Film

'Ant-Man' brings 'Phase Two' of the Marvel cinematic strategy to a close, what's in store for 'Phase Three'?

by Ryotaro Aoki

Special To The Japan Times

Have you noticed there’s been a lot of comic book-based movies lately? The idea of plotting to take over the world isn’t an unusual one for a comic, so it makes sense that Marvel Studios has been slowly conquering the film industry for the past eight years.

“Ant-Man,” which is now showing in cinemas across Japan, is the 12th installment in what’s being referred to as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This number doesn’t include other Marvel projects: TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the “Agent Carter” mini-series, or the Netflix-exclusive series “Daredevil.” “Ant-Man” is the final film in what’s being called “Phase Two” — the second stage of introducing a much larger, intertwined plot that stretches across several media and has earned the franchise nearly $9 billion worldwide. What comes next will be even bigger.

The Marvel franchise began with 2008’s “Iron Man.” Viewers who stuck around after that film’s closing credits were given a peak at the Phase One plan to introduce the members of superhero squad the Avengers with their own films — “The Incredible Hulk” (2008), “Thor” (2011) and “Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011). They served as tent poles to a larger story that came to fruition in 2012 with “Marvel’s The Avengers,” which united all of the previous films’ main characters. Confused? Trust me, the comics are more complicated.

Phase Two kicked off in 2013 with “Iron Man 3” and sought to focus on expanding the lore of the Marvel universe via TV, short films and blockbusters. The main narrative culminated in this year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” with “Ant-Man” dialing things back to a smaller scale (literally) in order to introduce elements that will likely be important when Phase Three kicks off with “Captain America: Civil War” next year.

Marvel Studios has already announced 10 films to be released as part of the third phase, whose main goal will be to tackle the overarching story of the “infinity stones” (remember the thing that caused all the fuss in 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”?). There will also be two more “Avengers” installments.

Pop culture has entered a period of intense fandom that demands a lot of layers to its entertainment. With “Ant-Man” closing another chapter in the Marvel universe, now is as good a time as ever to join in the fun.

“Ant-Man” opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept. 19. For more information, visit www.marvel.com/antman. The Japan Times has five “Ant-Man” polo shirts to give away. The deadline for entries is Sept. 17. For more information, visit jtimes.jp/film.