(Warning: The following contains mild plot SPOILERS for past entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including the recently released 'Captain America: Civil War.' Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise.)
Now, one of the more unusual quirks lying within the Marvel Cinematic Universe's history is the fact that we were actually supposed to see one of its most unexpected heroes a whole lot earlier than we eventually did. Ant-Man, y'see, was originally pitched by its original director Edgar Wright long before the MCU was an actual thing, way back in 2003, eventually pitching it to (current Marvel Studios President) Kevin Feige the year after. By 2006, Wright was officially hired by Marvel to direct, and then things changed.
A near-constant series of incidents and accidents (not to mention unexpectedly successful Iron Man movies) caused Ant-Man to be pushed back in the schedule time and time again — with the movie eventually only finding its way to the big screen in 2015, with an entirely different director (Wright having dropped out the year before). All of which begs one particular question:
Just How Did Ant-Man's Delayed Arrival Change The MCU As A Whole?
After all, Ant-Man went from being a potential leadoff hitter for the MCU, to being the final movie of Marvel's Phase Two (and the company's twelfth feature film). Had Scott Lang arrived way back in the 2000s (somewhere, say, between 2008 and 2010), then its not unreasonable to suppose that the Marvel Cinematic Universe would now be a very different place.
Here, then, are five of the more intriguing ways in which things could easily have been very different.
5. Ant-Man Would Have Been A Founding Avenger
It's a pretty obvious point in many ways, but had Ant-Man found himself joining the MCU pre-The Avengers, then it seems all but certain that he would have been included in the original lineup of the team. After all, that was the case for all the headlining heroes who debuted in Phase One — and Ant-Man was a founding member in the comic books to boot.
The biggest change Ant-Man's inclusion could have led to, though? We might not have seen Captain America — seen as a huge risk by many at the time — emerge during Phase One at all, with the good captain being held back for an introduction in the Avengers movie proper, or sometime during Phase Two.
4. The Wasp Would've Been An Avenger Too
Avengers director Joss Whedon has previously admitted that The Wasp — as later played by Evangeline Lilly — was originally planned to be part of the movie, but was dropped because he "could not make it work." Had Janet van Dyne (or her daughter Hope) been introduced in a previous Ant-Man movie, however, that would have been unlikely to be as troublesome a problem for Whedon, and we would probably have seen The Wasp turn out to be a founding member of The Avengers.
The only problem with that?
3. We Might Not Have Seen Black Widow Yet
Y'see, while it would be nice to think that we would have seen an Avengers movie starring both Black Widow and The Wasp, it seems likely that Marvel Studios' then head honcho Ike Perlmutter would have forced Whedon to choose just one (Perlmutter really isn't a fan of female leads), and there's a pretty solid chance that The Wasp would have won out. Which means that Black Widow may not have appeared at all (with her introduction back in Iron Man II no longer being necessary to set up The Avengers).
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron Would Have Played Out VERY Differently
Specifically, there's a pretty good chance that Tony Stark wouldn't have been responsible for creating Ultron — or that, if he was, it would have been the result of a collaboration with Hank Pym, rather than Bruce Banner. After all, Pym was Ultron's creator in the comic books, and many of his most interesting story arcs hinge on him having created Ultron. It's even possible that in another more Ant-Man-centric reality, he and Scott Lang could have been the ones to create Ultron — giving Ant-Man a nemesis for future solo movies.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy Might Not Have Happened At All
Y'see, had Hank Pym's creation of Ultron become a key part of the MCU, it's entirely possible that Ultron could have been the Big Bad teased at the end of The Avengers, rather than Thanos. Phase Two could then have become a gradual reveal of the emergence of Ultron — with a second Ant-Man movie perhaps featuring the creation of a super-intelligent A.I. by Hank Pym which would then go rogue in Age of Ultron.
Were that the case, though, then there would have been little reason for the cosmic universe-establishing Guardians of the Galaxy to exist, especially considering the fact that Ant-Man would likely have been fulfilling its role as both "the funny one" and "the financially risky one."
In other words, the late emergence of Ant-Man may well have caused us to miss out on a whole lot of awesomeness — but it also might have caused us to gain some cinematic greatness too. Which, I guess leaves us pretty much back where we started?