the most part an animation that time was not kind to whatsoever. That is mostly evident in its too dark and blurry photography which is super annoying and of course the character design. Now granted, I really do appreciate they bravery and their original take on the insects and how they wanted them to be authentic and realistic, but in the end, it just did not work unfortunately. The ants look too CGI, too computerized and frankly too weird and off-putting to watch. They are realistic and grounded in approach and design, but it just isn’t pleasing to the eye and I notably hate the decision to go with the actors’ real faces for some characters. That was just way too weird and all the more annoying.
Another thing that this movie lacks is the energy in its execution making it too listless. But, it has excellent production design and very solid score. It has good directing and terrific voice cast. I also adore the attention to detail that went into this production leading to realistically portrayed ant activities and environments. The dialogue is top-notch, always clever and sophisticated, especially the monologues which are just so funny and amusing. Speaking of funny, Antz has a phenomenal humor. It really does. Not only Woody Allen, but others bring also some humor to the table. But mostly he is responsible for so many funny and greatly observant lines. The film is predictable and the ending is so typical, but because it is authentic and clever in its plot, it can be forgiven. And I like its editing as it is a tightly edited little film. It is also very original in its story and authentic in its serious approach. It is sophisticated, but the emotions are not there or at least there should have been more of it. The tone is well handled and the tonal shift from comedic to dramatic is well conveyed.
Comparing it to other films of the company, it is one of the better films without a doubt. Not as good as ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘, but still near the top of the list. As for Pixar’s ‘A Bug’s Life‘, Antz is in my opinion a superior film as it is way more sophisticated and realistic, but for entertainment purposes, you should go with Pixar’s film.