Ever since Marvel launched its "cinematic universe" with Iron Man back in 2008, the studio has not put a foot wrong. Each and every subsequent film has been a hit with both critics and audiences, and this trend looks set to continue with this latest Marvel outing – which introduces one of the publisher's lesser-known heroes, Ant-Man.
Lesser known he may be to cinema audiences, but in the Marvel comics universe, Ant-Man – and his partner, The Wasp – was actually one of the founding members of The Avengers back in the early 1960s. That Ant-Man was Hank Pym, who is here played by Douglas, with no reference made at all to his Avenging past ... it seems that the cinematic and comic-book universes have somewhat different timelines. But no matter. The now-retired Pyym recruits thief Scott Lang (Rudd), just out of prison, to become the new Ant-Man, donning his special suit (which enables him to shrink down smaller than an ant, but with extraordinary strength and speed) to stop the requisite megalomaniac and his plans for world domination.
Ant-Man is a smaller, less bombastic film than most of its predecessors – particularly the two Avengers films. That works very much in its favour. What also works in its favour are the humour – of which there is a great deal – and the cast, in particular Rudd, Douglas and Lilly as Pym's daughter, Hope. Rudd is a vastly underrated actor, always so likeable in any role he takes on and giving every role his all. From Friends to the Judd Apatow films and now here, I don't think I have ever seen him give a bad performance. He's on brilliant form as Lang, mixing the comic touches with plenty of heft and emotion – particularly in the scenes with his daughter. Douglas seems to be having a lot of fun in his first super-hero film, but still manages to bring the essential gravitas to Dr Pym. And the always-watchable Lilly is a perfect foil for both men.
Throw in some brilliant special effects (you WILL believe a man can shrink to the size of an insect), great action set-pieces, decent well-used 3D and, as already mentioned, plenty of humour, and you can see why other studios are scrabbling to emulate the Marvel movie model. Ant-Man is a perfect super-hero film: fun, funny, exhilarating and hugely entertaining.