After a year of absorbing thousands of fan theories, picking apart trailers and TV spots and having our patience tested to the max, we are finally in the Endgame. 11 years, 21 films and billions of dollars later, it all comes down to this: the final chapter, in essence, of Kevin Feige’s ‘Infinity Saga‘ and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. In just a few days, most of the world will know the answers but for now, we continue to sit in eager anticipation about the whys, the whats, and the wherefores of Avengers: Endgame.
What we do know – or, at least, think we know – is that half of the universe has been wiped out by Thanos’s cull, aka the Snap. We also know that the remaining Avengers are likely to do their damnedest to undo the catastrophic eradication of 50% of life, which includes a bunch of their superhero buddies. If it’s even possible, it seems like the Quantum Realm will play a big part in helping to beat Thanos and reverse the Snap. It’s been set up, and the internet is buzzing with talk about how it might come into play. So, before we all get to see the film, here is how we think the Quantum Realm will play into Avengers: Endgame based on the comics and what we’ve seen in the MCU so far.
MCU Heroes Enter the Comic-Book Microverse
“I think it’s really important. I think it’s one of the fun things about the comics that allow you to explore entirely new terrains. And we’ve hinted at it now in numerous films and its untapped, primarily untapped potential.” — Marvel chief, Kevin Feige
Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, spoke these words in an interview with ScreenRant back in February, underlining the significance of the Quantum Realm. After years of exploring plenty of different avenues for Tony Stark, Cap and co, we’ve now arrived at the Quantum Realm — and with it, the possibility of blowing things wide open. As Feige says, it’s untapped, and the possibilities are endless. A revelation that delights fans of the MCU.
In the comics, the Quantum Realm was originally known as the Microverse, a dimension that can be reached from Earth using Pym Particles. It exists between the molecules that make up the regular universe, which is why it’s necessary to go subatomic to get there.
The Quantum Realm allows access to parallel universes, with Captain America, Bucky Barnes and the Fantastic Four all entering the Microverse at various points. Among others — heck, even Hulk and alter ego Bruce Banner merged in the Microverse, something rumoured to happen in Endgame. And though we haven’t yet had the pleasure of seeing the Fantastic Four in the MCU due to rights issues, and Bucky dissolved in the Snap, we should expect to see Cap don the suit in the film (as per the trailer) and go subatomic with the rest of the surviving superheroes.
So what adventures did they have in the comic-book Microverse? Briefly… during the 20th Century, Captain America and Bucky Barnes were alerted to the Microverse world of Mita when villainous tyrant (Thanos, watch out!) Togaro made moves to take over the planet for his own. They shrunk down to gain entry and managed to stop his reign — although there were civilian casualties.
Later in the comics, the Fantastic Four would enter the Microverse after Doctor Doom was “shrunk out of sight”. He set about conquering the world of Mirwood and utilising their technology (shrink rays) to bring down the Fantastic Four. Only for them to be rescued by Ant-Man. The Inhumans and Black Panther also joined the party. Eventually, fan-favourite Silver Surfer pitched up to help the FF, at which point supervillain Galactus entered the fray and set upon destroying Earth.
How could these adventures play into Endgame? Well, the Microverse has lured a plethora of characters to it, and its limitless potential makes it a brilliant springboard for the future of the MCU. It could well prove to be the way that many of Marvel Studios’ reacquired roster of characters — including the Fantastic Four and X-Men — will be unleashed in the coming years. Such complex time and space elements would allow for access to not only different dimensions but also timelines, something that the X-Men franchise has already dipped its toe into. We could see a few subtle hints during all the Quantum Realm shenanigans in Endgame of storylines and characters to come. Could Galactus become the new big bad, for instance? It’s mouthwatering stuff.
Introduction to the MCU’s Quantum Realm
In the MCU, the notion of this ‘other-dimensional’ plane was first introduced in 2015’s Ant-Man. Thanks to the research and development of Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) during his time at SHIELD in the 1960s, Pym Particles were created — capable of either adding mass to or shrinking the scale of any matter. In conjunction, they imbue whoever uses the particles with increased strength and density. Got it? Good.
It was a revolutionary breakthrough that SHIELD hoped would allow them to gain a supreme advantage over their enemies. Indeed, Hank and his wife Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Ant-Man and the Wasp, were able to harness the particles to shrink themselves and carry out secret assignments for SHIELD – one of which saw them trying to disarm Russian missiles in 1987, only for Janet to go subatomic and disappear into the Quantum Realm, where she remained for three decades.
Two years later, Pym discovered that SHIELD – headed by Howard Stark and Mitchell Carson – were trying to replicate his research to use it for their own purposes (HYDRA probably had something to do with it) and from that moment on, Pym declared that as long as he was alive, no-one would get their hands on his formula. With the Pym Particle and the specially-designed suits, it’s easy enough to access the Quantum Realm, but getting out of it is another matter, as evidenced by Janet’s disappearance. However, that would all change 30 years later…
ANT-MAN and THE TALE OF THE REGULATOR
“A reality where all concepts of time and space become irrelevant as you shrink for all eternity.” – Dr. Hank Pym
Fast forward to 2015 and Ant-Man, our introduction to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the former thief taking his place as the titular teeny-tiny hero. Chosen by Hank Pym as his “successor” to the guise, Lang was soon helping Pym and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) to thwart a new threat: Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), the first person to crack the formula for himself and use it for darker deeds, namely profit — and becoming Yellowjacket.
Thankfully, Lang was able to defeat Cross by going subatomic, entering the space between the molecules of our world in order to disintegrate Cross’s suit. In doing so, of course, he entered the Quantum Realm. Duh duh duh!
