What you need to know before you see Ant-Man and the Wasp

It's been three years since Ant-Man gave us the first standalone MCU adventures of Marvel's small but mighty Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). As fans of the franchise are well aware, quite a lot has happened to our hero since the end credits rolled on that film — and following the events of Infinity War, it's tougher than ever to keep track of all the storylines feeding into the studio's box office empire. From his origins in Ant-Man to his involvement in Captain America: Civil War and beyond, new viewers have quite a bit to catch up on before they catch the film in theaters. But if you're feeling a little left out of the loop as Ant-Man and the Wasp arrives in theaters, don't worry — we've got you covered with every bit of background info it'll take to follow along with the sequel. Needless to say, spoilers ahead, because this is everything you need to know before you see Ant-Man and the Wasp

Who is Ant-Man?

Ant-Man is Scott Lang, a guy who's pretty much as average as Marvel Cinematic Universe protagonists get — which is definitely a compliment in the larger-than-life context of the rest of the MCU. When we meet Scott in Ant-Man, he's fresh out of prison and can't get a decent job. He's so desperate to start over that he takes a crummy job at a Baskin-Robbins — which leads to one of the most relatable moments in the entire MCU as he deals with a difficult customer. The only thing extraordinary about Scott is how good a thief he is, which inadvertently leads him to become Ant-Man.

After what Scott begrudgingly takes what he thinks is a simple grab-and-go burglary job, it's revealed to be an elaborate setup orchestrated by jaded scientist Hank Pym — and from there, Lang's life takes a turn for the superheroic. He's recruited by Pym to become Ant-Man, a superhero with the power to shrink down to the size of, you guessed it, an ant. Scott gets his powers through a suit armed with shrinking technology and uses his newfound abilities to scale down and communicate with ants (more useful than one might think), ultimately stopping the nefarious machinations of an unscrupulous tech mogul with a shrinking suit of his own. Against all odds, our scrappy thief manages to save the day and become a hero. Not bad for a former Baskin-Robbins employee.

Who is Hank Pym?

Scott Lang isn't the first person to operate as Ant-Man. That honor goes to Hank Pym, a super-genius with a larger-than-average chip on his shoulder. After discovering a substance (dubbed the Pym Particle) that allows objects and organisms to be shrunk down to a fraction of their size, Hank begins operating as Ant-Man in the '60s and '70s alongside his crimefighting partner and wife Janet van Dyne, a.k.a the Wasp. After losing Janet on a mission gone wrong and finding out that SHIELD is attempting to replicate his tech, Hank steps down as Ant-Man and vows to keep the Pym Particle hidden for the rest of his life.

Decades later, Pym's former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) has nearly perfected a replication of Pym's technology with a heavily weaponized suit he dubs Yellowjacket. Hank teams up with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to find a way to stop him, eventually landing on Scott as the perfect partner to carry out a heist and steal the Yellowjacket. Through working together, Hank repairs his damaged relationship with Hope and rights some of the wrongs of his past. By the time the film ends, he's still a curmudgeon, but far warmer and more open than before. He'll be returning to continue mentoring Scott and Hope in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Who is the Wasp?

In case the title isn't a dead giveaway, Ant-Man won't be going at it alone in his second film. He'll be fighting crime alongside the Wasp — albeit not Janet van Dyne, who first took up the mantle alongside her husband decades before. No, this time Scott is going to be fighting alongside Hope van Dyne. 

Hope spends most of the first film being generally (and rightfully) annoyed with Scott and her dad over the fact that she's not the one donning the Ant-Man suit for the mission. We later find out Pym is keeping her away from the suit because he's terrified of losing her in the same way he lost her mother. Father and daughter eventually reconcile — and along the way, Hope helps get Scott in fighting shape as Ant-Man. She proves integral in stopping Yellowjacket from selling Pym's tech to Hydra, serving as a double agent who Cross thinks is on his side for most of the film.

The sequel will deliver on the first film's post-credits scene: having realized Hope is fully capable of holding her own, Hank presents her with a new Wasp suit, now pushing her to fight crime alongside Scott (who she may be romantically involved with).

What is the Quantum Realm?

As Hank Pym explains in Ant-Man, the Pym Particle that makes the Ant-Man tech function operates by reducing the distance between the atoms of the item being shrunk. The tighter the atoms contract, the smaller the item or person gets. As he explores the limits of the technology, he finds its imperfection: Unless armed with a regulating device, it's possible for a user to shrink down to a sub-atomic size, growing smaller and smaller until they're sub-atomic — and trapped in what Hank calls the Quantum Realm

Once a person enters the Quantum Realm, they can't get out — at least, that's what Hank thinks. In Ant-Man's climactic finale, Scott is forced to go sub-atomic and is briefly trapped in the Quantum Realm, but manages to escape thanks to an enlargement disc. He remembers nothing about his time in the realm, but Hank is immensely intrigued by Scott's apparent ability to defy the laws of physics. It's a huge breakthrough in their understanding of the Pym Particle and the Quantum Realm — which will play a big part in the sequel.

Where is Janet Van Dyne?

She's hardly onscreen outside a brief in-costume flashback, but Janet van Dyne's presence looms large throughout the film. She's Hank Pym's wife, Hope van Dyne's mother, and the original Wasp. Her tragic sacrifice is what leads to the rift between Hope and Hank, and it's only repaired when Hank tells Hope the truth of how her mother apparently died, trapped in the Quantum Realm.

