Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.
When it comes to superhero origin stories, Ant-Man is definitely one of the most unique ones out there. This story of a small-time criminal trying to redeem himself to his family is definitely one that will appeal to the heart and the funny bone.
One thing that I have always loved about Marvel Studios, and one of the secrets behind the success of pretty much all of their movies, is that, when writing the films, they give the movie an overlaying genre and then incorporate the superhero element into/under that (for example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a 70s political thriller, Guardians of the Galaxy is science fiction, Captain America: The First Avenger is a period/war movie, etc.). Ant-Man is Marvel's first attempt at a heist movie, and it is written splendidly to fulfill both the heist and hero parts of the film. They also made a key point to show that Scott Lang was not the first to be the Ant-Man. They gave the character plenty more history and more comic accuracy by making sure that it was well-established that Hank Pym was the original Ant-Man, and that his wife, Janet, was his partner, the Wasp; this made for an important emotional plot point towards the middle of the movie between Pym and his daughter, Hope.
Peyton Reed was a perfect fit to direct this film. With nothing very well known under his belt, other than Jim Carrey's Yes Man, Reed helps to bring a fresh new direction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, creating amazing visuals for the audience to behold and some incredible shots to follow Scott through. For example, my favorite shot in the movie is easily the shot of Ant-Man riding Antony through the PymTech computer server room when they are about to fry the servers and we follow Scott and Antony through the room, between and around the servers. He also did a great job bringing together the sequences where Luis is telling Scott about his tips from his cousins. Overall, Reed did a great job with this movie, and I'm glad that he's returning for Ant-Man & the Wasp.
The acting was great, and with a cast like Ant-Man has, that should come as no shock to anybody. Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope Van Dyne) and Michael Douglas (Hank Pym) were perfect for their roles. Michael Peña was hilarious as Luis and provided much of the comedic relief on his own. You can feel the chemistry between these actors, especially Rudd and Peña, as they quip back and forth with one another. All of the actors get into their roles and embody their characters in the same way that all of the other Avengers have in their movies. Even after just one movie, we can't see anybody else play these roles because the actors have become their characters to that level.
The special and visual effects in this movie are definitely some of the most unique we've seen so far in this cinematic universe, or even in the film industry at all. We see people flying around, delivering super-punches, and creating magic with their hands all the time, but rarely do we see people shrinking and growing, and ever so constantly, which allowed for some pretty funny moments through the movie. The effects and animation in this movie were some of the best that Marvel has had yet to date. The entire final battle was able to take place in a little girl's bedroom, a majority of it on the play-table, which is definitely something we've never seen before. Specifically, at the start of the film, we see what Hank Pym looked like in 1989. The animators had to recreate Michael Douglas's younger face, which proved to be difficult because audiences actually know what Douglas looked like back then, so it had to be fairly exact; but their recreation was genuinely convincing.
The score by Christophe Beck (The Peanuts Movie, Frozen, Get Smart, Edge of Tomorrow) was yet another unique part of the film. The Ant-Man theme music was very sharp and prominent throughout the entire movie, and therefore got in your head all that much quicker and easier. It's tunes and themes fit the characters and the story so well. Just from listening to the score on iTunes, you can tell that it is a superhero/heist movie. I'm hoping Christophe Beck returns to score the sequel because he did very well with this one.
The villain, Darren Cross (AKA the Yellowjacket) is a great comic book villain. His suit design, although did not resemble the suit from the comic books, still looked phenomenal (as did Ant-Man's), and his abilities were well utilized in the final battle. Up until that point, however, the Yellowjacket was just a suit in a vault. I wish we had seen a little bit more Yellowjacket and a little bit less Darren Cross. I understand that the way it was written didn't call for him to put it on until he did, but there is still a part of me that wishes we had seen a bit more of him actually in the suit (even though he managed to off one of the few characters that you come to love and don't expect to be killed until they are).
As an installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there is hardly any standalone superhero movie that has done better. We heard audible references to several Marvel characters throughout the entire movie ("This isn't some cute technology like the Iron Man suit!), events from Age of Ultron ("...They're probably too busy dropping cities out of the sky."), as well as actually had characters from previous movies appear briefly. Scott got to go toe-to-toe with the Falcon ("...and didn't die!"), S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark made their brief appearances at the start of the film, and we even got a scene straight from Captain America: Civil War, the next installment in the franchise, which perfectly set up Ant-Man's inclusion in that film, as well as his addition to the Avengers in later movies.
Although it was far from Marvel's most successful movie, Ant-Man prominently stands out from the rest as a great heist, superhero, and comedy movie. It successfully utilized Ant-Man's backstory, brought a unique, new, lesser-known character to the big screen, and also showed that it's possible for a comic book movie to take a generally less successful genre, and make a great movie with it. All-in-all, Ant-Man makes a great first impression, both as an installment into a cinematic universe, and as a standalone movie on its own, and is quite probably the best superhero origin story since Iron Man.