Antz marks quite a milestone in the animation industry. Before this film premiered, both Disney and Pixar were the only big dogs around when it came to theatrically released animated films. However, DreamWorks SKG cemented themselves as a formidable new challenger in the animation industry by having their first project be a fun, creative and slightly edgy animated film. The story centers around the main character, Z. Z is a worker drone in a large ant colony which pushes a totalitarian, conformist mentality on its inhabitants. Z constantly wrestles with this as he questions his place in the colony and whether or not there’s more his life could amount to. We’re then introduced to Bala, the colony’s princess, who is struggling with similar issues. The two of them meet and hit it off so well that Z decides to switch places with his friend Weaver, a soldier ant, in order to see Bala again. But when he finally gets to, the truth is revealed and the two of them end up literally thrown out of the colony and begin a journey to find their own paradise. Meanwhile, an evil plot is underway back at the colony and it soon becomes up to Z and Bala to return home and save the day.
Something became apparent to me while watching this film as an adult: It’s kid safe, but not kid-centered. Animation is often an underrated form of entertainment since many believe it’s a child-centered art form. That belief is utterly shattered with this movie. It’s certainly safe for younger children to watch but you can see from its visual style, complex themes and adult humor in spots, that younger kids are not the intended audience. It lacks the candy-colored, sweet looking visuals you’d find in a typical children’s movie, preferring an art style that’s darker and more gritty. The scale at which the ants are shown in relevance to the outside world also creates a sense of peril that may be a little intense for younger viewers but help convey the overarching theme of the individual vs. the group. This theme of conformity vs. individuality is also something that will be more relevant to an older audience for whom social structure has become a more active aspect of their lives. The movie doesn’t shy away from how extreme the consequences of either mentality can be, even having death be used as a possible consequence.
However, while you can appreciate the more mature tone, said tone also contributes to one of the film’s problems. Many of the jokes require some level of maturity to get and will fly over your average young kid’s head, which can be a problem as this film is being billed as a comedy. This film also has a few more shortcomings, as most first installments do. The CGI animation has become a bit dated and there are moments where the character’s expressions dip into the uncanny valley. Also, the celebrity casting can cause you to hear the actor more than the character and that can really take you out of the movie. These problems aren’t too distracting though, and even being a seventeen year old film, it still holds up pretty well. So, if you get the chance, check it out. You definitely won’t be disappointed. It certainly makes me feel a little different about battling the carpenter ant infestation I had a little while ago.