The plot of Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp revolves around the Quantum Realm, but what the hell is the Quantum Realm?
The term “quantum realm” is an actual scientific term found in the field of physics but the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Quantum Realm functions with its own rules albeit some that are based on our own laws of physics.
(FYI, there’s a Chad Orzel article that goes into great detail about the differences between MCU’s fictionalized Quantum Realm and the actual quantum realm that you can find here.)
So, first things first:
- An atom is the smallest unit of matter and everything is made up of atoms.
- Atoms are very tiny. For example, if you had an atom that had a diameter of 0.1 nanometers, then you would have to stack one million (1,000,000) atoms for it to be as thick as a sheet of paper.
- “Sub-atomic” describes something that is smaller than the ridiculously tiny thing that we just described in Point 2 above.
With me, so far? Doesn’t matter ‘cause we’re moving on!
In the first Ant-Man movie, Dr. Hank Pym tells Scott Lang that if he goes sub-atomic he would enter the Quantum Realm, “a reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant as you shrink for all eternity.”
Okay, so this where most people are going to assume that the Quantum Realm is a funhouse dimension that exists within atoms where everything goes a bit wonky because it’s super tiny. But guess what? You’re not most people. You are not going to fall for a logical fallacy and assume that the small size of the person going into the Quantum Realm means that the Quantum Realm itself is tiny because you’re better than that.
The Quantum Realm is NOT a super tiny dimension but is its own separate parallel universe whose doorways are super tiny. Imagine standing in a giant, football stadium-sized room and right next to it is another giant, football stadium-sized room but both rooms are separated by a doll-house sized door. The small size of the door is not equal to the giant size of the rooms but you still need to be small enough to fit through the door. The small doors are why Ant-Man, Janet Van Dyne, and anyone who can shrink to a subatomic size can get to the next giant room aka the Quantum Realm.
Now, we know all this because we know about the Microverse from Marvel’s comic books and the Quantum Realm and the Microverse are the same exact thing. (Marvel has to call it something else because another film studio owns the rights to the Microverse name but I think we can all agree that the MCU lucked out because everything sounds cooler with the word “quantum” in it.)
“…a dimension that can be reached from the Earth dimension by shrinking with Pym Particles and thus compressing the person’s matter to a certain point, thereby forcing it through an artificially created nexus into the other universe. The Microverses were once erroneously believed to exist within atoms. They are all described as parallel dimensions, rather than universes within universes.”
The Quantum Realm has made a brief appearance in Doctor Strange so it can be accessed through magic, it was briefly mentioned in an episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. so it is known to more people than just the Ant-Family and Doctor Strange, and there’s currently a lot of theories floating around the interwebs that hypothesize that the Quantum Realm could be the key to defeating Thanos in Avengers 4.
The Quantum Realm represents a vast amount of potential for the possibilities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s a cause for excitement for what will come next in the MCU and also not a small amount of dread for the amount of research I’ll have to do in order to understand what just happened if/when we go back there.