This article contains MCU spoilers
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4 is over and done with and after a lengthy…two and a half months, it’s time to begin Phase 5! Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is starting things off and it is a fitting escalation for the trilogy. The first Ant-Man acted as a surprise, charming hit denouement to MCU Phase 2. Ant-Man and the Wasp seemed like a delightful side-story that was released just after Avengers: Infinity War, but it became an important plot point in setting up Avengers: Endgame.
Now Scott Lang gets to start things off for the next few years of Marvel storytelling.
Before Quantumania hits theaters, let’s take a look at the major players and concepts and how they brought us to this stage.
Obviously, Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp are important to watch before this one. Ant-Man had a supporting role in Captain America: Civil War, but that one could be overlooked if need be. The same cannot be said for Avengers: Endgame, where Ant-Man is a key player and it leads directly to his new status quo. Due to that, Avengers: Infinity War is also kind of necessary since it’s so strongly connected to Endgame.
Outside of the Scott Lang stuff, the first season of Loki is imperative just because it gives us context on the movie’s big villain, Kang the Conqueror.
Doctor Hank Pym
Many decades ago, one of SHIELD’s top scientists was Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), a genius who invented the Pym Particle. Using Pym Particles, he was able to change the size of matter, including himself. He was also able to communicate with ants and coerce them into working for him. Even though he worked for SHIELD, he was still extremely protective of his inventions and did not trust them in anyone else’s hands. Well, anyone but his wife Janet. He and Janet were secret superheroes in the 70s and 80s, known as Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Hank was always rather insufferable, but when he lost Janet (more on that in a bit), he became worse. His friendship with colleague Bill Foster fell apart. His daughter Hope became estranged due to his inability to tell her the truth about Janet’s death and his overprotectiveness. It did not help that extensive exposure to Pym Particles had a negative effect on Hank’s mind.
For a time, he was able to fill the void by mentoring fellow scientist Darren Cross, but Hank became afraid of what Cross was capable of and burned the bridges of their relationship as well. At least this time there was a good reason, as Cross kept trying to recreate Pym Particle technology for nefarious reasons and was proving all of Hank’s fears correct.
To foil Cross’ plans, Hank needed an expert thief with a heart of gold.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) only wanted two things in life: to watch his daughter grow up and to make her proud by doing the right thing. Unfortunately, as he would learn time and time again, those two concepts did not always mix well. Scott was a modern-day Robin Hood and used his skills to steal millions from the corrupt organization VistaCorp and give the money to the people the company had scammed. Scott was caught for this, went to prison, and his wife Maggie divorced him.
Scott’s criminal record made it near impossible to get a legitimate job, pay child support, and earn the trust needed to get visitation rights for his daughter Cassie. Desperate, Scott’s criminal friends hooked him up with a job secretly set up by Hank Pym. Scott proved his skills by breaking into Hank’s home and stealing the Ant-Man suit. Eventually, Scott was recruited by Hank into stealing from Darren Cross.
With Hank teaching Scott how to use the Ant-Man tech and Hope Van Dyne teaching Scott how to fight better, this new Ant-Man ultimately defeated Cross (and had an awkward confrontation with Avengers member Falcon). In the aftermath, he started a relationship with Hope and became closer to both Maggie and her cop husband Jim.
Scott put his neck on the line to aid Captain America’s crew in the superhero Civil War. Though he certainly made a splash by revealing his Giant Man form, Scott was ultimately defeated and incarcerated in the Raft, a prison for superheroes. He spent several years under house arrest where he was able to hang out with Cassie, but both Hope and Hank were angry at him for his Civil War actions, as it put them on the run due to their association with him.
Even though it put his freedom at a great risk, Scott secretly helped Hope and Hank rescue Janet Van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. During this time, he was opposed by the villain Ghost, who was cursed with painful phasing powers. In the aftermath, Scott and the reunited Pym/Van Dyne family farmed the Quantum Realm for a specific kind of energy that would help keep Ghost stable. While Scott entered the Quantum Real, the Mad Titan Thanos used the Infinity Stones to snap away half of all life in the universe. Hank Pym, Janet Van Dyne, and Hope Van Dyne were all victims of this act and turned to dust.
