The final film of Phase Two builds an important bridge to the future of the Marvel Universe
With the release of Ant-Man, the world may have gotten a little bit smaller, but the Marvel Universe has officially gotten a little bit bigger with the addition of Scott Lang to the ever-expanding roster of superheroes. And while the last movie in Marvel’s Phase Two line-up may not seem like it has much relevance where the future of the MCU is concerned, Ant-Man is filled with references, cameos and world building hints that allows it to slot itself pretty cleanly into the franchise as a whole.
By now, everyone knows that Marvel end credits scenes are notorious for teasing upcoming films or storylines. Usually, the mid credits scenes carry a bit more weight, while the tags are reserved for lighter sequences. (Schwarma, anyone?) Ant-Man is different, however, because both credit scenes have particularly significant meanings, albeit for different reasons. While our mid credit feature was a set-up teasing the future of characters introduced in Ant-Man, the end credits previewed what looks like some major conflict in regards to next year’s Captain America: Civil War. We’ll dig deeper into both of these scenes, but first, let’s rehash where we ended up before those last few moments. And obviously, prepare yourselves for MASSIVE SPOILERS.
As Ant-Man wraps up, things are looking pretty darn good for Scott Lang. He’s saved the world, but more importantly, he’s got his daughter Cassie back and he’s even on good terms with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her police officer fiancé Paxton (Bobby Cannavale). Better yet, it looks like Scott’s life of crime has turned into the life of a crime-fighting superhero, as he’s now wanted for an even bigger job (some might even say it’s Avengers-sized). Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) aren’t doing too bad either. Now that Hope knows the truth about her mother, Janet, and has all but mended the rift with her dad (and shared a kiss with Scott), she can finally get around to doing that whole save the world thing she’s been gunning for. Which brings us to…
THE MID CREDITS
We have Hank re-opening his vault, revealing to Hope a version of the iconic Wasp suit. Hank explains that he and Janet had been working on an advanced prototype, but that Janet never got to use it before her accident. Hank tells his daughter that maybe the suit was supposed to be for her after all, and Hope’s response (“it’s about damn time”) seems to indicate pretty clearly that Ant-Man and Wasp will be formative players in future Marvel films.
But wait! You exclaim. I thought Ant-Man was Hank Pym and the Wasp was Janet van Dyne! You’re not wrong, and here’s where things get a little dicey. Hank Pym is the original Ant-Man (hence those “Pym particles”) who first appeared in Marvel’s Tales to Astonish. [ANT-SIZED ASIDE: If you pay attention to Darren Cross’ speech at the beginning of the film, when he’s showing off his research, the line “tales to astonish!” makes an appearance when referencing old Cold War videos. /END OF ANT-SIZED ASIDE.] Hank was married to Janet van Dyne, a founding Avenger also known as the Wasp. Janet became not only the team’s longest running leader aside from Cap, but also played a prominent role in forming the Avengers and keeping them together.
The MCU plays by different rules, though, and so our ant-sized hero in this world is Scott Lang — the second Ant-Man, who made his first comic appearance in the ’80s and stole the suit from Hank, following a storyline similar to the film. Hank isn’t a superhero in this movie — at least, not anymore: he creates the Ant-Man suit and Pym particles, having left his old life behind and entrusting the technology to Scott. As for Janet, she supposedly died on a mission some years earlier after she was lost to the Quantum Realm when Hope was a young girl.
The good news is that this tag all but confirms Wasp will be included in the MCU at some point, if not in some of the next Phase Three movies. The bad news is that it looks like Wasp won’t be Janet, but will instead be Hope. (Silver living: at least having Hope in the picture gives us a chance to bring another woman into the fold.) It’s more than a little disappointing considering that the character is not only integral to the Ant-Man comics, she has a 50+ year history with the Avengers (like, Janet van Dyne named the Avengers. Well before Tony Stark did.) But at least all isn’t completely lost for an appearance of the character, and I’m not just talking about flashbacks. Remember when Scott went into the Quantum Realm (or, as comics like to call it, the “Microverse”) after sacrificing himself to save Cassie and his family? He did manage to return, despite Hank’s warnings. And if you use your eagle-eyes when Scott is moving through space and time, there’s what looks like another figure floating in the ether. I’m not saying maybe that’s Janet, but well … director Peyton Reed did tell fans to play close attention during that particular scene.
