Everything You Need To Know Before Watching Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania

You'll have to forgive me for kicking things off here with a little bit of math. But when a movie like "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania" deals with quantum mechanics, multiverse travel, and all sorts of other high-concept, sci-fi nonsense, then maybe it's not too out of place. The upcoming pint-sized threequel will become the 31st movie (!) released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which spans almost 15 total years and crosses over into dozens upon dozens of hours of shows. That's ... a lot, to say the absolute least. And it's turned every upcoming event into an extravaganza that requires a certain amount of homework for those who care about the interconnectedness of the overarching story.

"Quantumania" certainly fits the bill, although part of that is to be expected for a film that's capping off a trilogy of movies. The first "Ant-Man" debuted back in 2015 and quickly became an MCU staple, appearing in other team-up films before crossing back into the (relatively) self-contained confines of San Francisco with "Ant-Man and the Wasp." The upcoming third film, however, looks to shake that up in a huge way. Not only does it come with all the baggage left over from previous "Avengers" movies, but it'll also come saddled with the responsibility of setting up the franchise's newest and most formidable big bad in Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

While that might be a tall task (see what I did there?) for Paul Rudd's Scott Lang and Evangeline Lilly's Hope Van Dyne, viewers can't be expected to start from scratch with their own MCU marathons every single time a new movie or show is about to release. Luckily, that's where we come in. Here's a spoiler-free guide of everything you need to know to prep for "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania."

Ant-Man (2015)

Hot take: If you're going to watch the third film in a trilogy, it helps to brush up on the first one beforehand! "Ant-Man" truly lived up to its billing as a palette cleanser after the end-of-the-world stakes of "Avengers: Age of Ultron." Despite some behind-the-scenes drama, the final product turned out to be a refreshing change of pace compared to the larger-than-life heroes elsewhere in the franchise. Directed by Peyton Reed, "Ant-Man" told the origin story of a criminal with a heart of gold, Scott Lang. When his latest prize turns out to be a shrinkable superhero suit previously worn by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), our lovable convict finds himself caught up in a much bigger conflict than he ever could've imagined.

Forced to contend with Pym's former mentee Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) and his unhinged plan to sell Pym's invention to the highest bidder (which, egads, turns out to be the villainous organization HYDRA), Lang and his gang are recruited to steal Cross' own "Yellowjacket" super-suit at all costs and prevent the precious tech from falling into the wrong hands. Along the way, he's trained by (and falls in love with) Pym's estranged daughter Hope, opening the door for another shrinking superhero in the sequel.

After defeating Cross and barely escaping an even worse fate of being stuck in the microscopic Quantum Realm, Scott musters up enough personal responsibility to be present as a father to his own estranged daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and gets back on the straight and narrow after a lifetime of petty theft.

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Talk about a coming-out party. From the streets of San Francisco to the middle of a dire battle brewing between the Avengers, Scott Lang found himself recruited to #TeamCap during "Captain America: Civil War" to help his idols out of a jam. Of course, that mostly involved getting shuttled to a Germany-based international airport and promptly stealing the show during the faceoff against Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man and his like-minded friends. This appearance paid off on the seeds planted about midway through the first "Ant-Man" movie, when Scott invaded Avengers HQ and ended up battling Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson/Falcon.

This time, those prior heist movie trappings were traded in for an all-out brawl that truly showcased all the powers and abilities that Ant-Man has at his disposal — including riding atop one of Hawkeye's arrows, messing with the electronics in Iron Man's suit, and, of course, the show-stopping moment when he reverses his shrinking powers to transform into Giant-Man. That's one way to put yourself on the radar of the larger MCU, though it also directly led to Scott ending up in a maximum-security prison in the middle of the ocean once #TeamIronMan ultimately prevailed. While the argument between Steve and Tony would need a little more time to resolve properly, Lang's imprisonment (and Cap-assisted prison break) segued neatly into Scott's new status quo at the beginning of "Ant-Man and The Wasp."

