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The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a special kind of franchise. While most series can have sequels that are set an indeterminate amount of time after the events of the previous chapter, the details of the world-building in the MCU means that each story must be looked at like a puzzle piece helping create a larger picture. So where does director Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man fit into this ever-growing timeline? According to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, the answer is shortly after the events featured in Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Along with a small group of other film journalists, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the set of Ant-Man last year down in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was during this trip that we both talked to Kevin Feige and learned exactly how the film fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Asked specifically how the events of the upcoming blockbuster mix with what we’ve seen thus far from Marvel, Feige explained,
We don’t exactly say. There’s an indication that is probably just after Ultron, just after Avengers 2. The present day films take place within the chronology of the release of movies, the exact months and the exact weeks after sometimes determined later.
Thanks to a TV spot that was released a couple weeks ago, we know that there is at least one reference to The Avengers in Ant-Man, but while watching the film it will be interesting to pick out exactly how the movie fits into the continuity of being post-Age of Ultron. Does this mean that characters will recognize that a psychotic robot nearly destroyed the Earth with a city that he lifted out of the ground and sent into the sky? It’s a detail we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for when seeing the film.
There is a slight caveat that comes with this detail, however. While most of Ant-Man will be taking place in the "present," and therefore in the post-Avengers: Age of Ultron world, there will also be a good chunk of the movie that is dedicated to showing an era that neither the Marvel movies nor the Marvel television shows have explored just yet: the late 1980s. In fact, the very first scene of the film is set in 1989 and features not only a digitally de-aged Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym (who looks incredible), but also John Slattery’s Howard Stark from Iron Man 2 and a digitally-aged Haley Atwell as Agent Peggy Carter. Said Feige of the new ground that will be covered in these flashbacks,
This very much has its roots grounded in the mythology of the cinematic universe and it is connected via Hank Pym, to a period of time that relates to Howard Stark and relates to Peggy Carter and to the mid-days of S.H.I.E.L.D.
During a special edit bay presentation that took place at Industrial Light and Magic in San Francisco last week, Peyton Reed added that Ant-Man won’t be a "flashback heavy movie," promising that it will be grounded in the present – but he added that what we do see take place in the late 1980s is used to not only inform the events that are going on in the present, but also the characters. Said Reed,
There are a couple of times where we sort of jump back and witness key moments and key things that inform Hank’s life, and as you know, if you know the comics, Hank Pym is a really difficult character. He’s a very complicated character.
So if you’re a crazy fan like me and someday want to create a cut of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in chronological order, be prepared for what Ant-Man will deliver.