Five years later, thanks to the random actions of a rat, Scott was released from the Quantum Realm. Finding that his daughter was alive (albeit older), Scott sought out what remained of the Avengers and revealed that to him, his time in the Quantum Realm was roughly five hours. Using his collection of Pym Particles and knowledge of the Quantum Realm, Scott was able to inspire the Avengers into understanding time travel so they could undergo a “Time Heist,” grab the Infinity Stones, and undo Thanos’ actions.
The plan was a success and all of Scott’s missing loved ones came back from oblivion, along with half of the universe. Ant-Man went from obscurity to being the everyman member of the superhuman community. Through his podcast and autobiography, Scott was able to inform the public on how the events of Infinity War and Endgame went down. Scott Lang became a beloved celebrity with a host of friends and family to back him up. It’s even wrongfully believed that he was a founding member of the Avengers!
Unfortunately, deep down, it was not enough for Scott…
Hope Van Dyne
The daughter of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Hope’s (Evangeline Lilly) world was shattered the day her father came home from a “business trip” without her mother. Not only did Hank keep quiet about what really happened to Janet, but he also became completely withdrawn and neglected Hope. He shipped her off to boarding school, severing their relationship. It was an act that Hope would pay him back for years later when she ousted him from Pym Technologies. Sometime after, she became affiliated with Darren Cross.
Even though Hope hated her father, she still understood the threat of Darren Cross figuring out how to recreate Pym Particle technology. She and Hank secretly worked together, though she vehemently disagreed with the idea of using Scott Lang as the new Ant-Man. Hope felt that she was more competent and a better candidate, but Hank refused to acknowledge that. Eventually, Scott helped Hope understand that Hank was merely acting this way to protect her as he would rather see Cross succeed than see Hope die. Hank decided it was time to fully explain the truth to Janet’s disappearance, finally healing his relationship with Hope.
After Cross’ defeat, Hank revealed an unfinished prototype for a Wasp suit for Hope to wear. The two worked on it while Hope started a romantic relationship with Scott. This relationship fell apart all-too-quickly once Ant-Man got himself involved in Captain America and Iron Man’s conflict over the Sokovia Accords. Due to Scott’s actions, Hope and her father were now being sought after by the authorities.
Hank and Hope tried to figure out a portal in and out of the Quantum Realm in hopes of possibly finding a lead into finding closure when it came to Janet’s fate. Turning the portal on caused Scott to dream some of Janet’s memories, as if there was some kind of cosmic connection between the two. Hope sneaked Scott out of his house arrest so they could figure out how to find a way into the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet before it was too late. After various challenges, the new Wasp was reunited with her mother after thirty years.
Hope rekindled her relationship with Scott, especially happy to find out that he saw her as the perfect crime-fighting partner. Hope was erased from reality due to Thanos’ genocidal plans, but was brought back five years later thanks to the Avengers. Immediately after her resurrection, the Wasp aided Ant-Man in bringing down Thanos’ armies.
Wasp was last seen at Tony Stark’s funeral.
Janet Van Dyne
The original Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer) acted as a superhero with her husband years ago, but went missing one fateful day in 1987. In order to stop an enemy missile from killing innocents, Wasp had to shrink so much that she went sub-atomic and spiraled into another dimension. While the details have been scarce, Janet lived for decades in the Quantum Realm.
By entering Scott’s mind a couple times, Janet was able to help her husband and daughter discover her whereabouts in the Quantum Realm. The main threat against this reunion was Ava Starr, otherwise known as Ghost, who needed to siphon off of energy from the Quantum Realm to remain physically stable. After Hank was able to bring Janet back to Earth, Janet was able to emit quantum energy and momentarily satiate Ghost.
Even though Janet was back with her family, her return was short-lived. Janet, her husband, and her daughter were all snapped into dust by Thanos. Thankfully, Scott was able to help bring them back. This time it only took five years!
Despite her young age, Cassie (now played by Kathryn Newton) always had the innate ability to cut through the crap and know the difference between what is the law and what is right. She was always proud of her father Scott and was honest that she wanted the police to leave him the hell alone. All Scott wanted was to be there for Cassie and to be someone she could look up to. At least he succeeded in the latter, as Cassie always idolized her heroic father. She even envisioned herself as being his superhero partner.
