The typical superhero film has been around for decades. Everyone knows that we get a protagonist introduction, maybe some backstory depending on if we're watching a sequel or not, followed by some plot, the antagonist, then conflict, then resolution.
That's an admittedly reductive way to look at superhero movies (and can be applied to most movies in general). But the point is that it takes a good amount of standalone originality for superhero movies to not bore the masses that will swarm to see them, especially when they revolve around a character that many people haven't even heard of.
Apart from the usual superhero formula, here are five things that help Ant-Man stand on its own six legs (sorry).
Marvel obviously had a very specific idea in mind when they cast Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man. We've had wildly popular snarky characters before (looking at you, Robert Downey Jr.), but taking an iconic comedic actor and throwing him into the deep end without floaties is a risk, one that thankfully paid off. When Rudd's humor meets Marvel's body-image standards we're treated to a fit cat burglar turned size-changing hero who can talk shit and land a dry one-liner.
While Rudd leads the charge, the rest of the cast, headed by Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily (The Hobbit trilogy), and Corey Stoll (The Bourne Legacy) keep up with his energy as genius-turned-hermit, an embittered-double-agent with daddy issues, and a crazy-sheep-abusing-businessman, respectively. But nothing should be taken away from Lang's friends from prison, Michael Pena, and T.I., nor his ex-wife and mother of his child, Judy Greer, who just played a similar role in Jurassic World. Even the child actress herself, Abby Ryder Fortson, whose comedic timing is only rivaled by Rudd's, holds her own.
While we won't go crazy getting into the physics of it all, the diminutive landscapes that the movie delves into is what ultimately makes this movie stand out (and even makes it worth seeing in 3D). From his first shrinking experience in his rundown apartment building, to his encounters with the colonies of ants that will become his allies, to a final fight scene that takes place primarily on the play table of his young daughter, the landscapes and locations that today's CGI can replicate make this film not only great to follow, but great to watch.
Speaking of the ants, it would be remiss to not give them their own shout out. The film demonstrates how interesting and diverse they are as a species - some can conduct electrical currents, some have a bite so painful that they're called bullet ants because it actually feels like you've been shot, and, of course, some of them can fly. Rudd's character's initial hesitation at working with them is fleeting after he finds out how great they are. He even gives out nicknames.
And of course, this deep into the Marvel cinematic universe, no one film would be complete without a tie-in to another one or two. Soft spoilers ahead: Anthony Mackie's character, Falcon, from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, makes an appearance and has a brief scuffle with Rudd after he accidentally stumbles onto the warehouse-turned-Avengers-headquarters (see Age of Ultron), which leads to the second bonus scene at the end of the credits that looks like it will lead into Captain America: Civil War, the first scene promises an Ant-Man sequel. Duh.