Thirty years after Honey I Shrunk the Kids squashed Stan Lee’s initial pitch for an Ant-Man movie, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally made it to the big screen as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The final film is a fun superhero origin elevated by unique effects work (read our Ant-Man review) – one that continues the work of fleshing out the interconnected MCU (in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways). Whereas the movie’s mid-credits scene advances a central thread of the Ant-Man story, while also teasing future developments, the film’s end credits scene is a direct link to Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War – one that casual moviegoers might not understand on first viewing.

As a result, our explanation is going to be full of SPOILERS from here on out – not just for Ant-Man, but every MCU movie that has come so far. READ NO FURTHER unless you’re all caught up. Even though most of our discussion will be speculation, a lot of it could be considered FUTURE SPOILERS for Captain America: Civil War. You have been warned.


Post-Credits Scene – The Winter Soldier Returns

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Whereas the mid-credits scene teases Hope van Dyne’s (Evangeline Lilly) future as the superhero (and Avenger) Wasp, the end credits scene is a bridge between the fallout of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the events of Ant-Man, and the conflict to come in Captain America: Civil War. In the scene, Captain America (Chris Evans) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie), arrive at a dimly lit facility where Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) is trapped – with his cybernetic arm caught in a heavy-duty machine press. Most fans know that, in the comics, Barnes eventually takes over the mantle of Captain America (a title that is not exclusive to Steve Rogers); however, given that Cap and Falcon aren’t overly-friendly with Barnes in the scene, it’s safe to say that The Winter Soldier depicted in the Ant-Man post-credits tease has been on the run – and has yet to embrace a place on the Avengers roster.

As a result, Captain America and Falcon discuss how to handle Barnes – with Falcon questioning whether they should inform Tony Stark. Captain America brushes the idea off, implying that even if Stark believes Barnes is alive and no longer a threat, the Iron Man is accountable to “The Accords” – part of the pro-registration movement. Without knowing exactly how Stark might react, or how his accountability to the Accords might impact his response, Captain America decides to keep Barnes a secret from his fellow-Avenger, prompting Falcon to suggest he knows “a guy,” Scott Lang, that can help free the Winter Soldier.

Who You Gonna Call? Not Tony Stark

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As indicated, the post-credits scene builds on the increasingly tense partnership between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers – who, ever since The Avengers, have expressed different opinions regarding the best approach to protect the world. Disagreement was mostly superficial between Stark and Rogers in the first movie – centered on whether Iron Man was capable of “making the hard play” and sacrificing his life to protect others. However, conflict between the two heroes escalated in The Avengers: Age of Ultron – after Tony’s reckless pursuit of a cure-all solution to securing Earth, lead to the creation of Ultron. The closing moments of the film show that, in spite of their differences, Stark and Rogers are still attempting to achieve the same goal – but may not see eye-to-eye on the means to that end.

Even though viewers do not know exactly how much time has passed after Age of Ultron by the time Rogers reappears in the Ant-Man end credits, it’s safe to assume that a lot has happened in the intervening time. Comic readers know that Captain America and Iron Man are the poster-children for opposing sides of the upcoming Civil War storyline and, based on Cap and Falcon’s conversation, it sounds as though Stark has already begun working with the government (and “The Accords”) to hold superhumans accountable – a move that Captain America believes could endanger powered people and, subsequently, impede the mission to protect Earth from larger external threats.

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Speculation also suggests the brain-washed Winter Soldier was responsible for the “accident” that killed Tony’s parents (Howard and Maria) back in the early nineties. If true, or even if Stark were simply to believe it was true, it’s understandable that Captain America might be reluctant to call on his fellow Avenger – since Tony’s bitterness could cloud his judgment and, instead, put Barnes in danger.

Who or What Are the Accords?

