Did A Significant Marvel Cinematic Universe Moment Really Just Happen Off-Screen?


(Note: This article contains spoilers for the post-credits scene of Ant-Man. We’re going to assume you’ve either seen the movie already or have read Christina Roberts’ breakdown of that scene of you want to proceed here. Consider yourself forewarned!)

With Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe now complete, it’s safe to say that it’s a large enough world that not we’re not going to see everything that happens in it. To name just one example, it was made clear at the beginning of Avengers: Age of Ultron that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes had been hitting Hydra bases together before the forest assault that opened the movie. That being said, you wouldn’t expect one of the most significant events in the history of the MCU Earth to have happened off-screen, but the post-credits scene from Ant-Man sure makes it seem that way.

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Assuming you’ve heeded our spoiler warning above, you already know that the short scene shows Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson with a cornered Bucky Barnes. As they discuss what to do, two key phrases emerge. One is that getting help for Bucky would have been easier “a week earlier.” The other has to do with the idea that getting help from Tony Stark might not be possible due to “the accords.” Wait … what?

There’s always a chance that Marvel could be intentionally throwing us a curve here, but the most popular theory seems to be that the accords in question are the MCU’s equivalent of the Superhuman Registration Act (SRA) from the Civil War comic book series. In fact, here’s The Hollywood Reporter summarizing that point of view:

"Could the accords be some sort of agreement keeping Tony from doing any unauthorized work after his role in creating Ultron? It sounds like the MCU equivalent of the Superhero Registration Act from the comics, which dictates that all superpowered humans register with the government and receive training before performing heroic duties."

(And yes, it’s “Superhuman” and not “Superhero,” but we love THR, so we forgive them!)

If that theory is correct, it’s cool but somewhat troublesome at the same time. The cool part is that the ideological divide between Captain America and Iron Man in Captain America: Civil War could be similar to the one from the comics even with different events spurring it – meaning Ultron’s near-destruction of an entire city instead of the Stamford tragedy. The troublesome part is the insinuation that some government action regulating super heroes has happened without us seeing it. You’d think that would be something that Marvel would absolutely have built into a movie or TV show and not just occurring in the space in-between them.

Any hand-wringing at this point is probably premature, but Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige has said that generally speaking, as much time has passed in the MCU between films as has passed in real life. That puts the events of Ant-Man several months after Age of Ultron, as well as setting Captain America: Civil War about a year after the latter film. It’s beyond reasonable to expect some kind of reaction to the Ultron affair over that time, but for us to miss out on the debate over anything resembling the SRA would be a huge missed opportunity.

Marvel hasn’t given us any reason not to trust that it knows what it’s doing, but as cool as that stinger was, it threw me for a loop at the same time. If Civil War is already underway, it would be nice to know that, don’t you think?


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