The Marvel Cinematic Universe, this epic project bringing vast interconnected narratives about magic people to the mainstream for fun and profit, is now in its 15th year, and yes, sometimes it can feel like homework.
As the MCU expands ever outward, major plot points and character development are happening not only in franchise-tentpole Avengers team-up movies, but also in smaller-scale Disney+ TV shows spanning a range of genres and the full gamut of quality — and as we all well know, there is simply Too Much Content already. It’s totally OK to play catch-up so as to maximise your knowledge before you head off to see a highly anticipated new installment like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
In Quantumania, Ant-Man, aka Scott Lang (Paul Rudd); Hope van Dyne, aka the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly); Scott’s daughter, Cassie (Kathryn Newton); and Hope’s parents, Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne, aka the original Ant-Man and Wasp (Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer) are all sucked into the Quantum Realm, a sprawling, tiny world that exists somewhere in the spaces between the matter of our own. It’s the first film in Phase 5 of the MCU and introduces audiences to our new galactic-level big bad, who’s a big bad deal in the comics — so there will be exposition. Here’s what to watch if you want a refresher before you go in.
Mandatory (not really, but you know, it’ll help a lot): Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp
Scott Lang gets arguably the best origin story movie in the MCU — at least since Captain America: The First Avenger. Peyton Reed, who’s directed all three films in the trilogy, brings cheeky action, pace, and visual flair to both the snappy first movie and the (sadly clunkier) second one. A rewatch of the first will give you a good grounding in Scott’s relationship with Cassie and Hank’s decades of ant research, as well as how the resizing power works.
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Ant-Man and the Wasp zooms in on the relationships (and repressed trauma!) in the Pym-van Dyne family — and it’s worth remembering that at the end of this movie, Hank, Janet, and Hope are all victims of the Snap, and Scott was trapped in the Quantum Realm for all five years of the Blip. Like Peter Parker and his Blipped classmates, for our insect-hero squad, the events of the Thanos era are still fresh. Speaking of…
Optional: Avengers: Endgame
If you’re invested in Scott’s character arc, his key role in kicking off the Time Heist is worth revisiting — and after Ant-Man and the Wasp, this was the second film to rely on the Quantum Realm as a key plot driver.
Highly recommended: Loki, Season 1 (or at least the finale)
If you haven’t already watched the god of mischief’s spinoff series on Disney+, you don’t actually need to smash through all six episodes before re-entering the Quantum Realm. But if you have the time, go for it! It drags a bit in the middle, but it’s still extremely smashable — and Tom Hiddleston’s crackling chemistry with Sophia Di Martino (as the Loki variant known as Sylvie) keeps things interesting even when the narrative is spinning its wheels.
If you don’t have time for anything but the briefest of refreshers, and/or don’t plan on getting invested in Loki Season 2, watch just the first, second, and sixth episodes. You’ll get a gorgeously produced introduction to the Time Variance Authority, the reality-hopping bureaucracy that oversees the proper flow of the timeline (and looks like Wes Anderson designed your local DMV… in space). The second introduces Sylvie and gives a handy illustration of how timelines “branch” — but if you’re really short on time, you can skip that.
If you watch nothing else in preparation for Quantumania, watch the finale of Loki Season 1. It’s not technically crucial backstory due to the multiversal nature of the MCU these days, but this talky, exposition-filled episode is a deeply consequential preamble for Phase 5 as a whole, and adds a whole heap of context for a character we’re still getting to know by the end of AM&TW:Q.
Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Avengers: Endgame, and Loki Season 1 are all available to stream on Disney+.