(Warning - This article is full of SPOILERS for Marvel's Ant-Man. If you haven't yet seen the movie, then what follows will likely reveal a number of key plot points that you may prefer to have revealed to you in a movie theater - so go see it already...Don't worry, we'll wait...)
By now, you've most likely enjoyed the next installment in Marvel's increasingly un-derail-able cinematic train (and if you haven't, check out the disclaimer just above), meaning there's a solid chance you're currently experiencing a good old fashioned case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe warm and fuzzies.
It also, though, suggests that you're most likely letting your mind meander down some of the more intriguing hypothetical avenues in modern movie-dom. Specifically, there's a good chance you're currently asking yourself:
Just What Does Ant-Man Mean for the Future of the MCU?
After all, this is Marvel Studios we're talking about - so the movie's pretty much guaranteed to be setting something up. The question, then, is simply what that something is...
Well, as it turns out, Ant-Man might well be hiding a whole lot of hints about the future of the MCU - it's just that a whole lot of those hints may well be setting up stuff a good few years away. Y'see:
It Turns Out Ant-Man Is Setting Up a Lot...About Phase 4
Specifically, Marvel's Phase 4, the generation of Marvel Studios movies that'll arrive after the currently announced batch is concluded (Ant-Man was the final film of Phase 2, with Phase 3 beginning with Captain America: Civil War).
So, what's it telling us?
Well (and this is where those MASSIVE SPOILERS come in), here are five of the most intriguing possibilities...
5. Ant-Man's Set to Open Up a Whole New Frontier
Or, rather, Ant-Man has already taken us to a whole other dimension of the Marvel Universe. When Scott Lang ends up 'going quantum,' and shrinking to a sub-atomic level, he travels to what is, for all intents and purposes, another dimension entirely.
Sure, he's technically just in 'a reality where all concepts of time and space are irrelevant,' but as fans of the Marvel comic-Book universe know well, that's basically just code for another realm for our heroes to explore. Which in this case basically means the Microverse, a sub-atomic universe which numerous Marvel heroes have spent time in over in the comic-books.
Which, in turn, opens up a whole lot of possibilities for future Marvel movies...
4. The Crossovers Are Coming! The Crossovers are Coming!
After all, there's no reason that if Ant-Man ends up exploring that alternate universe, he'll have to do it alone. After all, from the sounds of Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige's comments a little over a year ago, it sounds like a certain Sorcerer Supreme might be a natural fit to help Ant-Man out:
"With Strange, it is a classic Marvel origin story because he’s got one of the best origins ever. And it’s our opportunity to take that left turn into the supernatural. Now, what is the definition of supernatural? It varies. We like the idea of playing with alternate dimensions. The very sort of crazy – [Steve] Ditko crazy acid trip way of traveling through dimensions and traveling through other realms is something that we think is very, very cool … playing with the perceptions of reality."
Add in the Hulk's history of ending up stuck in the Microverse, and Captain Marvel's historical fondness for exploring brave new worlds, and we have a whole lot of crossover potential opening up in front of us.
That being said, though:
3. There Are Still Old-School Stories to Be Told
Specifically, ones involving the original Ant-Man himself, as well as the original Wasp.
The search for Janet van Dyne is likely to be a major focus of any future Ant-Man solo sequel - but there's also every chance we could see the past adventures of Hank and Janet hit our screens too. Whether that'd be in the form of that movie sequel - or even as part of their own TV series (Agent Carter spin-off, anyone?) - remains to be seen, but there are certainly plenty of comic-book stories featuring the pair just waiting to be adapted...
What about looking to the MCU's future, though? Well...
2. The Young Avengers Aren't Too Far Away
Specifically, one of the core members of Marvel's Young Avengers super-group - a team of youthful heroes loosely affiliated with the main Avengers team - has now very much made her first appearance in the MCU.
The future hero in question? Scott Lang's daughter, Cassie.
Who, in the comics, becomes the teen-hero Stature, with similar size-changing powers to her father - and who is most likely going to hit the MCU in...about a decade's time.
After all, Marvel's movies tend to exist along roughly the same timeline as they're released, so any introduction of the Young Avengers is likely to not happen until the very end of Phase 4 (or even a potential Phase 5). By then, though, a teen team could well be exactly the sort of alternative take on the MCU that Marvel'll likely be looking for...
The most important future element of the MCU that Ant-Man sets up, though?
1. The Wasp Has a Whole Lot of Future Ahead of Her
After all, that mid-credits scene makes things pretty clear: "It's about damn time" that The Wasp made her way to the MCU, and it looks as though she very much will be in the near future.
Whether that's in Captain America: Civil War, or as a supporting character in a future solo movie (I'm personally rooting for Scott and Hope to end up getting involved with Captain Marvel, somehow) remains to be seen, but odds are we can expect to see a fully-operational Wasp getting down to some serious super-heroism come Avengers: Infinity War...and beyond.
Ant-Man and The Wasp early in Phase 4, anyone?