The Best of the Worst: Antz

Today, I was incredibly bored and decided to watch the children’s film Antz. I’ve always heard that it was essentially a rip off of A Bug’s Life (even though Antz was released first) but it had a high rating on Rotten Tomatoes so I figured hey, maybe this isn’t as bad as everyone assumes.

Antz is… weird. It’s very political and critical of communism/collectivism in a way that no child would ever be able to understand. The film starts off with Z, the main character, telling his therapist that he feels worthless and insignificant. His therapist tells him this is exactly how he should feel because it’s realistic - one ant makes no difference in the world. This motivates Z - he returns to work with a new optimism on how useful he can be for his colony.

This new outlook doesn’t last very long - Z feels out of place when he is at a bar and all of the ants start doing the exact same dance without him. He tries to join in to impress Bala, the ant princess, but he’s a mess and steps on everyone’s feet. Bala rejects him, running away as a fight breaks out in the bar.

The princess is stone cold.

The princess is stone cold.

Despite Bala being obviously not interested in Z, he is obsessed with her. Since workers are never allowed in the ant palace, he impersonates a soldier to get the chance to see Bala again. This plan immediately goes awry when he is sent out on a deadly mission to invade the nearby termite colony.

This is the point where the movie lost all potential to be a fun animated adventure. Z makes several weird political comments for pretty much no reason, right before all the other ants are slaughtered in a bloody battle. Z, the lone survivor, emerges to find the carcasses of dead ants everywhere. He even finds one ant’s head and speaks to it.

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Isn’t this a kids movie?? Who is this pandering to?? What is he even talking about??

Isn’t this a kids movie?? Who is this pandering to?? What is he even talking about??

In case it wasn’t apparent in above screenshots, these ants are terrifying. They look like if humans had no skin and were instead made of leather shoes. To be fair, this is one of the pioneering CG flms so the models were not as advanced as they are now, but even in 1996 it should have been obvious that adding teeth to things that are not supposed to have them can only yield terrifying results.

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Z returns from the battle and thinks his heroics will have won Bala’s heart. He is mistaken - she is pretty significantly not interested in him. He retorts by telling her he will never think about her sexually again. This is a very weird thing to say to another person.

The rest of the movie is a combination of Aladdin, Shark Tale, and A Bug’s Life with a continuous running commentary on how communism sucks and everyone should just do whatever they want.

The film eventually ends when all the ants work together to escape from the colony as it floods. This is a pretty confusing message: all the ants had to work together to survive but the entire film was one huge message against collective thinking.

Why was an anthill even chosen for this story? This makes no sense - anthills thrive on collective, hive mind workers. Every ant is literally there to serve the queen and there is no way for an individual ant to seize power. This is completely unheard of in the insect kingdom.

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Another inaccuracy is the portrayal of the importance of male ants. There are only a small handful of female characters in the film and they are pretty much useless, doing little more than motivating the main character to achieve his dream of becoming special and important. This is very unrealistic as female ants make up a large percentage of an anthill population and are 100% of the workforce.

If this movie was realistic, Z would have had sex with Bala and died within a week.

If this movie was realistic, Z would have had sex with Bala and died within a week.

This movie earns a solid 3/7. It challenged my thoughts on communism and government while also making some fun puns about bugs but it loses marks for inaccurately portraying my favourite kind of bug. Delightful for the whole family (except for the children, teenagers who are easily bored, or anyone of any age who enjoys watching interesting movies).

Nearly 20 years later and this review still rings completely true.

Nearly 20 years later and this review still rings completely true.