The greatest thing Marvel ever did was make Paul Rudd an Avenger, so it should come as no surprise that his Ant-Man movies end up being incredibly important to the greater story in Avengers: Endgame. It’s actually Rudd’s Scott Lang who comes up with the grand plan to save the day and to do so, they need a lot of Ant-Man-specific technology (and backstory), which means you need to know what happened in the Ant-Man movies.
What Happened In The First Movie, Ant-Man?
In Ant-Man, we’re introduced to Scott Lang, an ex-convict who’s just been released from jail (but his crimes were white collar — it’s not like he murdered someone). Immediately falling back into his old ways, Scott teams up with his prison cellmate, Louis (Michael Peña) and Louis’ van with a highly recognizable horn, to steal stuff from some old guy. This old guy turns out to be Hank Pym, a former prominent member of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Who Is Hank Pym & What Are Pym Particles?
Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) developed a shrinking (and enlarging) technology with subatomic particles, calling them “Pym Particles.” A lot of this research and development happened during the early days of S.H.I.E.L.D, and eventually, Pym and S.H.I.E.L.D. had a falling out in the late ‘80s after he learned S.H.I.E.L.D. was trying to duplicate his technology. We see this happen at the beginning of Ant-Man, and while it’s really more of an establishing scene then, turns out, it’s actually pretty important!
Scott steals Hank’s Ant-Man suit (along with the Ant-Man technology and Pym Particles) in Ant-Man, setting up the movie’s story where now Scott has to battle Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) for control of the Pym Particles. Obviously, Scott succeeds. But Darren isn’t important to Endgame, so we’re going to move on.
What Is Ant-Man's Quantum Realm?
We also learn that Hank and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), have been estranged for years after the disappearance of Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Janet was the Wasp to Hank’s Ant-Man back in the day, but Janet disappeared (and is presumed dead) during a mission where she had to go “subatomic” and enter the quantum realm. Ant-Man ends with the idea that Hank might be able to find Janet, and Hope is officially given her mother’s old Wasp suit, making her the new superhero.
To make a super long story short, Ant-Man and the Wasp revolves around the group trying to figure out how to get into the quantum realm to retrieve Janet. They eventually figure out how to do so, with Hank going in to retrieve his long lost wife. The Quantum Realm is a mystical and mysterious place, and Janet advises against spending too much time poking around in it. This information might not be of utmost importance, but it’s what Janet reveals in the end credit scene of Ant-Man that sets Endgame into motion.
What Happened In The Ant-Man & The Wasp Post Credits Scene?
The end credit scene of the movie has Scott traveling into the Quantum Realm (in a new “lab” in the back of Louis’ van) to retrieve “healing particles.” Then Janet is like, “Don’t get sucked into a time vortex,” and like oh wow, that’s certainly a hint at what’s to come in Endgame. While Scott manages to not get sucked into a time vortex, he enters the quantum realm at the exact time Thanos does his deadly snap, which means he’s also stuck in the Quantum Realm for the foreseeable future.
Warning: This is where the Avengers: Endgame spoilers start.
How Ant-Man Affects Avengers: Endgame
It takes five years for Scott to get out of the quantum realm (thanks to a rat who triggers the controls after Louis’ van has been moved into storage), and when he does, he realizes that he’s been gone for five years. But, for Scott, this time jump has only been five hours. Realizing the chaos Thanos has caused around the world, Scott travels to Avengers HQ to regroup with the others and pitch the idea of using the Pym Particles and the Quantum Realm to time travel to acquire Infinity Stones and unsnap the fallen.
The movie actually does this, and at one point our heroes actually travel back to Hank’s early days at S.H.I.E.L.D., before his falling out with them, to retrieve more of his Pym Particles after they’ve run out. In the 1970s, Hank was working in New Jersey with his particles, which then Captain America (Chris Evans) steals in order to travel back to the future, and it’s a whole “thing” but the group succeeds. We only see Hank in his lab for a moment before he goes rushing out, so who knows if he even noticed some of his particles were missing.
You can certainly head into Endgame without having seen the Ant-Man movies, but know what happens to Rudd’s Scott Lang obviously provides a lot of needed backstory to help piece the story together.
Also, Paul Rudd is great, so you should probably just watch Ant-Man.