Directed By: Peyton Reed

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Peña, Tip "T.I." Harris, Wood Harris, Judy Greer, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Douglas

The trailers for Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad may be all the rage right now as Warner Bros. seeks to lay the foundations of its DC Comics universe on the big screen.  Still, Marvel Studios is the dominant player, even without some of its flagship heroes such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.  They're so dominant that they can now take creative gambles with their productions.  The moment Redbone's "Come And Get Your Love" began the awesome mix that was Guardians of the Galaxy last year, moviegoers everywhere could sense that they were in for something truly special, something unlike anything else in the superhero movie genre.  This year, the micro hero known to comics aficionados as Ant-Man makes his way to the big screen, and Marvel once again lights up the big screen with yet another special creative gamble.  Fittingly, it just so happens to be on the release date originally slated for next year's Dawn of Justice.

It's 1989.  Scientist and secret hero Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is hell-bent on keeping his Pym particle formula off the market.  It's a technology that shrinks atoms while also making them denser.  It's enabled him to be the smallest of heroes and the greatest of foes as the Ant-Man.  After a heated argument with S.H.I.E.L.D. heads Howard Stark (John Slattery), Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), and Mitchell Carson (Martin Donovan), Hank takes his ball home, and the prospect of this technology hitting the market anytime soon fades.  Hank goes on to found the successful corporation Pym Technologies.  Fast forward to the present day, and we have a very different scenario.  Plagued by a frosty relationship with his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and the ambition of his former apprentice and current Pym Technologies CEO Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), Hank finds that his worst nightmare is about to come true.  Bent on replicating the Pym particle of which Hank never actually acknowledged existence, Darren is on the verge of success.  Even worse, he's on the verge of putting this technology out on the market, spelling chaos for the world.  With the prospect of this, Hank needs the Ant-Man more than ever.  He’s just not the one to put on the suit anymore.

Fresh out of jail, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is ready to do right by his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).  Despite his degree in electrical engineering, his status as an ex-convict significantly limits his career opportunities.  He ends up working at a Baskin Robbins.  Somehow, even the manager here finds out about his checkered past, and Scott's promising future in the ice cream business is cut short.  Though he wants to make money, he refuses to do it the wrong way by breaking into a place and stealing some stuff as his friends Luis, Dave, and Kurt (Michael Peña, Tip "T.I." Harris, and David Dastmalchian) would have him to do.  Regardless, Maggie's current fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) doesn't see any redeeming qualities in Scott, and poisons the well for the reformed convict with Maggie and Cassie.  Desperate to make some cash and be in Cassie's life in particular, Scott inevitably turns to his friends to break into a place and steal some stuff from a rich guy.  Little does Scott know that said rich guy Hank Pym is letting him steal something very near and dear to help him become something more, to help him become the Ant-Man.

For a film plagued by a creative showdown hyped up in the media and the eventual and controversial departure of writer and director Edgar Wright, Ant-Man turned out to be a pretty damn good movie.  It is the first comic book in a while to epitomize the notion that simplicity is elegance.  The fact that it does so pays huge dividends on the big screen.  There are no floating cities, armies of super villains, or far away galaxies here in Peyton Reed's Ant-Man.  There are only actors, ants, and a little CGI.  It's got plenty of action.  It's full of heart.  It's wildly hilarious.  Ant-Man is a simple origin story that knows its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The premise of Ant-Man is a difficult one to pull off successfully.  Ants are no easy sell, and neither is a climactic battle in a little girl's bedroom.  However, Reed makes the film so infectiously fun and consequently gets us to suspend our disbelief.  He serves up Marvel's signature recipe of flavorful humor again and again.  There's so much comedy that moviegoers don't get bogged down by the science fiction behind the Pym particle or what it really means to go subatomic in the quantum zone.  At the same time, he steps away from the typical Marvel formula and creates what may just be the first superhero heist movie.  He piques our curiosity with his fluid depiction of the world on both large and small scales to the extent that we don't mind the army of ants he's using to provide Rudd's backup during said heist.  These are all the markings of a rather impressive production, one that sets the stage for both sequels and prequels featuring insect-sized heroes all over the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The film has a stellar ensemble that gels really well to get us all excited about ants and what they mean for Phase 3 of the MCU and beyond.  For his part as Scott Lang and one of the two titular characters, Paul Rudd follows in the footsteps of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man and Chris Pratt's Star-Lord by finding his funny bone.  He's the chill slacker who shrinks to become the hero he was born to be.  For his part as the other titular character Hank Pym, Michael Douglas brings a swagger to the big screen that's been sorely missed.  The screen legend is one smooth old dude and trades plenty of hilarious barbs with Rudd on camera.  For her part as Hope van Dyne, Evangeline Lilly delivers a tough, badass heroine in the wings with daddy issues.  She's definitely Rudd's antithesis on screen.  We also have Corey Stoll as our antagonist Yellowjacket.  Giving an unstable performance that hits the mark, he's the right man for the job in Ant-Man.  Finally, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention the humorous performances of Michael Peña, Tip "T.I." Harris, and David Dastmalchian.  They're one motley crew, but they deliver the laughs.

Ant-Man marks the end of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  With the likes of Iron Man 3, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Age of Ultron in this phase alone, I'd be a fool to say that Ant-Man is the best of this bunch.  That being said, the bite-sized hero is moving in his own lane, and I'll certainly be there to watch him in the years to come.  Ant-Man showcases Marvel once again bringing comedy to the forefront.  With wonderful direction from Peyton Reed and delightful performances from his cast, this MCU experiment pays off.  Ant-Man gets a strong 0.03% rating.  Have some wine coolers with this one.