‘Ant-Man’ post credit stingers might be Marvel’s most important yet

By now, audiences have been conditioned to stay seated at a Marvel movie until the very last seconds, just in case, and in this weekend's “Ant-Man,” there are not one but two different extra scenes.

And, yes, we'll be discussing spoilers here, so if you read past this point, please don't cry about it later.

The first of the scenes is tremendously meta, a moment where Marvel is essentially making a promise to audiences. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) takes his estranged daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) into his private workshop. Much of the tension between the two of them in the film has to do with her confusion about why Hank wants to bring someone else in to wear the Ant-Man suit. When Hank finally tells her the truth about how her mother Janet, aka The Wasp, died in action, it helps heal the hurt between them, but it's the final scene that really seals the deal. Hank reveals a brand new suit, designed specifically for Hope, allowing her to finally fulfill what she sees as her birthright by becoming the new Wasp.

Hope's line? “It's about damn time.”

And I am confident that in theaters across America tonight, female Marvel fans are cheering that line on several different levels. First, Hope is a fun character who is positively desperate to suit up and jump into the action, and that's a pretty fun twist on the reluctant superhero trope. But more than that, Marvel's been putting off female fans for a while now, and it's been overdue for one of their movies to be driven by a female lead. Now, I don't think they're rushing “The Wasp” into theaters tomorrow, but Lily's coming back, and she had a chance to walk when Edgar Wright left the film. If you're a fan of the role she plays in the film, you can credit Rudd and McKay for a lot of what's actually onscreen. Lily had a hand in shaping where Hope's going, and that line is a promise. I wish Marvel had let Joss Whedon cast Captain Marvel and use her in the final “Age Of Ultron” scene the way he wanted. Hell, you can almost see the space in the frame that he left for her to land in that big group shot. But we're getting closer, and I don't think Hope's going to play second fiddle to Scott Lang or to anyone else when she suits up.

The second scene is the one I find really intriguing. I think the first button is fun. The second one is all about the housekeeping, the set-up for whatever's next, and I'm surprised by the form of the scene. It's not something that was shot for “Ant-Man.” It was directed by the Russos, and, like the scene in the middle of the film with the Falcon, it was scripted by Markus and McFeeley. It's an actual scene from “Civil War,” although it will probably play differently. This is the first pass at the moment, where we find Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier (Sebatien Stan) restrained in a basement somewhere. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) come in and talk about how they're going to protect him. They mention “The Accords,” and then it's clear that they're going to reach out to Team Pym, and specifically to Scott Lang, for help.

The Winter Soldier is the pivot point around which much of “Captain America: Civil War” will be built, and I think they've been building up to this with the last few films. If you remember, there's a scene in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” where Zola (Toby Jones) shows a newspaper headline about Howard Stark's death, which was allegedly by car crash. It's clear, though, that The Winter Soldier is the one who really did the deed, and that knowledge is something Steve Rogers has but that Tony Stark does not.

It's safe to assume that “The Accords” are going to be the Marvel movie version of the Superhero Registration Act, the government action that caused the schism in the comic book version of the “Civil War” storyline. But when you take the ideological divide that the Accords will cause and then you add in Steve defending and even hiding the person who killed Tony's parents? Well, yeah… I can see how that's going to lead to one hell of a fight.

Marvel's had a very interesting attitude about these closing credit tags from film to film. Sometimes they are simple jokes, like the truly wackadoo Howard The Duck appearance at the end of “Guardians Of The Galaxy,” and sometimes they contain truly important information, like Baron Von Strucker's introduction of The Twins at the end of “Winter Soldier.” It's very strange to see one that is just an early version of a longer scene that we're going to see again in a different finished form in the next Marvel movie, but it feels like Marvel was almost hedging their bets, making sure to pack as much value as possible into “Ant-Man” to make sure fans feel well-served.

They needn't have worried. “Ant-Man” seems to be playing beautifully to audiences, and I'm a fan myself. It's a fun, charming addition to the world they're building, and it's interesting to see how much weight they put on two short scenes that aren't technically part of the main movie.

“Ant-Man” is in theaters now.