Here, we got our first glimpse of the Realm where Lang seemed doomed to be lost forever — just like Janet — but thanks to his quick thinking, he managed to bring himself back to his reality by reverse-engineering the shrinking process through his suit’s regulator. Thereby, essentially, changing the ‘endgame’.
In Ant-Man and The Wasp, knowing that Lang managed to return from the Realm spurs Pym into action. He tries to bring Janet back, after 30 years, by building a Quantum Tunnel. His tinkerings allow Janet to communicate with Lang via Quantum entanglement and help pinpoint her location.
“It’s incredible. You’re linked to Janet. It’s Quantum entanglement, between the quantum states of Posner molecules in your brains,” says Laurence Fishburne’s Dr. Bill Foster to Lang on hearing the news.
Quantum particles allow Lang and Janet to be linked — they can see each other’s memories and environments – so could these be utilised in Endgame to find those lost in the Snap? And what of the particles that allow for healing – you know, the ones collected to help Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp — could these also be used to help regenerate those killed by Thanos?
And, of course, there’s the small matter of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange who, through his training in the mystic arts and a whole host of parallel, alternate and hidden dimensions and timelines, also passed through the Quantum Realm. He could well hold the secrets to unlocking it and helping the Avengers navigate through — if, of course, he hasn’t disappeared forever following the Snap — particularly since he has seen the future and has apparently set about making sure the one successful outcome comes to pass.
“Do you guys just put Quantum in front of everything?” – Scott Lang, Ant-Man and The Wasp
That Snap malarky was bad, wasn’t it? The remaining superheroes are hurting like they never have before – they lost and feel like they have no way of making it right. How Endgame begins is anyone’s guess but we’ve been offered snippets – Steve Rogers looks to be in therapy of some description; Tony Stark is lost in space with Nebula; Thor blames himself for the Snap because he didn’t aim for Thanos’s head, while the others just don’t know where to turn. The arrival of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) will no doubt give them renewed hope – and judging from the official clip that has been released, her appearance rallies the troops to take the fight to Thanos mere days or weeks after the Snap. That, we can assume, will not work out how they hoped. Enter Scott Lang…
Now, of course, we don’t know anything about the plot other than that Avengers HQ takes the fight to Thanos on New Titan (as his ‘retirement’ planet is being called — or 0259-S as has been indicated in a TV Spot) but how do they really save their fallen heroes from the dead?
As you may be aware, Lang is trapped in the Realm himself at the end of Ant-Man and The Wasp after Hank, Janet and Hope were dusted in the snap, so how does he get out? What were all those orange ‘light beams’ surrounding him while he was down there? There are theories around this, but what seems certain is that Lang finds his way out for a second time.
The footage of him in the trailer at the Avengers HQ front door led confused a number of fans, and led to theories about when this is actually happening. Whatever, it seems that this time, Lang has learned more about how to navigate the Quantum Realm and could potentially lead the remaining heroes into a time jump, different timeline or a ‘time vortex’, as referenced by Janet van Dyne in Ant-Man and the Wasp. In fact, getting the Pym family back from the beyond could give the heroes another big advantage over Thanos — not least because they’re going to need a good supply of Pym Particles.
To reverse the Snap, it seems that the Avengers, with Lang, will need to somehow transport themselves through the Realm via the Quantum Tunnel. In their teams (alluded to in the TV Spot below), they seem likely to be tasked with having to retrieve a specific Infinity Stone from the past, whether the Tesseract from New York circa 2012, the Power Stone from Xandar, or the Soul Stone on Vormir — which will presumably require a sacrifice (sob). They’ll need all six to be able to wield their own specially forged Infinity Gauntlet and reverse the Snap, and time itself.
Of course, it might not all be about travelling through time, it could also be about navigating space and parallel dimensions, too — especially since these are things already introduced into the MCU. Many of the theories thus far have involved time travel, but what if space is just as important? Would manipulating space and alternate dimensions allow the Avengers to “replace” themselves so that timelines change? Could they pluck Infinity Stones from different universes? Could navigating space also mean irreparable damage is caused, making the effects of the Snap even worse?
Whether we’re looking at time travel or inter-dimensional meddling, or both, the ramifications of such a mission could be disastrous, especially without Doctor Strange to step in. What are the consequences if the New York battle, for example, is ever-changed, leading to a ripple effect that fundamentally affects everything, Snap or no Snap? And what if some of our heroes get lost down there forever…?
QUANTUM OF SOLACE
“And don’t get sucked into a time vortex, we won’t be able to save you.” – Janet van Dyne, Ant-Man and The Wasp
Indeed, if we’ve learned anything from Back to the Future, or even The Simpsons, it’s that time travel is a precarious business and any slight shift can have a disastrous effect on future events. So it’s safe to assume that absolute precision on the part of our heroes is required if they’re going to be journeying in time and meddling with events. Any slight miscalculation could result in one or more significant changes to the current timeline. Whether we’ll see the results of that in Endgame remains to be seen, but any little change to events could have significant repercussions down the line.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo could draw on the Microverse from the comic books to tease the appearance of specific characters in ‘Phase 4’ of the MCU and beyond — and they’re almost certainly teeing up a way to introduce the likes of the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and weave universes together.
And as for the plot of Endgame, and how everything will play out? Our prediction is that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner — with their scientific know-how — along with Lang will be the key to everything. Doctor Strange knows too, after viewing all of those individual potential futures, that it’s this trio that’s critical to tapping into the Quantum technology and setting critical events in motion. That in itself will bring its own challenges and risks. It won’t be plain sailing: there will be casualties, there will be sacrifices, and there will be a different line-up of Avengers come the end credits. Indeed, Robert Downey Jr has said that the last eight minutes of Endgame are the best Marvel has ever put on film, so expect tears… and goodbyes.
Avengers: Endgame hits screens in the UK on April 25 and the US on April 26.