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Antz

September 19, 2014

Antz (1998)
Directors: Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson
Actors: Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman

antz1.jpg (192×188)

Synopsis: Z (Woody Allen) is a neurotic worker ant who resents the grafting and communal ethos of his species. He is the only survivor in a foolhardy assault on a rival termite colony, and though he returns as a hero, he gets outed as a worker ant, and unintentionally takes the princess ant, Bala (Sharon Stone) captive. They explore the world outside their colony, although General Mandible (Gene Hackman) leads a taskforce to track them down…

Review: Antz is an unqualified animated achievement – an impressive, rigorously realised work that has gone into great forensic detail in drawing out its richly imagined world of a huge colony of ants living under a dusty corner of Central Park, New York.

Alas, amid all the ingenuity and ‘cleverness’, the work fails to move and contains little wonderment – ironically appropriating the zealous industry of its on-screen ants. In fact, it’s a salutary lesson for all the animated studios and talented digital technicians that they mustn’t forget the ‘ethics’ amid their obsession with ‘aesthetics’. For the work is undeniably clever: an evidently thoroughly researched piece that has painstakingly transposed the actual workings of ant colonies into its narrative landscape, and probably the best moments of the film are the huge track-backs that reveal the irony about the scale of the ants’ universe – their whole, seemingly epic, domain consists of little more than a small patch of earth and a disused litter bin a few metres away. I also detected a sly, meta-referential nod to Metropolis in Antz‘s story of an underground pit of workers/slaves beneath a more utopian outdoors.

Ultimately, Antz falls between two camps. In its casting of Woody Allen to voice the hero with his familiar neurotic persona, in its fairly adult subplots, and in the aforementioned ant behavioural transpositions, the work is a little ‘dry’ for younger viewers, yet the courted adult viewers might find the mitigations of trapping all this wit and detail in a conventional animated narrative formula negates their interest – after all, if you want to watch a Woody Allen film set in New York, there are plenty of far better, live action versions! (September 2014)

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