In the lead-up to the highly anticipated conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s epic “Infinity Saga”: Avengers: Endgame, we’re taking a look back at the decade-long road it took to get to this point. Avengers: Infinity War might have ended on the biggest cliffhanger of all time, but there was still more story to tell before we continued the tale of the snap survivors. In our penultimate stop on the road to Endgame, we’re taking on Ant-Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel – coincidentally, the first two Marvel movies named after female characters! – to see how well they fared with giving us our Marvel fix this past year.
Both Ant Man & The Wasp and Captain Marvel were made to take place before the events of Infinity War, so we didn’t get to see any hint of what sort of effect the Decimation had on the universe (beyond the post-credit scenes). We did, however, get an idea of some elements that will come into play when we return to face the fallout of the snap. Ant-Man & The Wasp explains and explores the Quantum Realm, while Captain Marvel introduces, well, Captain Marvel!
These movies were both smaller in scope compared to not only Infinity War, but the last couple of films before it in Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. Other than a couple of scenes in each movie, the action was mainly relegated to urban America. Not a bad location, but certainly not one that holds a candle to the style and character of Wakanda, Titan, or Sakaar, either. And the stakes weren’t exactly world-ending, though that might not have been a bad thing; after the hectic pace and huge group scenes in Infinity War, it was nice to focus on just a few heroes in movies toned more lightheartedly (Ant-Man & The Wasp was a nice breather as the first Marvel movie after Infinity War, while Captain Marvel evoked the simpler times of Phase 1).
However, I can’t decide whether or not it was a smart decision to release these movies between Infinity War and Endgame, and whether or not doing so kept the momentum going in the way that it should have. To be clear, both these movies were good additions to the MCU, but these stories – other than the parts shown in their post-credits scenes – could have come out before Infinity War and still have made just as much sense within the greater narrative. And I have to wonder if the fact that they were released in between those two mammoths of motion pictures put a damper on the excitement surrounding them.
Clearly this wasn’t the case box-office-wise (Ant-Man & The Wasp out-earned its predecessor and at the time of this article being published Captain Marvel has earned over a billion dollars and is currently the 25th highest-grossing movie of all time) but during both of these films’s releases there was this sense of distraction among fans. People went to see these movies, but a lot of the buzz was about the Endgame we all knew was on the horizon.
It’s hard to say whether the issue was the anticipation for Endgame overshadowing everything else in the world of Marvel to an extent, or if Infinity War and possibly Black Panther set such high standards that the bar has been permanently raised for the MCU. If the latter is the case, there may be serious cause for concern for the future of the franchise. Marvel may have set audience expectations so high that even they might not be able to live up to themselves anymore.
But we won’t truly see how this plays out until after Phase 3 ends and we discover what lies in store for the years to come. In the meantime, we’ve got one last stop on our journey throughout the MCU. At long last, we are indeed in the Endgame now.