Ant-Man And The Wasp (2018)

You know, maybe superheroics aren't as cracked up as they're made out to be. Two years after being placed under house arrest due to violating those pesky Sokovia Accords at the center of "Captain America: Civil War," Lang is doing his absolute best to play by the rules and serve out his sentence until he can taste true freedom. Of course, being a superhero has a habit of coming with terribly inconvenient timing. And when Hank and Hope kidnap our hero to investigate the missing Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), long presumed dead after her own visit to the Quantum Realm decades past, the chance to help heal a broken family proves too much to resist.

Dogged by even more of Hank's jilted ex-business partners and a mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) impeding their progress at every turn, the Ant-family manage to make amends for mistakes from Hank's past, open up a quantum tunnel to the mysterious otherworldly universe, and rescue Janet from years and years of solitude ... or so they thought, at least. The exact nature of Janet's exile is kept hidden from the rest of her family, but all's well that ends well when Scott narrowly makes it back home in time for his sentence to lift. The freshly reunited family then conducts experiments into the Quantum Realm, but are rudely interrupted when a certain Mad Titan arrives on the scene and dusts half of all life in the universe, leaving Scott in limbo with no way out. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

What's an Ant-Man to do when his ground-level adventures cross paths with the unstoppable might of Thanos? Well, first he needs to rely on a particularly well-placed rodent to crawl around his van, inadvertently trigger the switch that brings him back to the normal universe again (albeit five years too late), and allow Scott Lang to reignite hope of reversing Thanos' genocidal actions. Three cheers for that "Endgame" rat, everyone!

Upon coming to grips with the reality of a post-Blip world, Scott links up with the remaining Avengers again to explain how his experience in the Quantum Realm (which only amounted to a few hours for him) could point towards time travel as a way of fixing their current predicament. Fast forward through some more intra-Avengers bickering, a taco-related bonding moment between Scott and Mark Ruffalo's Professor Hulk, and some wonky time-travel hijinks that briefly turn Scott into a baby, the plan ultimately works and the Avengers are able to travel back through the greatest hits of the MCU to restore some order and gain an upper hand.

It all culminates in the epic final battle between all the MCU's good guys and all of Thanos' armies, with Scott playing a pivotal role in saving the world (again). Once the Blipped are restored to life and Thanos is defeated for good, Scott earns a well-deserved victory lap that sets him up for the beginning of "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania." Enjoying world renown as one of the Avengers (even if civilians sometimes mix up exactly which one he is) and embarking on a book tour of his memoirs, life seems good ... until another visit to the Quantum Realm and its most fearsome inhabitant rears its ugly head again.

Loki Season 1 (2021)

That brings us to the first entry in this roundup that's not related to Ant-Man, though it nonetheless remains crucially important to the lore involved in "Quantumania." Season 1 of "Loki" initially began as an excuse to bring back Tom Hiddleston in his fan-favorite role as the God of Mischief, although as a multiverse variant who was unleashed during the events of "Endgame," accidentally let loose from the timeline where he was currently wrecking New York City during "The Avengers," and ran afoul of the Time Variance Authority for messing up the fragile multiverse with his incursions.

This story soon turned into something else entirely, however, holding grave consequences for the rest of the MCU. During his adventures, this version of Loki soon offered his services to hunt down and capture another version of himself who was wreaking even more havoc on the multiverse: a being who would eventually be revealed to be Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Unable to bring himself to actually turn her in, Loki instead joined forces with her as they battled the corrupt TVA and ultimately found themselves face-to-face with the strangest individual yet: Jonathan Majors' He Who Remains, a Kang variant in charge of staving off a multiversal war between his own all-powerful variants.

Burdened by the weight of this responsibility, he offers Loki and Sylvie a beguiling choice between killing him and risking another war through alternate timelines running amok, or peacefully replacing him and taking over his job. Sylvie chooses the former, naturally, and the results lead directly to the mess that Scott Lang and his friends encounter in "Quantumania." Well, well, well, if it isn't the consequences of my own actions.

"Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania" arrives in theaters on February 17, 2023.

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