Ant-Man [Celluloid Hero]
Watching Ant-Man got me fully caught up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Phase 1 had introduced us to the main characters of the MCU, and culminated with "The Avengers" in 2012. Phase 2 featured a few sequels (Iron Man 3), an introductory movie (Guardians of the Galaxy), and an ensemble movie (Avengers: Age of Ultron) before finally wrapping things up with the introduction of a brand new character, Ant-Man.
Marvel had taken a big risk with "Guardians of the Galaxy" by bringing in characters that a vast majority of movie-goers had never heard of before. "Ant-Man" isn't as obscure as they are, and comic fans definitely know he was actually a founding member of the Avengers. I think the reason Marvel shied away from him initially is that the power to shrink to the size of an insect simply isn't as cool as turning into a giant green monster or being a Nordic god or being a billionaire playboy in a shiny suit. The success of Phase 1 really allowed Marvel to expand and take more chances, and let the audience trust everything would come together.
The main storyline is a great bridge between the timeline of the first Captain America movie and the Ultron movie. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) works with SHIELD alongside Howard Stark (Iron Man's father) and Agent Peggy Carter (who was part of the team that created Captain America). Pym manages to hide his greatest breakthrough, the "Pym Particle", because he believes it can do more harm than good. When his protege Darren Cross replicates his results, Pym recruits Scott Lang to steal the tech to save the world.
Paul Rudd is one of my favorite actors. He's another unexpected choice in terms of being a super-hero, but his character isn't meant to be the bodybuilder-type, so it works. Michael Douglas brings nice clout to his role as mentor but can still draw a laugh with the comic material. Corey Stoll nailed his take as the villain Cross. Cross is a somewhat unique bady guy in the MCU in that he thinks he's doing good. Loki knows he's bad, Ronan wanted to destroy everything, Obadiah Stane was a manipulator, Ivan Vanko was out for revenge. Cross just wants the respect of his mentor, and loses his mind when Pym spurns him. I also love Michael Pena, who shows great range in his movies from dramas to comedies.
The CGI is what really made Ant-Man work. As much as I prefer practical effects, having a man constantly shrinking and growing and shrinking and growing would have been too much to do without computers. I know that a man who can shrink is no crazier than aliens from another dimension or a flying rocket suit or the Hulk, but Ant-Man is going into a world that is simply a totally different point of view from our own, one that needed to be shown via CGI.
As the MCU grows and expands, I keep finding myself asking the question "is this necessary?" and never quite having an answer. Obviously having a movie saga that will end up being over 20 movies set in one intertwining universe isn't "necessary", but I still find myself in awe that they continue to pull it off. We may very well be headed for overkill, but for now I'll keep watching these movies and keep enjoying myself.
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Ant-Man" gets a 7 out of 10.