Despite the unfortunate departure of original director Edgar Wright, Ant-Man is an incredibly fun breathe of fresh air after the epic but over stuffed Age of Ultron.
Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang, a burglar who is fresh out of prison after he was caught pulling a heist against a corrupt corporation. He catches the eye of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who fought in the 80’s as Ant-Man but has hid his technology after a tragic mission in 1987, which has caused his protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) to obsessively try and replicate Pym’s shrinking tech in order to sell it to the highest bidder. Pym has been working on a plan with his estranged daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to stop Cross from completing his work and recruits Scott to help break into Pym Technologies. Rudd is as effortlessly charming as ever and you are pretty much rooting for Scott from the first second he’s on screen. He doesn’t have some tragic backstory or horrific secret, he’s just a regular dude who wants to be there for his daughter and help people out if he can. Douglas and Lilly are great foils for Rudd’s cocky comments, especially during the wonderful training montage where Scott has to learn the intracasies of shrinking and communicating with ants. Douglas also brings some great emotional depth to Hank Pym as well. Corey Stoll is great as the smarmy asshole Darren Cross but there’s a very half-assed explanation thrown in at the end to explain his assholeishness but there’s really no setup to it in the movie and he would have worked fine without trying to justify why.
Unlike most of the other MCU movies, Ant-Man is first and foremost a heist film, so there may be less action than the other movies but the trade off is that you get tons of great scenes where the group is planning and preparing. Scott has a hilarious group of friends who fill out the usual roles of getaway driver, security expert, etc, led by a scene stealing Michael Pena. The big thing that sets Ant-Man apart is obviously his shrinking ability and it’s used to great effect. Scott’s first misadventure shrunk is a fantastic sequence as he keeps falling into crazier and more dangerous situations in his apartment building. The various ants in the movie also give Scott lots of creative options for the heist and the movie does a great job of showing how Scott could hang with the Avengers, he even fights one when Pym needs him to “borrow” a piece of Stark tech that he designed back in the day.
Speaking of Stark and the Avengers, Ant-Man is actually much more tied into the MCU than the trailers and lead up would have you believe. The coolest thing to me is that they set Hank Pym up as kind of the 80’s/Cold War equivalent to Steve Rogers, as he’s sent on covert missions against the Soviet Union and has a serum MacGuffin in Pym Particles that gives him his power. There’s some familiar faces in the first scene where Hank resigns from the early version of SHIELD and Scott is seemingly going to play a crucial part in Cap’s side of the Civil War. The final battle with Darren Cross as Yellowjacket has some fun with the actual scale of the battle and things shrinking and growing but Scott gets caught in a seemingly impossible to come back from situation and resolves it, in my opinion, a little too quickly and it’s suprising that Hank Pym never thought to do what Scott does.
Ant-Man is another great entry in the MCU and the perfect capper for Phase 2. It succeeds by telling it’s own self contained heist caper in the universe with just the right amount ties ins and set ups for Civil War and beyond.