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For causal filmgoers who are not familiar with Marvel comic books, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the events of Civil War. As mentioned, the Superhuman Registration Act is at the center of the conflict. Some heroes (such as Iron Man) believed that registering individuals with superhuman abilities and/or advanced tech would help protect the world from collateral damage (as more heroes and villains battle in public) as well as unpredictable threats – should a superhuman decide to use their powers for evil. Others (such as Captain America) believe that the Superhuman Registration Act is excessive and overreaching – threatening constitutional freedoms and the safety of superhuman people (who might be rounded up in a superhero witch hunt). To advance his agenda, Stark even attempts to enlist the aid of “The Illuminati” – a group of high-profile heroes (including Doctor Strange and Mr. Fantastic) that often manipulate key events behind closed doors in the Marvel Universe.

However, in the Ant-Man end credits scene, Falcon briefly name drops a previously unheard of ruling body: The Accords. In context, it is implied that Tony Stark is, in some way, connected to The Accords – as well as accountable to them. Specifically, when discussing whether or not they can call Stark for assistance, Falcon states “Who knows if The Accords would let him help” – indicating that even if Stark was amenable, The Accords would be the final authority on whether Iron Man could take action.

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Understandably, observant viewers began to debate the identity of the Accords but a brief line of dialogue could be misleading. What if The Accords aren’t The Accords and, instead, are “the accords” – as in treaties or agreements that govern a nation, individual, or political group? In this context, Falcon might not be referring to an actual organization, he could be referring to a complicated set of laws that Stark has agreed to uphold – in the fallout from Age of Ultron. Assuming that the Ant-Man end credits scene acts a bridge between The Avengers 2 and Captain America 3, it sounds as though Stark has begun to lay the groundwork for government monitoring of superhumans – even if the actual registration act has yet to be voted on. If that were the case, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe that the Avenger has already agreed to terms that might prevent him from aiding Rogers – who, viewers can assume, has gone dark to avoid interference with his mission.

That all said, in a cinematic universe that loves cryptic organization names (S.H.I.E.L.D., HYDRA, Centipede, Ten Rings, etc), it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if The Accords are an actual group – specifically the face of a pro-registration movement (similar to HYDRA operatives Senator Stern, Agent Sitwell, and World Security Council head Alexander Pierce in Captain America 2) or the MCU’s version of The Illuminati.

Ant-Man Will Join the Avengers for Civil War

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Thanks to the shape-shifting Skrull impostor, Criti Noll, veteran Ant-Man Hank Pym appeared to be pro-registration in the comic series but Scott Lang, the iteration played by Paul Rudd in Ant-Man, was not present for Civil War. For that reason, there’s no backstory to determine exactly how Lang will play into Captain America 3 or which side of the conflict he’ll choose. The end credits sequence builds on Lang and Falcon’s earlier battle – establishing a friendly rivalry between the heroes – suggesting Ant-Man is being primed for a spot on Captain America’s team.

That said, Civil War is all about heroes who fight for what they each believe in – and are forced to battle their own friends in the process. In the comics, certain characters on both sides will have a change of heart (as the actual war unfolded) – meaning that if Iron Man can battle Captain America, what is to stop Lang (a relative newcomer to the superhero world) from deciding in favor of pro-registration once he truly understood what might be at stake?

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Nevertheless, it’s easy to imagine that Lang, a former thief and not-so-superpowered-person with advanced tech, might be especially reluctant to support a pro-registration bill – given that he’s new to a life of crime-fighting and, subsequently, not in a position to openly challenge the few Avengers that he’s actually met. After all, Lang was already sent to jail once for doing the right thing, surely he’ll notice the Superhuman Registration Act comes with a major drawback: the government could inadvertently send well-intentioned heroes, like him, to jail (again).

Since new characters will be caught in the middle of Civil War, especially Spider-Man and Black Panther, it’s likely the Ant-Man end credits scene is a good indication of where the hero will be aligned when he returns in Captain America 3. Of course, that’s just speculation at this point, and we’ll have to wait for the first entry of the MCU Phase 3 to hit theaters in May 2016 before we know exactly how Ant-Man fits into its Civil War storyline – and who else will be by Captain America’s side.

MORE: 15 Avengers Who Will Never Be Featured in Marvel Movies

Ant-Man is now playing in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters.

Captain America: Civil War opens May 6th 2016.

Want to discuss SPOILERS? Head over to our Ant-Man Spoilers DiscussionHave questions the film didn’t answer? Listen to the editors discussion in the Ant-Man episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.