Last year Hollywood-watchers were dubious about Guardians of the Galaxy--a comparatively unknown property, which was also a space opera. As if the track record of non-Star Wars space opera wasn't worrying enough (the John Carters far outnumber the Avatars, and the last superhero-cum-space opera was, of course, 2011's Green Lantern), the heroes included a duo comprised of an anthropomorphic raccoon and a talking tree, just the kind of thing to suggest it was "too weird" for the general audience with which it had to connect to be a moneymaker.
However, it went on to be the hit of the season (not a very strong season, but its hit all the same). It also made that guy who was Vince Vaughn's lawyer in Delivery Man an A-lister and an action star (a status reconfirmed by the massive success of Jurassic World this summer).
And it made the Marvel brand look stronger, rather than weaker.
The result was that while Ant-Man seemed similarly obscure and unlikely, the recent success of Guardians gave one pause before dismissing its chances.
Still, with the receipts now being counted (and expected to come out to about $58 million), the analogies have been with 2008's Hulk rather than Guardians. It remains to be seen what sort of legs the movie will have, and how it will do internationally--and either and certainly both could make it a bigger money-maker than Hulk was. When all is said and done this still would not make it one of Marvel's more impressive performers, or even enable it to completely escape the taint of flop status, but would still leave it a success by just about any measure besides that of the Marvel name.
My Posts on Superheroes