Warning: This post contains big spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Marvel fans are still reeling from the events of April’s Avengers: Infinity War, which saw many of the franchise’s most beloved figures transformed from superheroes to dust particles thanks to the snap of mad titan Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) big purple finger. The film’s shocking outcome made it the year’s biggest global hit, spawned a viral meme, and resulted in numerous theories about the fates of Spider-Man, Black Panther, Dr. Strange, and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. For that reason alone, Infinity War earned a well-deserved spot on our “Top films of 2018 so far” list.
Now Marvel Studios is taking a 10th-anniversary victory lap before signing off for the rest of year in the form of Ant-Man and the Wasp, the small-scale but mightily enjoyable sequel to the 2015 blockbuster. Set largely before the apocalyptic events of Infinity War, the film reunites the titular pint-size heroes (Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly), who, along with Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, were notably MIA when Thanos’s minions invaded Earth. Director Peyton Reed includes a few, well, tiny clues about the whereabouts of Marvel’s missing do-gooders, as well as an end-credits scene that explains why neither Ant-Man nor the Wasp joined Iron Man, Captain America, and the rest of the gang to fight for humanity’s survival. Read on to learn about the implications of that bonus sequence, as well as what Marvel’s 20th feature tells us about the future of the MCU. — Ethan Alter, Adam Lance Garcia, and Nick Schager
The end-credits stinger
The bulk of Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place approximately two years after Captain America: Civil War, with Scott Lang (Rudd) vainly trying to spend the final few days of his court-ordered house arrest in peace. But a crazy dream followed by an ill-advised late-night cellphone call reconnects him with father-daughter fugitives Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Once reunited, the trio tangle with black-market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) as well as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), whose spectral powers are related to the Quantum Realm that Scott visited at the end of his first adventure as Ant-Man. It’s also the place where the previous Wasp, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) — Hank’s beloved wife and Hope’s beloved mother — has been trapped since her last mission in the late ’80s.
It’s not until its end-credits scene that Reed’s film catches up with our current MCU timeline. Having successfully rescued Janet from her microscopic prison, the happily reunited Pym-van Dyne clan are making plans to collect more quantum energy — the powerful stuff that Ghost wanted to absorb from Janet in order to solidify her own phase-shifting state. Understandably, Janet doesn’t want to revisit that place any time soon, so Lang volunteers to make the trip instead. While in his super-small state, he’s still able to keep in touch with Hank, Janet, and new girlfriend Hope back on terra firma via their realm-hopping communication devices. After successfully collecting the energy, Hope starts the countdown to Scott’s extraction. He hears her count “Five, four, three …” when suddenly her voice cuts out completely. Jumping back to the real world, we see that Hope, Hank, and Janet have all turned to dust courtesy of Thanos’s snapocalypse. That leaves Ant-Man stuck in the Quantum Realm with no obvious way home. But, hey, at least he’s still corporeal!
A second post-credits sequence reveals that Ant-Man isn’t entirely alone should he return to Earth … or this version of it, anyway. His plus-size pet ant is still slappin’ the drum skins (not the bass) in Scott’s ramshackle San Francisco townhouse, mercifully oblivious to the Rapture-like landscape outside. It would only be appropriate for Ant-Man to ride into battle on a giant ant in Thanos vs. the Avengers, Round 2.
How Ant-Man, the Wasp, and the rest of the Avengers may return
Put this in your pipe and smoke it, folks: It’s very possible that Faber College professor and marijuana enthusiast Dave Jennings spoiled the ending to the fourth Avengers film four decades ago. Early on in the film, Scott is up late watching John Landis’s 1978 collegiate comedy classic, Animal House, and gets to the scene where young Delta House pledge Pinto (Tom Hulce) has a mind-blowing revelation while sharing a joint with Jennings (Donald Sutherland). “So that means that our whole solar system could be, like, one tiny atom in the fingernail of some other giant being! That means one tiny atom in my fingernail could be …,” Pinto says before trailing off. “One tiny universe,” Jennings adds, completing the thought for him.
You may think we’re joking, but a later scene with Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), Hank’s former Project Goliath partner, confirms that parallel universes are, indeed, a thing. (Indeed, the MCU itself has been confirmed as just one of millions of parallel Earths in wider Marvel Multiverse). During a lecture to his university class, Foster talks about “multiple parallel realities,” something that he has been working on via his own relationship with Ghost, aka Ava Starr. As we come to learn, while still with SHIELD during the early ’90s, Bill worked with Ava’s father, Elihas (played by Michael Cerveris), whose research into quantum energy resulted in his daughter’s current state. (The name-check is an Easter egg; in Marvel’s comic-book realm, Elihas Starr becomes frequent Ant-Man nemesis Egghead.)
By observing her subsequent growth, Foster has concluded that phase-shifting is a potential way of unlocking other worlds and realms — including ones where the vanished heroes might still exist. While such previous Marvel antagonists as Malekith, Killian, and Killmonger have perished at the end of their battles with Thor, Iron Man, and Black Panther, respectively, it’s no accident that Ava is alive and (temporarily) cured at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp. That suggests she still has a role to play in the MCU.
Alternatively, there is one key line that Hope says to Scott in the mid-credits sequence that activated our Spidey sense (yes, we’re mixing heroes, but stay with us): “Be sure not to go through a time vortex.”
What does that mean, exactly? Well, it’s plausible that Ant-Man’s mastery of the minuscule realm — and the quantum particles he collected — could lead the remaining heroes through time to undo Thanos’s snap. Yes, we’re basically proposing that Avengers 4 will be a superhero version of Quantum Leap, which means we may relive classic scenes from our favorite Marvel films but in new ways and featuring characters that weren’t in the original timeline … like Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), whom Nick Fury alerted at the end of Infinity War and makes her debut in a solo adventure set for release on March 8, 2019.
We’ve already seen leaked set photos that tease this foray into alternate realms, and Marvel has already explored the concept in comics, most notably in the time-hopping Age of Ultron series (unrelated to the movie of the same name), which featured Wolverine and Sue Storm jumping through time to fix reality. It was also present in the six-issue Captain America: Reborn saga, where Bucky Barnes saved Steve Rogers from being trapped in another timeline. Marvel Studios has already shown the willingness to go “full comic book” with Infinity War, so going full timey-wimey Doctor Who in the fourth — and maybe final? — Avengers film no longer seems quite so far-fetched.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is playing in theaters now.
Watch: Peyton Reed explains how Paul Rudd gets so tiny for the Ant-Man movies:
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