Major spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp below.
The population of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will likely get rid of the abbreviations “BC” and “AD” and replace them with “BS” and “AS” — Before Snap and After Snap. At the conclusion of this spring’s Avengers: Infinity War (Jesus, there have been a lot of Marvel movies this year), indigo heartthrob Thanos holds aloft the Infinity Gauntlet after it’s been festooned with the galaxy’s various Infinity Stones and brings a thumb and a finger together to make one little click. In that moment, everything changes: 50 percent of all life in the universe (well, at least 50 percent of the sentient life, we don’t really know what happens with, like, emus) blows away into oblivion like Hoovered detritus released into a tornado. RIP Black Panther, Bucky, Spider-Man, and a whole mess of other merry Marvel protagonists. Cue a bajillion memes.
After fans got their weeping done, they collectively came to a curious question: Where the hell was Ant-Man? Erstwhile thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) was nowhere to be found in the film, despite having already crossed over with the Avengers in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. (Remember? He embiggened and everyone in your theater lost it?) What’s more, a trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp was released shortly thereafter … and it made no mention of The Snap. When, exactly, was this size-shifting sequel supposed to be set? If it was before, then why wasn’t Antsy recruited to fight Thanos? If it was after, then why did it seem like no one in the trailer was particularly concerned with the disappearance of half of their pals?
Well, if you’re willing to be spoiled, we have the answer. This is the point of no return. Read no further if you’re planning to see the film. This is not a drill.
Still here? Great, let’s get to it. The short answer is: 99 percent of the movie takes place before the events of Infinity War, but the credits scenes take place during and after it.
Wanna be spoiled even further? So the deal is that Scott returns to the teeny-tiny Quantum Realm — which he previously visited in Ant-Man — near the climax of the film in order to retrieve Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer, who is in an infuriatingly small portion of the movie). He and the rest of Team Ant learn that the Quantum Realm contains things called “healing particles,” which, well, heal you. They contribute to an eye-rolling deus ex machina involving the villain, and afterward, the good guys all decide they should research and retrieve more of ’em.
In the mid-credits scene, we see Scott embarking on his third journey to the Quantum Realm, supervised by Janet, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). However, while he’s inside that wild and wacky place, The Snap occurs and his cohort all blow away. Exiting the Quantum Realm apparently requires assistance from Scott’s friends, and when their comms go dead, he realizes he’s stuck. He shouts for his life and the screen goes black. In the post-credits scene, a human-sized ant plays electronic drums (it’ll make sense if you see the rest of the movie) while the streets of San Francisco are silent and a TV shows the post-Thanos devastation. And scene.
So there you have it. However, I have to say that the timeline still doesn’t quite make sense to me for one big reason: The Snap only occurs after at least a day or two of Earth-wide mayhem. Why the hell were our plucky heroes just hangin’ out and having experiment time during this time of apocalyptic crisis? Sure, SF is a bubble, but it’s not literally in a bubble, cut off from the rest of the world. It’s a somewhat major plot hole made all the more obvious by the fact that Marvel density has reached a point where these movies are still in very recent memory by the time we see the next installments. Anyway, it’s certainly possible that Ant-Man will join the as-yet-unseen Captain Marvel in playing crucial roles in the still-untitled Avengers fourquel next year. (It’s really too bad that Left Behind and The Leftovers are already taken as titles.) Mayhap the healing particles will be the key to restoring all of the lost folks? Come back next year and we’ll spoil that for you, too.