Or "Why is Ant-Man the last movie of Phase 2, rather than Avengers 2?"

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the series of movies involving characters from Marvel comics and produced by Marvel Studio/Disney Studio. The series of movies is decomposed into phases, that are different steps in the studios' production plan.

Phase 1, entitled Avengers Assembled, is composed of all movies from Iron Man (2008) to The Avengers (2012). This phase relates the origins of each Avenger and how these mighty superheroes came to fight as a team.

The narrative purpose of Phase 2 is less clear to me. At first, I thought it was about Thanos' story arc but Thanos doesn't seem to appear in Ant-Man, the last movie of the Phase 2. Actually, Thanos will most likely be the main antagonist of Infinity War, which is a part of Phase 3.

Therefore, what story arc will be concluded at the end of Ant-Man? I believe it can be answered before the movie is released, as the purpose of Phase 1 was clear before the release of The Avengers. Marvel Studio may also have commented about the organization of the movies. In other words, what narrative elements unify the movie of Phase 2?

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    Phase 2 is all about losing hands/arms.
    – user1027
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 15:35
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    @Wikis cinemablend.com/new/…
    – user1027
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 15:56
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    @PaulD.Waite I don't understand peoples' unfounded criticism of the Thor movies but it's not really constructive. Just as decrying the Star Wars prequels is an utter waste of time, decrying a small part of a greater whole (the MCU) is an utter waste of time. The movies are there. The characters are there. They're not going anywhere.
    – TylerH
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 17:49
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    @Keen: nice link, thx. Commented May 20, 2015 at 19:48
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    @PaulD.Waite Nothing is exempt from criticism of course, but the criticism of the Thor movies (1 and 2) seems to have reached Lucasian proportions lately. Criticism of it/the, doesn't seem to have a point here.
    – TylerH
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 21:36

3 Answers 3


TL;DR: Ant-Man is sort of the epilogue of Phase 2

Screenrant posed this very question to Kevin Feige, and whether or not Ant-Man is acting as a sort of bridge.

Feige explained:

“Ant-Man does a little bit. What it mainly does is introduce another aspect to the cinematic universe, with Hank Pym and his Pym particles, and the shrinking technology, and his lineage within the Marvel universe in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s which we explore a little bit. And certainly, with getting to know Scott Lang and seeing how he could become the most unlikely Avenger.

So, it pretty much is about that story but you’ll see very clearly where that lays in between those two films.”

SlashFilm asked about the Phases, in specific, Feige continued:

“It’s not [an after thought]. The truth is the phases mean a lot to me and some people but… Civil War is the start of Phase Three. It just is. And Ant-Man is a different kind of culmination of Phase Two because it very much is in the MCU.

You meet new characters and you learn about Hank Pym and his lineage with the MCU over the years. But at the same time, it also picks up the thread of Age of Ultron in terms of heroes – major heroes, Avengers – coming from unexpected places. Whether it’s prison in the case of Scott Lang or being a very disgruntled Sokovian Twins as Wanda and Pietro are in Age of Ultron. And in that way it connects a lot.

Also, Hank Pym’s attitude towards Avengers, towards S.H.I.E.L.D, and kind of the cinematic universe in general, is much more informed after the events of Age of Ultron, and in a certain way, before the events of Civil War.”

Specifically, what the phases are defined as by Marvel is a little unclear, as they've never really stated anything officially. It is all muddied in part by many thematic elements crossing over between the first two phases.

One could argue that Phase 1 was about single characters coming together, while Phase 2 is about them dealing with the knowledge that the universe is much larger, and more dangerous than anyone imagined, as well as learning to rely on each other. How (if at all) Ant-Man will fit into this is obviously unknown at this point.


Phase II is about "Unexpected Heroes"

In the same article that phantom42 pointed out, I think a more clear definition of Phase II can be gleaned:

You meet new characters and you learn about Hank Pym and his lineage with the MCU over the years. But at the same time, it also picks up the thread of Age of Ultron in terms of heroes ... coming from unexpected places.

