The newest Marvel film, “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” follows the titular heroes as they head into one of Marvel’s most mysterious areas: the Quantum Realm. From the trailers, we know that there, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and co. will meet an alternate timeline variant of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), first introduced as He Who Remains at the end of “Loki” season one. Kang is set to be the overarching villain of Marvel’s Phase 5, culminating in a Phase 6 Avengers movie titled “The Kang Dynasty.” The Quantum Realm played a role in 2015’s “Ant-Man” and 2018’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (plus it helped the Avengers figure out how to time travel in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame”). But if you’re still a little confused, we’re breaking down what the Quantum Realm is, what we’ve learned from its previous appearances on screen, and what it all means for “Quantumania.”
In the MCU, the Quantum Realm is a separate dimension. The main ways of accessing it (that we know of so far) are via Pym Particles (which power Ant-Man’s suit) or via a Quantum Tunnel. Pre-“Quantumania,” it’s mostly been depicted as a mystical, incorporeal place, but in the trailer for the new movie, it resembles something more akin to an alien planet where many people live.
In addition to the Ant-Man movies, it also played a role in the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” TV show, which ended in 2020. In that series, characters used it not just to travel through time, but also to access other dimensions in the multiverse. However, it’s not quite clear if the events of that show are considered canonical for the rest of the MCU.
Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) first introduces the idea of the Quantum Realm in the first Ant-Man film. He warns Scott that the suit he’s made, which can make him small using Pym particles, is not perfect. If Scott overrides the suit’s regulator, he could be sent to the Quantum Realm, the same fate that Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) suffered in 1987. Janet, he says, is still trapped there. Scott does momentarily access the Quantum Realm during the film but is able to break out of it.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” builds upon the Quantum Realm lore. Hank and Hope work on freeing Janet from the Quantum Realm, while Scott realizes that his trip to the Realm in the first movie has left him and Janet quantumly entangled. The trio work on a Quantum Tunnel they can use to rescue Janet. One of their adversaries is Ava Starr, aka Ghost, who’s quantumly unstable and is trying to access quantum energy to fix herself (the character will return in the “Thunderbolts” movie). She also has the power to phase through objects because of her quantum powers. At the end of the movie, Scott, Hope, Hank, and Janet work on harvesting energy to help Ava stabilize, but Thanos’s snap happens, and Scott gets trapped in the Quantum Realm as his companions disappear.
In “Avengers: Endgame,” Scott is finally freed from the Quantum Realm five years later. For him, it was only five hours. The Avengers are able to harness the power of the Quantum Realm to travel back in time and get new Infinity Stones that help them beat Thanos once and for all.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” set in this post-snap world, sees the series’s heroes’ — plus Scott’s daughter Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) — journey into the Quantum Realm.
Interestingly, the Quantum Realm also appeared in 2016’s “Doctor Strange” when the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) used magic to send Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) through it during his training to become a sorcerer. Presumably, he and other sorcerers could still use magic to access it.
We won’t know for sure until the movie comes out, but from the trailer, we know that Cassie has created an object that allows them to contact the Quantum realm; she compares it to a satellite. Janet, who spent 30 years trapped there, warns her to shut it off, but before she can, at least some of their group are sucked inside the realm.
It turns out the mystical and mysterious realm is also full of other people, including Kang, M.O.D.O.K. (Corey Stoll), and a mysterious character called Krylar, who is played by Bill Murray. The Quantum Realm has full communities with their own forms of governance, but it’s not clear yet how any of them ended up there. In the movie, the Quantum Realm (and Kang) will have less to do with time travel, like in “Endgame,” and more to do with the multiverse, a concept movies like “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and shows like “Loki” have started to explore. But we’ll have a much better idea how the realm really functions after the movie premieres.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” will be released in theaters Feb. 17.