[Editor’s note: Spoilers ahead for both “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and its post-credits scenes.]
“Ant-Man and the Wasp,” Peyton Reed’s second film about the teensiest, tiniest heroes in the galaxy, works well enough on its own — it’s the kind of fun and fizzy story that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has long been known for, but trundled up in a post-“Infinity War” world, it feels positively fresh. Staying away from the story of “Infinity War” for as long as possible was also top of mind for Reed, who opted to stay away from that kind of material in service to telling his own story. But even Reed couldn’t avoid the impact of “Infinity War” forever, and it’s within the confines of the film’s two post-credits scenes that “Ant-Man and the Wasp” address the Thanos-sized elephant in the room.
But first, a very quick rehash of what happens in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” at least enough to give appropriate context to a pair of scenes that feel both inevitable and heartbreaking. Reed’s film picks up two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” just as Scott Lang (AKA Ant-Man, played by Paul Rudd) is nearly done serving his mandated house arrest for his part in the madness that was “Civil War.” He’s out of the superhero biz for good (or so it seems) and eager to get back out into the world.
Scott’s time under house arrest has also kept him away from both Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who have been busy in the interim building something crazy: a quantum tunnel, crafted in hopes that they can shrink down enough to rescue Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who they now believe is alive after Scott maybe-kinda-sorta spotted her down there. It’s a nutty idea — they’ve always believed that no one can survive in the Quantum Realm — but Scott’s experience shrinking way down and then coming back to full size have inspired them. But they need Scott to find Janet, because Hank and Hope believe that the original Wasp shoved some sort of map into his brain, and that’s the only way they can find her.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is also eager for Janet to be brought out of the Quantum Realm, because Ghost believes that she will be infused with quantum particles that can help heal Ghost, who was injured by a quantum blast when she was just a child. All of these storylines — and more! — converge for the film’s very happy ending: Janet being saved, Ghost being healed by her touch, and everyone reuniting for what looks to be a neatly tied-up conclusion. Of course, this is an ending that takes place just as the events of “Infinity War” are about to unfold. You know what that means: on to the post-credits scenes.
Here’s what they are and how they tie back to the rest of the MCU.
[One more time: Spoilers ahead for both “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and its post-credits scenes.]
1. Another Visit to the Quantum Realm
Reed previously told IndieWire about the wily misdirection that went into creating the mid-credits scene, one bursting with fun elements that don’t yet tip off what’s to come. First, there’s Hank and Janet — sporting casual wear! — on the roof of a tall building in San Francisco, clearly about to get up to some superhero antics. Then, there’s that quantum tunnel again, now shrunk down to fit neatly inside Luis’ (Michael Pena, who notably does not appear in the scene) van, all the better to take this Quantum Realm-leaping thing on the road. And they’re not alone, either, because Hope is there, and so is Scott, kitted out in his Ant-Man suit.
It’s nice to see all four of them together, and even better once you realize they’re about to head out on some kind of mission. At least, Scott is, jumping into the tunnel, which smushes him down to subatomic size and back into the Quantum Realm, where he’s tasked with picking up some more quantum particles for “our friend Ghost.” So Ghost is alive, well, and staying in contact with Scott and the Pym/van Dyne family, while they appear to be further exploring the possibilities of the Realm and the particles within it. What fun!
And then, it’s not.
Scott, done collecting his particles, radios out to Hope, Hank, and Janet. There’s silence. As Scott floats, alone, in the Quantum Realm, the scene cuts back to the rooftop, where the only things that move are different particles: the post-Thanos snap remains of the trio. Yes, that “Infinity War” event has just happened, Thanos wiping out half the universe with a literal snap of his meaty hand, taking Hope, Hank, and Janet and leaving Scott not just alone, but alone in the Quantum Realm, where he knows nothing of what is unfolding around him.
2. The New World Order
Yes, that’s a pretty bleak way to end the film, but Reed finds the space to bridge the gap between the fun of the film and the heartbreak of the mid-credits scene with his second post-credits offering. Sort of.
Early in the film, Hope replaced Scott with a giant ant, tasked with wearing his ankle monitoring bracelet and approximating his at-home routine while he and Hope set about getting Janet. The ant, it seems, is still in Scott’s possession, and post-snap, is busy playing Scott’s drum kit and generally having a great time. It’s a more light-hearted way to end the film, but it doesn’t totally shy away from what’s going on outside, as the camera slows pans across the apartment to reveal a television that’s playing the emergency signal. It’s our first real look at life post-Thanos, an existence that has already been thrown into such chaos that even newscasters aren’t on screen chatting it up. That’s bad.
Bonus: A Questionable Tease
MCU films typically end with one last promise, a final stinger that speaks to the fate of the heroes at its center. See a “Thor” movie, and you’ll get one line of text: “Thor will return,” and so on and so forth. At the end of “Infinity War,” things got a little cheekier, with the final line being dedicated not to the all-star superhero syndicate, but to Thanos, reading, “Thanos will return.” Oh, great! Was really concerned about him.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” does one better, initially reading, “Ant-Man and the Wasp will return.” Full stop, full period, the end… and then that period turns into a question mark. “Ant-Man and the Wasp will return?”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is currently in theaters.