By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - After going intergalactic with "Guardians of the Galaxy," and hanging an entire city from the sky in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," Marvel is reversing its scale but still packing the punches with an insect-sized superhero.
"Ant-Man," out in movie theaters on Friday, sees a new addition to Disney-owned Marvel's expanding universe as Paul Rudd steps into the Ant-Man suit, which allows the wearer to shrink and gives him super strength.
The film follows the origins of Ant-Man, otherwise known as Scott Lang. Unlike Iron Man's billionaire alter-ego Tony Stark or Captain America's patriotic soldier Steve Rogers, Lang is decidedly less heroic - a deadbeat father and petty criminal who has spent time in jail.
Lang is recruited by scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to wear the shrinkable superhero suit and save the world from the villainous corporate tycoon Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), with the help of Hope van Dyne, Pym's feisty daughter (Evangeline Lilly).
"He made some pretty questionable decisions in his life, things are not working out for him. He has to decide if he's going to do the right thing," Rudd told Reuters of Lang.
The heart of the film lies in the father-daughter relationships between Pym and van Dyne, and Lang and his estranged daughter Cassie.
The diminutive size of Ant-Man allows the film to take on a new perspective for the often larger-than-life Marvel, with some of the film's big action scenes taking place in a bathtub, in the folds of a carpet or among blades of grass.
"It was important to Marvel and they took it very seriously that they don't want to repeat themselves, they want to try to do different things," said director Peyton Reed.
"That appealed to everybody - let's not go big; let's literally go small."
With the comedic Rudd leading "Ant-Man," the film ups the laughs with the actor delivering witty, self-deprecating one-liners, while supporting star Michael Pena often steals the spotlight as Lang's dim, goofy sidekick Luis.
"Because it's a heist movie, it's a very strong comedic tone that we were after," Reed said.
Made by Walt Disney Co for a reported $130 million, "Ant-Man" is projected by BoxOffice.com to earn $64 million in its opening weekend at the North American box office.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Alan Crosby)