Smaller in scale but bigger in heart, Marvel Studios' Ant-Man (the latest in the Avengers-universe films) is a simple, by-the-numbers origin story that introduces us to yet another likeable lead character in the mold of a simple man with little scientific knowledge, but a lot of blue-collar (albeit illegal) skills.
I enjoyed this movie (the last of the Phase 2 films before Captain America: Civil War kicks off Phase 3) much more on the degree of how, at times, it stood alone on its own two feet without referencing too much into the world of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, and the Avengers. When the moments occurred where clearly the film was written to be part of the ongoing series (referencing the aforementioned interconnected aspects), it felt a bit tacked on - that's not to say it was bad (a man-versus-ant hand-to-hand battle with one of the Avengers was a highlight of the film), but you could tell the film was originally intended to be by itself in its story and mythology (original director/writer Edgar Wright wanted this, but after falling out of the project, the production was handed over to the competent Peyton Reed to helm).
What I also liked about Ant-Man was in its charm, and its earnestness to not try to be bigger than the likes of Thor or The Incredible Hulk. The Ant-Man character is small not just in presence but in scope, for better or for worse. He is thematically small in his origins when compared to how Captain America or Iron Man got started, and the film keeps itself grounded in that nature - that's not to say the film couldn't be more bombast and extravagant, but its smallness is why I liked the film as much as I did. Ant-Man spent more of its time with its characters than its action sequences, allowing many of them to shine in their own little moments (some cliche, some enjoyable). Marvel Studios producer Kevin Feige has done a fantastic job of keeping these productions about "characters first", and Ant-Man is no exception.
The real highlights of the film for me were the two main leads - Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, the man drawn into the world of heroics and science by the creator of Ant-Man himself, Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas). Rudd is his typical charming self, but Douglas really shines in a role that easily could have been phoned in, but instead the Oscar-winner gives the part the real heart and soul of the film. He's a scientist on the level of Stark and Banner; a man noted for creating the Pym particle which can shrink organic material into the size of an ant.
Hank's heated relationship with his daughter (Evangeline Lilly) is by-the-book, but is also much of the heart of the film. And obviously there is a bad guy in this movie, and it just so happens to be a former protege of Pym's named Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who now heads the company that Pym founded. Cross' agenda is to turn his unstable version of the Pym particle into a military-grade weapon, and that is something that Hank does not agree with (for obvious reasons - the parallel to the atom bomb is apparent) and so draws him to find a man who is capable of taking over his mantle as Ant-Man and stop evil from doing its business.
Ant-Man doesn't overstep its bounds, while playing by the Marvel superhero movie rules and allowing time for its leads to shine. The movie successfully adds even more heart and character to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Michael Douglas owns his role as Hank Pym
Fight scenes are creative
Good visual effects - 1980s Michael Douglas effect was impressive
Paul Rudd is charming as a blue collar-level hero
Quite a few cliche's in the storyline
A couple throwaway secondary characters add little to the story
Typical bad guy motivations
Nice, but forgettable musical score