I had never thought of it this way until reading that article, but the pattern actually holds up.

In Phase I, we have several "classic origins" of heroes: Tony is on a quest for redemption, Thor learns to be a wise leader, Cap is literally trying to become a hero (if not a superhero). One could argue that Hulk is an "unexpected hero", but even then, the Hulk is such a famous character that his heroism is well-established in the minds of the audience. Even the supporting heroes are more standard-heroic-fare: a dedicated airman becomes War Machine, a couple of talented SHIELD agents reveal themselves to be Black Widow and Hawkeye, etc. These are all people we would expect to be heroes.

But in Phase II, we have a long series of heroes, major and minor, coming from unexpected places:

  • In Iron Man 3, Pepper is put into the Iron Man suit and saves Tony Stark's life, and then is given Extremis powers and saves his life again. And on a lesser note, Tony also befriends some random kid, who ends up being vital in helping him on his journey.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, the villainous Loki ends up being instrumental in defeating Malekith.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a seemingly-normal soldier turns out to be a flying hero, and a Hydra assassin discovers that he may have some heroism left in him after all.
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy... well, do I even need to point out the "unexpected heroes" in Guardians of the Galaxy?
  • In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the Maximoff twins vow to destroy Tony Stark but end up becoming Avengers themselves, and Ultron's own creation surprises everyone by becoming the heroic Vision.
  • And now in Ant-Man, a convicted thief becomes what Feige calls "the most unlikely Avenger."
  • 1
    I would really like to add spoiler tags here but I can't work out how to do it with bullet points... :( Commented May 21, 2015 at 9:01
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    Th difference between a dedicated airman becomes warmachine and a seemingly-normal soldier turns out to be a flying hero would seem to be mostly wording.
    – Jasper
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 9:08
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    @Jasper you're not wrong, but they do differ a little in execution. With War Machine, there's a lot of time spent showing that he's driven, that he wants to be a hero - he asks Tony to give him a suit several times, and there's that moment where he looks across at the spare suits and declares "Next time!". With Falcon, the movie clearly shows that he's not a hero - the "on your left" running scene, the bit where he's doing group therapy sessions, the talk about losing a comrade, the scenes of his (very ordinary) home; he's framed as much more of an average Joe - until he becomes a hero. Commented May 21, 2015 at 9:30
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    In A:AoU, let's not forget purple-face.
    – Raphael
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 10:06
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    @Jasper Yeah, anaximander hit the nail on the head. War Machine wasn't unexpected, they'd been setting it up for two movies. Falcon was literally a surprise, even for Cap. Both he and the audience assumed that Sam Wilson was a normal soldier, but he turned out to be an expert in a pretty spectacular piece of machinery.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 1:36

Phase 2 is defined as movies between 2013 and 2015

Short of a deep literary critique after Ant-Man comes out, the only answer is that "Marvel said" Phase 2 is:

  1. Iron Man 3
  2. Thor: The Dark World
  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  4. Guardians of the Galaxy
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  6. Ant-Man

It's tautological, but that is the definition.

Those 6 movies are the exact definition of what's in Phase 2.

To paraphrase:

Ant-Man is in Phase 2, no more, no less. Two shall be the number of its Phase, and the number of the counting shall be two. Three shalt thou not count, neither count thou one, excepting that thou then proceed to two. Four is right out.

  • 1
    Probably worth mentioning that Agents of SHIELD S1 & S2, Agent Carter S1 and Daredevil S1 are all part of Phase 2 as well. I am not certain about anything beyond that, but I would guess that all of the Netflix series up until The Defenders mini series would also be classed as Phase 2. Agents of SHIELD S3 and Agent Carter S2 remain to be seen. Commented May 21, 2015 at 8:13
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    @DrRDizzle: and Daredevil season 2! MOAR DARDEVILLS Commented May 21, 2015 at 8:28

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