Marvel, I forgive you now. After the disappointing Avengers: Age of Ultron (which would've had at least 5.5 stars by me had I been doing movie reviews at the time), Ant-Man feels like an apology to me for that movie, and boy do I forgive them!
The movie stars Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a guy who breaks into places and steals stuff (to put it simply) to get the money he needs in order to make a better life for himself and visit his daughter Cassie more often. I know, it sounds pretty cliche. Indeed it is a worn-out character portrayal that's been done countless times in movies, but Marvel somehow managed to make this part of the story feel fresh and fun all over again. His group of friends, bossed around by his friend Luis, play a ludicrously fun and hilarious supporting cast for Scott. That's actually one of the greatest strengths of this film, it's meant to be funny and it succeeds at doing that. I think I'll even go as far as to say that this was funnier than Guardians of the Galaxy.
Anyway, a retired scientist named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is impressed by Scott's infiltration skills and enlists him to make sure that his creation called the Pym Particle, which has the ability to make him into the super small but super powerful Ant-Man, doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Those wrong hands belong to the current leader of Pym Industries, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who takes on the alias of Yellowjacket.
Scott Lang is trained so that he can succeed in Hank's mission, having to be assisted by Hank's daughter Hope (played by the beautiful Evangeline Lily). One of the things that makes this movie such a treat is that at its heart its an action movie with very little to take from it besides a fun ride but it still doesn't ignore the relationships of the characters and their motivations. The story drives us to care for the characters and by the end of it, I was really excited at the idea of seeing some of these characters again (we will be seeing Scott again in Captain America: Civil War after all, that's not a spoiler, the main character never dies in these Marvel films).
While the story does follow that tired storytelling trope about a divorced dad trying to get his act together, this is the first time its been used in the MCU, and it was surprisingly engaging and not tedious at all. Paul Rudd is an awesome Scott Lang, reminding me of the likes of Tom Cruise and Ryan Reynolds. His comic timing is perfect and he may be the funniest superhero introduced in the MCU so far, which is crazy for me to say in the first place because I really didn't think that RDJ's Tony Stark or Chris Pratt's Peter Quill could get bumped down to a lower spot on the scale. Paul does an exceptional job of playing a father who cares a lot for his daughter, which is used as a driving force to motivate him throughout the movie.
As a downside, it came as no surprise to me that the villain Darren Cross was just as uninteresting and underdeveloped as most of the other previous villains in the MCU. He's basically evil for the sake of being evil. It's sad that for now I can only think fondly of Kingpin from the Daredevil series, Loki, and John Garrett from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as examples of good villain characters in the MCU, even though two out of three of them come from TV shows.
Visually, the movie is very stunning. Sure this isn't the first movie where someone gets shrunken down and everything is massive around him, but this is probably the first movie where it looks the most gorgeous and convincing. I never once thought to myself "hey, that's just a guy running amidst a colony of CGI ants", because it all looked very convincing without looking too obvious or cheesy. Which reminds me, is the concept of the movie silly? Absolutely. The whole intervention of the ants in the story is weird, but in a fictional universe where Norse gods and talking raccoons exist, I think its acceptable at this point. Its been interesting seeing the down-to-earth realism (the Daredevil series) being balanced out with the out-of-this-world unbelievability (Guardians of the Galaxy) in this universe.
One of the best things I can't forget to mention about this movie is how simple it is. It doesn't try to go so big (looking at you Age of Ultron) and be filled with buildings falling and CGI explosions, but instead goes for fun battles that actually don't cause a lot of crazy damage (which is one of the funny parts of the movie, see it for yourself) and manages to be pretty heartfelt too because of Scott's motivations. The threat is also not particularly on a worldwide scale, which is also refreshing.
I would be remiss not to mention the connections this movie has with the MCU. It actually had more connections to the previous movies then I thought it would. I was happy that for once, this movie explains why the Avengers can't be called to handle the situation, and we get an appearance from Falcon that doesn't distract us from the story, but instead the movie uses him as an obstacle in Scott's way when he's going after something he needs. Darren Cross also plans on selling samples of the Pym Particle to agents of HYDRA which was a nice tie-in as well. Also, the post-credits scene was perfect. Let's just say that I'm more excited than ever for Captain America: Civil War.
As a side-note, I saw this movie in 3-D and was, for the most part, unimpressed by it. I honestly didn't think it was worth the extra few bucks with the exception of two moments that were pretty cool to see, but even with that, I don't recommend the 3-D. Save your money and see it in 2-D.
When I first walked into Ant-Man, I was expecting an appetizer before we get to have the main course (Civil War). While this movie was so much more fun and enjoyable than I expected, it still remains an appetizer in my eyes. While Age of Ultron was more concerned about setting up events for future movies than story development, Ant-Man was satisfied as a movie that, for the most part, stands on its own and it's stronger because of that. It doesn't focus on very complex issues like Captain America: The Winter Soldier which addressed mass surveillance, or like Iron Man which addressed the horrors that can potentially follow through the production of weapons despite the good intentions behind the weapons. At the end of the day I'm still waiting for Captain America: Civil War, more anxiously now.