[SPOILERS for Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War ahead.]
Marvel Studios' second phase of films has now been complete with the theatrical release of Ant-Man, introducing Paul Rudd as the onscreen version of Scott Lang from the Marvel comic book universe. Rudd as Lang has been confirmed to return in the first chapter of Marvel Studios' Phase III: Captain America: Civil War, a film that is pulling double-duty, by also serving as the direct continuation of the storyline from Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Ant-Man's mid-credits scene revolves around former Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) showing his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) the suit she will use to become The Wasp, while the film's post-credits sequence features Steven Rogers (Chris Evans) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) having caught up with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) at last. Both of these events tease major developments in Marvel Studios' Phase III, though only the latter is connected to the Civil War narrative directly.
Marvel's Civil War comic book storyline (written by Mark Millar) is a fairly complicated web of plot and character threads, though the film adaption version scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America 1 & 2) will be comparatively simpler. At least, that's what Marvel Studios president of production Kevin Feige told Zap2it:
“‘Civil War’ is a relatively simple story. ['Avengers: Age of Ultron’] had a lot going on. Civil War’ is a surprisingly grounded story about two characters that most audience members have come to know and like and admire finding themselves on different sides of a political argument, like the country does on many occasions, and how they both respond to that. That’s the story. So it’s actually a very, very simple story, and then how their personal relationships fit into that.”
Writer/director Joss Whedon's Age of Ultron has gotten its fair share of criticism for being over-stuffed, between its self-contained storyline and its Marvel movie franchise-building elements. Civil War, as it's described by Feige, is simpler because the focus will be on the schism that forms between Steve and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), regarding how to best hold superheroes accountable for their actions. In addition, of course, a key subplot will involve Steve's efforts to help Bucky, on the side:
“Can he save his friend? Can he turn the Winter Soldier back into Bucky? Is that even possible? While the Winter Soldier, from most other people’s point of view, is the deadliest, worst assassin of the past 70 years. So some people are like, ‘Cap, you’ve got to let it go. He’s not the guy that you used to know.’ So it’s a surprisingly personal story with a simple and very efficient plot that I think allows all those characters to have a presence and interact in a way that’s different from other films we’ve made.”
It's been rumored that Black Panther's (Chadwick Boseman) introduction in Civil War will be connected to the Winter Soldier subplot, as T'Challa will (allegedly) be hunting Bucky. Feige's indication to Zap2it that Ant-Man's post-credits scene takes place party-way through Civil War (rather than before the film) doesn't conflict with this rumor, though it doesn't confirm it either. However, if this rumor is correct, then that could be an effective means to help streamline the Civil War narrative and make sure all plot threads tie in together in a clean fashion (while still getting a necessary amount of Marvel Cinematic Universe building done).
Similarly, while Feige says Hank's distrust of The Avengers will "certainly play a part" in how Scott Lange fits into the Civil War story, it supposedly will only be important in as much as it affects Scott's actions in the film - in order to avoid making the plot more complicated than it needs to be. Feige also informed /Film that Lilly's debut as The Wasp will not happen in Civil War, for related reasons:
“She was included in early versions of Civil War but there are so many characters in Civil War that we didn’t want to do her a disservice, like she flies in, ‘I’ve got the costume now’, and she flies out. With Ant-Man, and I’m not saying [that is] what Ant-Man does in the movie, but we already know him, we’ve already seen him. We haven’t seen her as Wasp and we don’t want to rob the opportunity of seeing her in the outfit for at least almost the first time, and seeing her dynamic with Scott in a way it could play out, so we’re saving it. But its going to be in Phase three for sure.”
It's disappointing that Wasp's proper debut as part of the modern Avengers has yet to happen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even so long after Whedon included the character in one of his early script drafts for the first Avengers movie. Nevertheless, it sounds as though it will happen sooner than later now, at a time when the start of Hope's superhero run won't be overshadowed by the significant events that will be unfolding around her. At the latest, expect Wasp to play a key role in the Russo Brothers' followup to Civil War: the Avengers: Infinity War movies (starting in 2018).
Ant-Man is now playing in theaters; Captain America: Civil War arrives on May 6, 2016; Doctor Strange– November 4, 2016; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – May 5, 2017; Spider-Man reboot – July 28, 2017; Thor: Ragnarok – November 3, 2017; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 – May 4, 2018; Black Panther– July 6, 2018; Captain Marvel – November 2, 2018; The Avengers: Infinity War Part 2 – May 3, 2019; Inhumans – July 12, 2019.