Sadly, as was always the case, Scott was punished for doing the right thing. By trying to help find some more quantum energy to help out Ghost, Scott ended up being trapped in the Quantum Realm for five years. Upon returning to the normal-sized world, Scott found Cassie alive, much to his relief and confusion. He always wanted to be there to see her grow up and he utterly failed. His daughter had grown up without him.
He Who Remains
In the distant future, a scientist (Jonathan Majors) would figure out the workings of the multiverse. Many of his dimensional counterparts would make the same discovery. Soon, an inter-dimensional fraternity was created of countless variants of the same scientist. While optimistic at first, this soon turned disastrous due to how certain variants were corrupt and power-hungry. Eventually, a multiversal war broke out that threatened all existence.
One scientist, believing himself to be relatively benevolent, experimented on a matter-eating force of nature known as Alioth. By weaponizing Alioth, this scientist was able to wipe out all the different alternate realities except for his own. He then founded the Time Variance Authority as a cult-like bureaucracy intent on preventing the one existing timeline from branching off and creating a new multiverse. The TVA workers believed their mission was watched over by three reptilian space gods, not realizing it was just a tired loner who was gradually falling into madness in his endless attempt to create order and safety.
Nicknamed “He Who Remains,” the scientist allowed God of Mischief Loki and his female variant Sylvie to find his citadel at the end of time. Exhausted from his attempt at keeping the multiverse from existing, He Who Remains hoped that Loki and Sylvie would take over for him and keep the charade going. Instead, Sylvie stabbed He Who Remains and allowed the timeline to branch again. Retroactively, the multiverse once again existed.
With all these new timelines, that meant that the multiversal war would begin anew. As Loki returned to the TVA, he was horrified to find that nobody remembered him and that there was a statue of a man resembling He Who Remains. Due to Sylvie’s actions, the TVA was ruled over by Kang the Conqueror.
The Quantum Realm
The Quantum Realm has continued to be an important plot point in MCU Ant-Man lore, but details have been scarce, as if it has all been leading up to Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In the first Ant-Man movie, Hank Pym was only able to explain the basic concepts of the Quantum Realm. If someone were to shrink too much, they would spiral into the Quantum Realm and presumably keep shrinking forever. This was Janet Van Dyne’s horrible fate.
During the climax, Scott fell into the Quantum Realm for a minute or so, but was able to cause himself to grow back to normal size and escape. The whole situation was so alien to Scott that he could not even remember any details of the adventure. At the very least, it gave Hank hope (no pun intended) that he could one day save Janet.
During the third act of Ant-Man and the Wasp, we got a better look at the Quantum Realm. There is definitely some kind of society within, though we know no details. At least it is understood that Janet Van Dyne was able to live there and survive for several decades. Her experience will surely play into the end of the trilogy.
Also, while this will certainly not play into Quantumania in any way, an episode of What If…? revealed that there is a zombie virus existing somewhere in the Quantum Realm.
As mentioned before, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) was Hank Pym’s former protégé who had interest in recreating the Pym Particle. Unlike Hank, he was unable to understand why such technology needed to be so strongly protected. Instead, Cross wanted to sell it to the highest bidder, which in turn meant HYDRA. It was this intent that brought Hank and Hope back together, as they were both terrified of what damage Cross could bring to the world.
Cross himself was already dangerous, but exposure to the particles had made him truly insane and callous. All he cared about was progress in his experiments and if anyone questioned him about it, he would wipe them out via making them a reluctant test subject. When the time came, he introduced his own counterpart to the Ant-Man suit, Yellowjacket. While it lacked the ability to communicate with ants, it did come with some rather lethal lasers.
Ant-Man was able to defeat Yellowjacket by shrinking into his armor and messing with his size regulator. Yellowjacket proceeded to rather violently implode upon himself before vanishing completely.
Through ads for the new movie, we now know that Darren Cross actually survived and ended up a citizen of the Quantum Realm. The experience had rendered his body misshapen, with a giant head and tiny legs. Yes, after all these years, the MCU has finally introduced MODOK, a villain design so off-the-wall that they will need to take some great care to make sure the audience can buy his existence as a threat.