Why the 'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Mid-Credits Scene Stung the Hardest

The stinger undermines the themes Peyton Reed's sequel worked hard to explore and is more painful than the studio’s other teases.
Ben Rothstein/Marvel Studios

[This story contains spoilers for Ant-Man and The Wasp]

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a heartwarming story of family and friendship, but its final moments see those themes wiped away with the snap of a finger.

After participating in the German airport battle in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is indebted to his estranged mentors, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Through the use of Pym tech, Scott violated the Sokovia Accords in Germany and jeopardized Hope and Hank’s freedom along with his own. Since Scott didn’t confer with Hope and Hank about his intent to help Captain America (Chris Evans) and was subsequently put under house arrest for two years, Scott greatly affected their working relationship as well as his personal relationship with Hope. Most importantly, it complicated the renewed effort to rescue Hope’s mother and Hank’s wife, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the Quantum Realm. To help Hope and Hank rescue Janet, Scott –– with three days left under house arrest –– must risk further separation from his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), their blended family (Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale) and his friends/business partners (Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian, Tip Harris).

Thanks to the united efforts of friends and family, the film successfully (and tearfully) reunites Janet van Dyne with Hank and Hope after three decades apart, and sets Scott free of house arrest so he can be a better father to his daughter. In addition to reuniting existing families, it also forms new families, such as Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) serving as a surrogate father to the film’s primary antagonist, Ava Starr/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Plus, Scott could finally enjoy his rummage sale desk alongside his X-Con Security brethren as business was booming thanks to their newsworthy achievement in stopping Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), who wanted to sell Hank’s portable lab to a group of “dangerous” buyers. (Perhaps, one of Burch’s mystery buyers is the high-value security client that Luis chased throughout the movie and landed in the end?)

After Thanos’ snap separated half the universe from reality in Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios delivered on its promise that Ant-Man and the Wasp would be the ultimate palate cleanser given the heaviness of the previous (yet timeline-succeeding) installment. Wasp movingly brought friends and family together –– before Infinity War could rip them apart in the near future.

But then the mid-credit stinger happened.

While Scott is harvesting quantum healing particles in the Quantum Realm for Ava’s sake, Scott is no longer able to communicate with Hope, Janet and Hank on the other side. Countless audiences must have shouted, “No!” once they quickly realized why Scott was unable to communicate with them any longer. The scene concludes by showing the floating ashes of Hope, Janet and Hank while Scott remains trapped in the Quantum Realm.

What was supposed to be a palate cleanser for Infinity War left audiences with an all-too-familiar feeling from April and May. The bigger problem is that this post-credit scene severely undermines the preceding two-hour story about family and friends coming together — especially the 30-year reunion between Hank, Hope and Janet. It’s one thing to disappear Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) in a post-credit scene for a movie that was designed around obliterating half of the universe from existence. Keep in mind, the big screen hasn’t seen Fury or Hill since 2015’s Age of Ultron, so their loss cuts shallow. It’s another thing entirely when you’ve just watched a movie that is centered around the emotional reunion of The Pym-van Dyne family. How can one not feel undercut by this cinematic universe-driven move?

When you review the Marvel Cinematic Universe's post-credit scenes to this point, the majority of these tags tease what’s to come or provide a concluding dose of comedy. While Ant-Man and the Wasp’s post-credit scene teases what’s to come, it erodes the very foundation of the movie we just enjoyed in a way that none of the other stingers have done to their respective films. In essence, all 238 minutes of the Ant-Man franchise have been about reuniting Hope and Hank with Janet after 30 years of separation. On a smaller scale, Scott has had his own story of familial separation and detachment by way of three years in prison and two years under house arrest, but his ultimate purpose in Ant-Man was to show Hank and Hope that a return from the Quantum Realm is, in fact, possible. After three tumultuous decades, Hank and Hope finally have a legitimate reason to believe that Janet could still be alive. And yet, as soon as audiences relish in the catharsis of Hope and Hank’s reunion with Janet, the decision was made to wipe them all from the board for the time being.

It’s understandable why Marvel Studios would want Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, a Phase 2 franchise character, to be fighting alongside the original Avengers en route to saving his friends in Avengers 4. However, Marvel Studios, along with pop culture, just celebrated Evangeline Lilly's The Wasp being the first superheroine to get equal billing with a superhero in a Marvel Studios film. Now that Hope has been vanished, that progress is immediately undone as Scott/Ant-Man gets to fight alongside the Avengers (again) while The Wasp is sidelined (again).

Respectfully, when you weigh the alternatives to disappearing The Pym-van Dyne family, there’s some tantalizing material if Scott and his blended family were to disappear as a result of Thanos’ snap. First off, Hope, Janet and Hank would now be positioned to return the favor to Scott and his blended family after Scott risked his life and family in order to reunite Janet with Hope and Hank. It would also present The Wasp with her overdue chance to fight alongside some of the Avengers, something she was denied in Civil War when Scott selfishly took off to Germany without giving Hank or her a head’s up. (The Wasp was nearly introduced in Civil War’s airport clash until Ant-Man and the Wasp director Peyton Reed requested that The Wasp’s introduction be reserved for his Ant-Man sequel, especially since Giant-Man was also set to debut in Civil War.)

Finally, the disappearance of Scott and his family would guarantee that Dr. Hank Pym would have to work alongside Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), something he swore he’d never do again after his falling-out with Tony's father Howard Stark over SHIELD's unsuccessful attempts to replicate Pym Particle technology. Tony would learn about Pym’s revolutionary science from Dr. Pym himself, a man Tony’s father greatly admired, while Dr. Pym would recognize that Tony is capable of far more than just “some cute technology.”

Marvel’s choice to spare Scott Lang instead of The Pym-van Dyne family that just reunited after 30 years is another byproduct of a cinematic universe taking priority when it needs to do so. This explains why Reed avoided the Infinity War component of his film until the last minute. When you factor Hank and Janet’s brilliant scientific minds including their Quantum Realm expertise, The Pym-van Dyne family would add such an interesting dynamic to the surviving group from Infinity War, especially after The Wasp proved to be a vastly superior fighter to Ant-Man. Plus, Hope would now get to play the primary role of rescuer, a role that Scott has played twice now.

Whether you agree with the choice to spare Scott instead of The Pym-van Dyne family or not, it was a mistake to immediately show a family disappearing after they just reunited for the first time in 30 years (including two films’ worth of buildup). Now, some will argue that Thanos’ action is wicked for this very reason, but this scene did not have to occur in the mid-credits of the Infinity War-cleansing movie. The family’s disappearance could’ve been an early scene in Avengers 4, since its placement wouldn’t directly undermine the emotional foundation of Ant-Man and the Wasp as well as the significance of Evangeline Lilly and The Wasp’s equal billing and title inclusion. Why take one step forward and two steps back –– in the coda –– to a groundbreaking film for female characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Ant-Man and the Wasp wonderfully fulfills its promise: it cleanses the post-Infinity War palate. Unfortunately, Wasp’s stinger also fulfills its promise.

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