Given that the film ends with Hank asking Scott what he remembers about his experience going “subatomic” we seem to be setting up the idea that Scott and Hope will go on a search for Janet, especially now that Hank knows it’s possible she survived. Is this a journey the two will take together? Or will it involve the other Avengers?
Or, hey! Maybe Wasp will join up with the Avengers in Infinity War. (This is probably the most plausible, as Lilly currently isn’t set to appear in Civil War.) Anyway, we’ve already got an entirely different Avengers team and it seems next year’s film will only further that split, especially by the time all these new characters get introduced. Which brings us to…
THE END CREDITS
While the mid-credits focused on Marvel’s newest players, the end credits brought back three familiar faces: Falcon, Captain America, and Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier, aka Cap’s best friend-turned-metal-armed-Hydra-assassin. Although there was a passing reference to Bucky in Age of Ultron (mostly to remind the audience that while the Avengers were raiding Hydra bases, that search was still happening) this is the first time we’ve seen the character since last year.
So, somewhere between Ultron and Civl War, Bucky has indeed been located. He’s sitting in what looks like a warehouse or a garage, and he’s got his metal arm stuck in what looks like some sort of machine. (Which, upon further research, looks to be an antique version of a sheet metal punching machine.) It’s unclear whether he’s trapped because of someone else’s doing, whether he’s trying to get help on his own, or whether Cap and Falcon have confined him here for another reason entirely. And unlike the hoodie-wearing man we last saw staring at the Smithsonian exhibit — the one that looked like he was possibly trying to figure out how to take his life back — this Bucky looks a little more volatile and a lot more tortured. Add in Sebastian Stan’s intense acting and it doesn’t take much to believe that this Bucky is also one who has pretty much decided to give up.
Falcon takes Cap aside and tells him that this would have been a lot easier three weeks ago. Should they call Stark? Cap’s response all but sets up our Civil War conflict when he says, “who knows if the accords will let us help.” Falcon’s line suggests that the world is a different place than it was when we left our heroes a few months earlier, and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige confirmed recently that this end scene was actually taken from early Civil War dailies. The overarching Civil War plot sees the U.S. Government passing a Superhero Registration act, designed to put those with powers under police officer-like watch. Iron Man is in support of the act, Cap not so much, and according to this end tag, tensions are likely already running high between the two. So while Age of Ultron ultimately left Cap and Tony on good terms, don’t be fooled: the characters will be clashing wildly by the time we see everyone again.
“We’re alone,” Cap says, before Falcon shines a small beacon of light on their situation by admitting, “I might know a guy.” Could this end tag, with Cap going against Stark and the government, be what sets off the conflict in the first place? Either way, we’re promised that “Ant-Man will return” and when he does, it looks like he’ll be taking part in a much bigger battle.
During Age of Ultron, Stark laments that to Fury that “this is the end of the path I started us on.” Indeed, much has changed since the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. walked into Iron Man’s Malibu mansion back in 2008 and proclaimed he was there to talk about the Avengers initiative. And Ant-Man, with its introduction of Pym particles and the Quantum Realm, is an interesting way to close out the end of Phase Two. Like the fictional world that these movies reside in, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also going through a period of change: Phase Three will see new characters such as Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and Black Panther, as well as Thanos’ full arrival with his search for the Infinity Stones, culminating in the second half of Infinity War and introduction of the Inhumans. What does this mean for our heroes? What does this mean for the future of our world? Will Evangeline Lilly keep her Wasp-y wig? Is there any hope for Janet van Dyne?
You know what to do — drop your thoughts, comments, and theories below. Just don’t get lost in the Quantum Realm.