Phase 2 of the MCU is definitely the "risk-taking" phase for Marvel. With the financial success of their films followed by the massive hit in Guardians of the Galaxy, Disney and Marvel were playing with house money. Marvel films were becoming more than just an inter-connected comic book universe, they were becoming a brand. Become a brand that people show up to without hesitation allows you to take risks and make films audiences haven't seen before. Ant-Man would become Marvel's next risk to take and it seemed the highest risk yet. While Paul Rudd had success being a leading man, he was known for comedy and not considered an action hero. Ant-Man also lost it's hot-shot director in Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, Baby Driver, Cornetto Trilogy) midway through post-production with Peyton Reed filling his shoes. With the loss of its director and questionable lead, Ant-Man seemed to be the safe bet to become the first Marvel film to flop.
Ant-Man starred Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Peña, and T.I. Scott Lang (Rudd) is released from prison after serving his sentence for stealing money from corporate leaders who were taking advantage of their employees. Trying to adjust to the real world, Lang falls back into his old ways and meets up with Hank Pym (Douglas), a scientist formerly known as Ant-Man. With Pym's business protégé Darren Cross (Stoll), hell-bent on replicating Pym's technology, Hank brings in Scott Lang to take up the mantle of the Ant-Man. With the help of Pym's daughter Hope (Lilly), Scott accepts the mission to become the new Ant-Man and help prevent Darren Cross from replicating his technology.
After watching this film, I can hold by my original statement that Ant-Man is a funnier film than Deadpool. While I find both films very comedic, I just like the comedic content and timing executed in Ant-Man more than Deadpool. While Ryan Reynold's take on Deadpool might be a better lead character than Rudd's take on Scott Lang, I feel like Rudd gets more natural laughs than Reynold's. Deadpool's humor is more vulgar and harsh whereas Ant-Man is a bit more wittier with their comedy. While I enjoy both movies, I believe that Ant-Man was more deserving of recognition in 2016 over Deadpool.
I also enjoy the fact that we jump into the modern incarnation of Ant-Man. Instead of taking a film or two to tell the origin story of Ant-Man, the audience is given a crash course into the character and thrusted into the action without spending a ton of time on exposition. Not only does this decision help audiences get right into the meat of the story, it allows Marvel the ability to come back to the character and explain his backstory later on in the future. Maybe there is a plan further down the road for Douglas take a crack at leading the original Ant-Man when de-aging technology gets more advanced. Either way, Marvel and their decision to make this film the origin story of Ant-Man was the right decision.
While the film does a good job at progressing the protagonist along with some quality laughs along the way, the film does fall victim to another weak villain from Marvel. The antagonist of Ant-Man falls into another one of Marvel's predictable tropes of having the hero face off against a villain-ized version of himself. Similar to Iron-Man, Captain America, and The Incredible Hulk before, Lang must face off against Cross in their own versions of the Pym-particle suit. Stoll's performance as Darren Cross is definitely menacing but his character's motivations begin to become cartoonish as the film leads towards its climax. The face-off between the two does a great job at creating something new and fresh with the climax but the conflict between the two characters was very mundane and lacks depth.
Ant-Man is definitely a quality film that gives you something different from the MCU while also setting up future films. While Ant-Man is a very enjoyable film, I do not believe that Ant-Man is a required watch leading up to later films at this point. While Scott Lang does make an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, his role is small and very little of his origin film bleeds into the events of Civil War. That being said, I do believe you should watch Ant-Man if you are wanting to get through as many MCU films as possible before the release of Infinity War. The film is a breath of fresh air in the comic book genre and I think Ant-Man has some of the most natural comedic moments in the entire franchise. Do yourself a favor and give this movie a shot. If you go into Civil War or Avengers: Infinity War and decide to skip out on Ant-Man, you're going to be found out. Baskin Robins always finds out.