To get it all out of the way from the start, yes, Ant-Man is essentially like every other Marvel superhero movie.
A lovable loser tries to find redemption by gaining powers, following a mentor, meeting a love interest, and stopping a maniacal head of huge corporation who has inextricably gained powers of his own, all with the help of his comic relief friends.
Yes, this is the same basic formula Marvel uses in virtually all of their films. They use the formula because it works. And they use the superhero formula, but they experiment with it in various genres.
The Avengers films are classic summer action blockbusters. Thor provides a fantasy world. The first Captain America served as a World War II period war adventure. The second Captain America was a Jason Bourne-style spy thriller. Guardians of the Galaxy is a comedy space opera. Ant-Man brings in yet another genre—the heist film.
Scott Lang is a highly skilled cat burglar fresh out of prison and trying to turn his life around for his daughter. After his ex-con status keeps him from being gainfully employed, Lang tries one last job. Of course, the house he tries to steal from belongs to Hank Pym, scientific genius and previously the Ant-Man.
Pym wants to train Lang to become the new Ant-Man and prevent the scientist’s protege, Darren Cross, from selling off the shrinking technology to the world’s highest bidder. Pym’s estranged daughter, Hope, predictably doubts Lang is up to the job.
Overall, the tiny-sized hero provides a nice respite in between the giant complex stories of Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel’s big summer movie this year) and Captain America: Civil War (Marvel’s big summer movie next year).
Ant-Man is most frequently (and literally) played on a much smaller scale than other grand Marvel adventures and those are the films best parts. When the action shrinks down, there are dozens of little gags and visual puns.
Much like Robert Downey Jr. seems born to play Iron Man, Paul Rudd is the perfect Ant-Man. The self-deprecating humor and affable nature make him well-suited to the role of Scott Lang.
More kid-friendly and lighter than some of the recent Marvel movies (much more than most of the DC movies), Ant-Man is not a perfect film, but it is a really good film. It honestly seems as if Marvel can no longer make a bad film.
Yes, it is predictable, but it is fun. It’s like Oceans 11 meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a dash of Iron Man. Sometimes that hodgepodge works, other times it swings and misses, but it never ceases to be a vibrant, funny film.
Due to the interlocking storylines, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become similar to a television series. All the episodes are connected, but some are more vital to the overarching plot. If you miss them, you will be lost in the series finale.
Others aren’t as vital in the long run, but they have really fun stories and help fill out the season. You can miss them and still pick up the next episode, but those who watch it, enjoy it and catch even more interesting connections.
That’s Ant-Man for Marvel. He’ll be in some of the truly important films later, but this is just a fun introduction story that provides a breather in between the mammoth tentpole movies.
There are several cameos from and allusions to previous Marvel movies and shows (like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Agent Carter and Captain America: Winter Soldier), as well as hints at upcoming Marvel movies (like an Ant-Man sequel, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man’s arrival to the MCU).
Stay until the very end, there are two scenes after the credits begin. One happens mid-credits and one is completely post-credit. (If you are curious, you can read about both Ant-Man post-credit scenes here.)
Ant-Man is a superhero heist film with humor built-in. Marvel has set the standard so high that this small, fun movie seems to miss, but it is enjoyable. That’s the point, even it is a small one.