Ant-Man marks the end of Marvel's Phase Two. If Avengers: Age of Ultron was Phase Two ending on a bang, Ant-Man is the quieter fizzle that follows. It also marks Marvel's first return to telling origin stories since Captain America: The First Avenger. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy was new territory but that's far from the origin story model that Ant-Man so closely adheres to. The film follows ex-con Scott Lang who is hired by Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, to carry out a heist to get Pym's shrinking technology out of the wrong hands. Scott, motivated by the love for his daughter who is in the custody of Scott's estranged wife, accepts the Ant-Man torch passed to him by Pym, and by the end of the film the newest member of The Avengers is born.
I'll admit, Ant-Man starts out rough. I went into this movie with skepticism, mostly fueled by how badly I wanted to see Edgar Wright's version of this film. After seeing what Ant-Man became after Wright's departure I'm not terribly disappointed but I want to believe Wright's insight could have saved some of the weakest parts of this film. Those parts in question surround the human relationships that the movie tries so hard to make us care about. You've got Scott's relationship with his daughter, as well as Pym's relationship with his driving the "emotion" of the film. It didn't take me long to realize how little I cared about either. This script tries incessantly to get us invested in the human element at the core of this story, but some of the most sentimental moments played so cheesy, and some pacing issues stuck scenes of important character development in oddly random places.
As the family drama bullshit continued to develop I really started to think Marvel had churned out a dud. Then about 20 minutes in Scott shrinks for the first time and my whole opinion of the film started to change. Despite everything else, I was reminded that this is a superhero story. Ant-Man takes a while to establish itself as what it actually is, which is a strange yet fun mish-mash of genres. At it's core Ant-Man is a by-the-books superhero origin film, but it also wants to be a comedy, which is something it succeeded at about 70% of the time. It's lucky enough to possess real comedic talent in it's lead, Paul Rudd, and Michael Pena who steals the show as the goofy fast talking friend/sidekick of Scott's. Then, in terms of the action, Ant-Man is also a heist film that utilizes all the beats and tropes of bank robbery flicks of the 60's and 70's. This amalgam of genres doesn't always work, but it gives you enough of reasons to enjoy Ant-Man.
I think what will save this film from being lost in the halls of Marvel is the uniqueness of its action. For years we've been so used to big action spectacle from these films. We expect buildings to blow up, cities to be destroyed, and larger than life figures to be punching each other as hard as they can. Ant-Man gives us something so fresh in its macro spectacle, turning the inside of a briefcase into a battle arena and a little girl's bedroom into the battlegrounds for a final act showdown. Marvel continues to work its visual genius here, making the ant sized world come to life and feel so authentic. There is some great use of macro photography that puts us right in the middle of the action making something as mundane as a bathtub an exciting venue for CGI fueled excitement.
In many ways Ant-Man is a breath of fresh air. However, there's a lot in the writing that makes this film feel like a story we've already seen hundreds of times before. All in all Marvel has delivered to us another entertaining use of two hours. This is by no means a bad film. It's a problematic film that saves itself with the familiar spectacle of Marvel given to us in an unfamiliar fashion. There are a lot of other Marvel films that I would recommend before this one, but Ant- Man has still succeeded in being a lot of innocent fun. It teaches us that, sometimes, that's all you can really ask for.