This post contains slight spoilers for "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania."

After 15 years, the lore of the Marvel Cinematic Universe runs very deep. The franchise from the House of Ideas now encompasses films, TV shows, shorts, specials, and literature (including Scott Lang's memoir "Look Out For The Little Guy"). So it's understandable if a new True Believer feels daunted by the sheer amount of media they would need to consume if they want to completely catch up with the entire story. After all, it's not like anyone really wants to do homework in order to watch the latest blockbuster in a theater. But if you're looking to see "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania," surely you understand that it's a necessary evil, right?

It's not entirely required to have seen every story that makes up the MCU to follow along with Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly's titular heroes, but it would be beneficial to at least be caught up with their adventures. The new movie from "Bring It On" and "Down With Love" filmmaker Peyton Reed is the third chapter of a trilogy. While there are probably going to be allusions to events that have previously happened to these characters, viewers can't (or shouldn't) go into a sequel and expect to spend an overabundance of time recapping the past so that it's a standalone experience. It's not like you would go into "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King," "The Matrix Reloaded," or "Star Trek: The Final Frontier" without at least knowing a little bit about the established mythology.

So then why are some people still up in arms whenever Marvel movies expect viewers to know a little bit about Ant-Man's exploits by the time his third headlining feature film rolls around?

Up The Ante

When Marvel Studios first established their shared universe, they were sure to make characters such as Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk as accessible as possible for a broader audience. Even if fans knew their stories, it was quickly revealed that these heroes had been slightly altered for an all-new generation. But despite some tweaking here and there, the spirit of Earth's Mightiest Heroes remained intact. And eventually, after introductions were made, they crossed over in "The Avengers."

After spending over a decade engrossed in this story, it's not as necessary as it once was to cast a wider net. People who have been watching are already accustomed to suspending disbelief enough to accept what's going on in these movies. Magical, scientific, cosmic, and supernatural elements all mix together to form this world and viewers bought into it. With that established, Marvel can take more chances and tell more stories that are more ingrained in this mythology. Of course, origin stories are still important for newer characters, but nearly all of the Avengers have expanded their stories in at least one or two "solo" films by now. The need to stand alone hasn't been as imperative as it was four phases ago. The storytellers have done their part by building a strong foundation for this franchise before adding floors and extravagantly decorating them.

Now, part of the fun with the MCU is finding all the ways that details connect to each other. There are many different ways to enjoy the media that you consume, particularly the live-action offerings from Marvel. If you only want to follow Ant-Man or Ms. Marvel or the Guardians of the Galaxy, it's completely doable. Just look to the source material for the best example to do so.

Off The Rack

In comics, whether it be Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, or any other publisher, there are huge crossover events that incorporate most if not all the major titles in a line. However, you can be as all in or out as you want to be in these stories. It's almost like a variation of a choose-your-own-adventure book. Get the entire story in the main book, but also pick up tie-in issues to dive a little deeper into what the characters you're interested in are up to. For example, the 2006 Marvel Comics event "Civil War" spanned seven issues, but featured offshoots starring Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Black Panther, and more. If I didn't care about what side Frank Castle ended up on, then I didn't pick up the Punisher's comic. And if Deadpool's part in the story sounded more appealing, his book would get added to the list. But if I wanted to get every point of view from everyone involved, then I would put in the added work of reading everything associated with "Civil War."

Similarly, Marvel Studios has taken the same approach with their projects. The audience is free to pick and choose which stories to follow and they would still get a complete experience thanks to context clues and information from each individual franchise. Granted, "Quantumania" does assume more than its predecessors that those watching have also seen "Avengers: Endgame," screenwriter Jeff Loveness gives you enough information in his script to get you by. But for anyone to expect this movie to be accessible as "Ant-Man" from 2015 is unrealistic. Scott Lang has changed a lot since then, so he would definitely handle these new experiences very differently than if he faced them back in the day.

Making The Grade

Ultimately, it comes down to extra credit. Students don't need to complete those assignments to pass the course. They just offer an extra cushion or a boost at the end of a grading period to improve your grade if necessary. Likewise, the minimum requirement to see "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania" is to have seen "Ant-Man" and "Ant-Man and the Wasp." "Avengers: Endgame" and the first season of "Loki" on Disney+ would give additional context, but in my opinion, they're not mandatory requirements. Scott Lang doesn't fully understand the multiverse, so Kang the Conqueror has to explain it to him. At the same time, the audience gets the information they need to know as well and Marvel has done their due diligence to provide the necessary exposition. If someone in the audience wants to learn more, then that's their prerogative.

But at this point, since we're already into Phase 5 and the second Saga of the larger story, Marvel doesn't really need to ensure that their subsequent sequels stand alone anymore. They've put in the work of assembling all the necessary pieces and then some. It's up to us how much or how little we want to put together now. Do we want a fully functional vehicle that gets us around and keeps us safe on the road or do we want a souped-up ride with upgraded equipment, added luxuries, and elevated design features? Both do the job, but it all depends on how each individual wants to roll and neither is the wrong choice. Do you, boo, and don't let the perceived pressure yuck your yum.

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