Janet's death occurs when she and Hank are on a mission as Ant-Man and the Wasp. They're out to disarm a nuclear warhead but find that they aren't small enough to get inside the bomb to disarm it. Janet heroically sacrifices herself to stop the bomb, smashing her atomic regulator and shrinking down to a sub-atomic size. It allows her to disarm the bomb but also casts her into the Quantum Realm, effectively dooming her. 

Again, however, the end of Ant-Man proves that it's possible for someone to go to the Quantum Realm, survive, and then be brought back. This is why Hank is so fascinated with Scott's survival — it means there's hope that Janet could still be alive. Considering that the character is on the poster, it probably isn't much of a spoiler to say that that hope isn't futile. We'll be seeing more of Janet — and probably more of the Quantum Realm — as she'll be played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

When does it take place?

Considering that the Ant-Man crew doesn't appear in Avengers: Infinity War, it's totally understandable to be confused about when the film takes place in the overall timeline of the MCU. It's reasonable to assume it's a sequel to that superhero extravaganza, but that doesn't appear to be the case — instead, it looks like Ant-Man and the Wasp actually takes place before the events of Infinity War

It's evident in the trailer that Scott is under house arrest at the beginning of the film due to his involvement in Captain America: Civil War. It's also alluded to in Infinity War as the reason that he and Hawkeye aren't present. Given this (and the fact that the trailers don't mention half of Earth's population having vanished), it's safe to say that Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place before all that — although there's always a chance that the films bleed into each other in some way, with the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp leading into Infinity War. For now, we can safely say that the cast of Ant-Man and the Wasp has yet to be erased from existence by Thanos — although whether they survive the purge still remains to be seen.

What's the deal with Luis?

There's an easy scene-stealer in Ant-Man, and it isn't who you'd expect. It isn't the great Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. It isn't the always solid Bobby Cannavale as Scott's ex-wife's new fiancé. It isn't even Scott's adorable daughter Cassie. No, the breakout star of Ant-Man is Luis (Michael Peña), Scott's literal partner in crime. He aids Scott in the Yellowjacket heist in Ant-Man, and will be returning for the sequel.

Luis is Scott's former cellmate in prison and the two are now close friends, with Luis actually letting Scott sleep on his couch as Scott gets back on his feet after his release from prison. Luis is also quite literally a fast talker and is used in the first film to deliver rambling exposition on the subject of how certain heist tips come his way. As he's getting sidetracked with unnecessary details, we see the people he's referring to in his stories acting out his recollections of the conversations in real time, mouthing along to his every word. It's hilarious — here's to seeing more of it in Ant Man and the Wasp.

Who is Laurence Fishburne playing?

Along with Michelle Pfeiffer, Ant-Man and the Wasp will feature another new addition to the MCU in Laurence Fishburne. The actor, arguably best known as Morpheus in the Matrix trilogy, is stepping over from the DC Extended Universe — Fishburne is a self-professed Marvel guy, as it turns out — to portray a character that will likely work well alongside Scott, considering his potential powers.

Fishburne is appearing as Bill Foster, better known to Marvel Comics fans as Goliath. It's probably pretty easy to tell what kind of abilities he has, given his name: Foster can grow to a gigantic size. Hank Pym's former lab partner, Foster gains his superpower after finding the formula for the Pym Particle. He is, unfortunately, probably most famous for his gruesome death in the comics event Civil War. Considering the mention of "Project Goliath" in the trailer, there's a good chance we'll see Fishburne quite literally go big at some point in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

What happened in Civil War?

As Ant-Man and the Wasp opens, it would seem Scott Lang isn't allowed to play superhero due to being grounded — by the U.S. government. It's established that the character is under house arrest due to his involvement in the events of Captain America: Civil War, when — despite his efforts to stay out of trouble after prison — Scott still manages to find himself on the wrong side of the law.

During the growing feud between Iron Man and Captain America in Captain America: Civil War, both men amass allies for the inevitable fight. Captain America ally Sam Wilson (a.k.a. Falcon), having encountered Scott briefly in Ant-Man, recruits him for their cause. Scott is just happy to be invited, telling Cap, "I know you know a lot of super-people, so thanks for thinking of me." Scott holds his own in the battle, notably revealing new technology that allows him to grow rather than shrink, marking the MCU debut of Giant-Man (also glimpsed in the Ant-Man and the Wasp trailer). Nonetheless, when the dust settles, he's arrested with the rest of Cap's team. He cuts a deal that keeps him out of prison, but he doesn't get off — pardon the pun — scot-free.

Who is the Ghost?

Perhaps the most mysterious element of Ant-Man and the Wasp is the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). We see some brief glimpses of the character in the trailer, but know very little about her outside of her ability to phase through objects thanks to some Pym technology. A longtime presence in the comics, the character's gender has been switched to female for the film. 

Nobody knows the character's real name in the comics, but plenty of his backstory has been revealed. According to him, before his life of crime, he was a computer engineer working for a corporation where he created GhostTech, a series of computer chips that can phase into an intangible state to prevent overheating. The company got rich from his tech, and buttered him up with favors and bribes — but they killed the woman he loved after she threatened to expose some of their seedier behavior. In his grief, he fused to GhostTech and punished the executives that own the company; now permanently fused to technology that allows him to form cyberpathic connections to computer systems, he operates as an industrial hitman, destroying corporations from within. 

It's appropriate that we still know so little about the cinematic debut of so mysterious a character — but no matter what, it's a good thing Ant-Man has a partner this time, because the Ghost looks like trouble.