This article contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War, including the most important spoiler: Ant-Man isn't in it.
As anticipation built for Avengers: Infinity War—the most Mavel-y Marvel movie of all time, the crescendo of a franchise that already spans 18 films (with many more to come)—fans had a lot of questions. How would the Russo brothers cram dozens of heroes into a single movie? Could the Marvel Cinematic Universe's trademark playfulness and zest carry a Titanic-length epic? Would the overstuffed plot even be comprehensible, or would it dissolve into a haze of bad one-liners and CGI-laden battle sequences? Would it all be worth it?
Well, I'm sorry to say that it wasn't. Because while Anthony and Joseph Russo gave it their all, there's a huge hole at the center of the assembly. Scott Lang, a.k.a. Ant-Man, is somehow not even in the movie.
Now, there is an in-universe reason given for all of this, which is that Ant-Man and Hawkeye have families to look after, so they aren't galavanting around with either Captain America's fugitive squad of Avengers or Tony Stark's government-aligned crew. I can accept that excuse for Hawkeye, who honestly wouldn't have been that much help in a cosmic confrontation against the most powerful being in the universe. Plus Jeremy Renner's arrow-slinger is a supporting character at best. I can't imagine many people were clamoring to see him.
Ant-Man, though? Millions of people fell in love with the lovable rogue, who as we all remember, was manipulated into being part of a scheme devised by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to sabotage his old company and eventually won a dramatic battle with the evil Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll). Audiences around the world were enthralled by Paul Rudd's lovable-rogue vibe and gasped in astonishment at Ant-Man's ability to become very small and communicate with ants, not to mention his additional power of getting really big that was unveiled in the most unexpected twist of Captain America: Civil War.
We were all waiting to see how Ant-Man would interact with Falcon, who he fought in one of Ant-Man's many unforgettable action sequences. Would they spar entertainingly? Maybe Falcon would make some cutting remark about Lang's past as a thief or his charming amateurishness as a hero? How would Ant-Man's abilities interact with those of Doctor Strange? Well, thanks to the geniuses (sarcasm) at Marvel, we'll never know.
Instead, we got stuck with the been-there-done-that characters that populated the previous Avengers installments. Iron Man is terrified of death. Thor is brooding. Star-Lord likes shitty 80s rock. Scarlet Witch and Vision are in a romance that no one else in the universe cares about. Captain America has a beard now. YAWN.
And it's not just Ant-Man who was missing. Couldn't Douglas's Pym and Robert Downey's Tony Stark have had some kind of rivalry as genius inventors—not to mention men who had complicated relationships with Tony's father? (I won't bother summarizing it, because I'm sure everyone is familiar with how Howard Stark betrayed Pym.) What about Luis (Michael Pena), whose comic relief would have been welcome during the more dour parts of Infinity War, such as the bit where everyone dies? Why are fans denied their chance to see if Lang and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) learn to respect one another—or, if I dare say it, become romantically involved?
That last point is the most galling. Surely a few scenes of Lilly and Rudd, who are the MCU's hottest potential couple, would have built even more buzz for the hotly anticipated Ant-Man and the Wasp, due out later this year. I thought Marvel was supposed to be about synergy. Nope, apparently they are about disrespecting their most beloved characters and shoving a bunch of bullshit in fans's faces.
Ugh, sorry, but I need to go back to the in-universe logic behind Ant-Man's absence, which DOESN'T EVEN MAKE SENSE. You're telling me that Scott Lang, who was so enamored with Captain America to fight the other Avengers, wouldn't want to be involved in defending earth from the greatest threat it's ever known? No, sorry, I won't believe that, it's an insult to everything the character stands for—or actually I should say stood for, because obviously the MCU's writers have changed him into an unrecognizable coward.
Of course, fans will still remain loyal to Marvel, especially since the company's next film is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which I'm sure I don't need to tell you has been setting geek culture sites afire. (Did you see the new stills of Rudd riding a flying ant? Talk about Hollywood magic!) But I'm not sure why the suits in charge insist on keeping the Ant-Man characters isolated in their little MCU cul-de-sac. They should come down from their ivory tower and take a look at the Ant-Man and Wasp cosplayers at every convention, at the kids in "I am Scott Lang" shirts, at the almost cult-like devotion that Ant-Man fans have to the character. While Marvel churns out films devoted to obscure characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy, the studio has failed to even give us a proper Hank Pym movie that would serve as a prequel to Ant-Man, let alone a film about Eric O'Grady, who I'm sure I don't need to tell you was the Ant-Man after Lang in the comic books. Let's hope they rectify that soon.
And let's hope Ant-Man has a big role in the Infinity War sequel. Because if he doesn't, Marvel may discover one thing that's not infinite: fans' patience.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.