(Warning, mild Avengers: Age of Ultron SPOILERS are to be found below...)
One of the most striking things about the newly released Avengers: Age of Ultron - the latest in a long and awesome line of interconnected movies which together make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe - is that it's almost entirely self-contained and self-sufficient: put simply, you don't need to have seen any other Marvel movie to enjoy it.
Sure, there are small elements, and some subtle references, which are very much designed for fans who've seen every movie in the MCU, and sure, it certainly helps if you've seen 2012's The Avengers - and yet, somehow, director Joss Whedon has been able to craft a two and a half hour-long action movie, set within a vast Expanded Universe, that doesn't require any prior knowledge in order to be awesome.
There is, however, a down-side to that:
Age of Ultron Didn't Really Set up What's Coming Next
Which makes sense, really, since what's coming next is Captain America: Civil War - in which we're almost certainly going to see the Avengers fight it out in an all-out superhero Civil War, probably because of Tony Stark being...well, Tony Stark - and setting it up in Age of Ultron would've pretty neatly ruined that whole 'standalone' vibe.
The problem is:
Fitting Civil War Into One Movie Is a Big Task
Y'see, the original Civil War, back in the comics, was a huge, sweeping epic, encompassing every corner of the Marvel universe. It saw friends become enemies, enemies become wholly unreliable government operatives, and the entire superhero fraternity fractured down the middle.
And it's about to be adapted into a two and a half-hour movie, with no real lead-in.
Or is it? After all, there is one more Marvel movie coming out between now and Captain America: Civil War's Summer 2016 release.
Could Ant-Man Set Up Civil War?
Yup. That Ant-Man.
Now, before we go any further, I should point out that Ant-Man seems set, from everything we've so far seen and heard, to be as determinedly stand-alone as Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy was last year - suggesting that we aren't likely to see it transform into Avengers 3 halfway through its running time.
On the other hand, though, it's also widely seen as a major box-office risk for Marvel, and if there's one sure-fire way to reduce that risk, it's to find a way for the movie to become must see (and re-see) viewing for comic-book fans everywhere.
And it just so happens that Civil War's comic-book origins might require it to do just that...
Y'see, Civil War Only Actually Needs One Thing to Start the Superhero-Brawl Ball Rolling
And that thing, in the comics at least, is a massive explosion in Stamford, Connecticut.
Now, back in the comic-book version of Civil War - or, rather, just before it began - a group of young, relatively inexperienced heroes named the New Warriors were filming a reality TV show about their crime-fighting adventures. Having spent months filming without much luck finding crime to fight, they stumbled onto a group of super-villains in, you guessed it, Stamford, and attempted to take them down.
One of the villains, though - a guy named Nitro - whose power is to explode at will, and then reform. Which, somewhat predictably, led to a catastrophic explosion, which in turn led to hundreds of deaths in Stamford.
Now, in the comics, the end result was a wave of anti-superhero sentiment - with the unlicensed heroes getting the blame for the disaster - which led to the Superhuman Registration Act, which would force all superheroes to reveal their secret identities and register with the government.
And, when Captain America (and a whole lot of other heroes) decided to fight against that law, Civil War began.
Could That Really Happen in Ant-Man, Though?
Well, short answer? No.
Y'see, since the MCU doesn't really have any heroes with secret identities (Daredevil excluded), the movie version of Civil War is reportedly going to focus more on the question of who those heroes should report to.
Now, with that core element changing, there's really no reason why any other individual part of the comic-book story needs to be directly translated to the big-screen.
But Civil War is still going to need a spark - a horrifying event that'll force Captain America and Iron Man onto different sides, without Tony Stark simply coming across as the villain - and while that might not be set in Stamford, or involve a massive explosion, it's almost certainly going to happen.
And it may well be in Ant-Man.
So, long-answer? Yes, but probably not the way we're expecting.
How Could Civil War Begin in Ant-Man, Then?
Well, the most obvious solution would be for the movie to culminate in some sort of huge explosion (or similar disaster), with the distinctly non-government-authorized Ant-Man taking some of the blame.
Follow that up with a cameo from, say, Iron Man or Captain America, which explains that a war is coming - and perhaps even shows the introduction of a controversial 'Superhuman Registration' bill to Congress - and you've not only got Civil War set-up in a way that can be easily referenced in the first few minutes of Captain America: Civil War, but you've also got one hell of a good additional, box-office-boosting reason for fans to come and see Ant-Man...repeatedly.
Y'know, that, or it'll just be in Captain America: Civil War's pre-credits sequence...