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As exciting as it is that Joe and Anthony Russo’s Captain America 3 will be an adaptation of the famed comic book crossover event Civil War, it does present an interesting conundrum for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After all, that particular storyline heavily involved costumed heroes working to protect their secret identities, and at this point there aren’t many heroes in the MCU whose real names are mysteries to the world populace. The good news is that with Ant-Man coming to theaters this summer, there exists an opportunity to start changing that status quo.
Since the Ant-Man trailer dropped earlier this week, we’ve been thinking a lot about the astonishing shrinking hero and how he will find his own place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while there are key elements to the Scott Lang character that will certainly make him unique, such as the fact that he is the first Marvel lead with a kid, and that he could potentially introduce us to the big screen version of the Microverse – another key element is the fact that he is really a nobody. As such, should his identity be kept secret at the end of his movie as he continues working as a vigilante, there is an opportunity to open the door for more superpowered individuals to do the same and better set up the key conflict of Captain America: Civil War.
It’s true that we don’t get to hear much from Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang in the trailer – outside of a surprised "huh" and a complaint about his new superhero name – but we do learn a surprising amount about his character, and it’s interesting how it perfectly sets up the formula for an undercover superhero. Unlike Iron Man or Captain America, he’s not any kind of celebrity or known figure, but simply a a reforming thief who is giving a chance for redemption thanks to a brilliant scientist. What’s more, he’s also fit into the mold by having someone in his life – namely his young daughter – who he not only has to be an example to, but also protect at all costs. Bring those factors together and what you have is a recipe for Marvel’s first big screen leading man who does all of his hero business undercover.
Of course, by the time Captain America: Civil War comes around, Ant-Man won’t be the only costumed hero out there who is working to keep his personal life hidden from the public. As was confirmed during the big Marvel Studios presentation last fall, Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther is going to be making his debut in the blockbuster sequel, and he’s a guy who not only tries to keep his identity a secret, but comes from a country that is entirely concealed from the outside world. Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is another example, as we will have already seen a full season of his Netflix show by 2016, and he’s a character who has always worked to keep his street-level heroics separate from his day job as a lawyer. Even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. presents itself as a wild card, because who would have predicted that the series would be the medium to introduce us to the Inhumans? Still, as the lead of his own feature film, Ant-Man has a real chance to open up this very important aspect of superhero storytelling, and put the MCU in a place where it has to be pre-Civil War.
I’m not suggesting that we will necessarily wind up seeing Paul Rudd appear on the cast list for Captain America: Civil War (cool as that idea may sound), but there certainly exists an opportunity for Ant-Man to be incredibly important for its story. Obviously this is all speculation until we actually see how Peyton Reed’s film plays out, but there is great potential for the film to have a rather massive impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large.