Avengers 4 Theory: It's Not Time Travel, It's Memories

Tony Stark and the Battle of New York in Avengers 4

Concept art for Ant-Man & the Wasp has raised an exciting new possibility: that next year's Avengers 4's time travel isn't about simply jumping backward, but that Earth's Mightiest Heroes will be tapping into memories through the Quantum Realm.

It's generally accepted that Avengers 4 will be a time-travel film of some sort. Set photos have shown many of the heroes suited up in classic costumes, harking back to 2012's The Avengers: Chris Hemsworth was seen sporting his flowing golden locks; Chris Evans was spotted wearing that "old-fashioned" costume. One set of images even showed Loki in chains being led away for his imprisonment in Asgard. Most curious of all, one batch of set photos showed Ant-Man stood next to Captain America, Iron Man and Hulk during what was clearly the Battle of New York; three years before Scott Lang started using Pym Particles.

Related: Avengers 4: The Biggest Reveals From The Leaked Art

The accepted theory is that the Quantum Realm will be the key to time travel. This mysterious dimension is one where the normal rules of time and space do not apply, meaning it could, in theory, be used to rewrite history itself. The Quantum Realm is a key part of Ant-Man & the Wasp, and is confirmed to appear in next year's Captain Marvel as well.

Ant-Man & The Wasp Almost Had Memory-Based Time Travel

Ant-Man in The Quantum Realm

The Art of Ant-Man & the Wasp includes an entire section devoted to the Quantum Realm, revealing the concepts and ideas Marvel toyed with during pre-production of the film. It seems Marvel considered creating an entire ecosystem inside the Quantum Realm, with a literal food chain. Even more incredibly, Janet's Quantum Realm costume was designed to hint that she'd encountered an alien civilization who live inside the Quantum Realm. It all sounds very similar to the comic book idea of the Microverses, dimensions that can only be accessed by shrinking beyond a subatomic level and contain all manner of races and creatures.

Explaining why Janet has aged while living in the Quantum Realm, Kevin Feige pointed out that there are "various levels" to this reality; Janet, for example, asks to be rescued from "the Wastelands beyond the Void." The idea seems to be that the deeper you go into the Quantum Realm, the more the laws of reality - laws like time and gravity - cease to apply. Janet has aged because she's stayed on the borders, never going too deep into the Quantum Realm. The Art of Ant-Man & the Wasp reveals that Marvel toyed with revealing a so-called "Nexus," presumably at the heart of the Quantum Realm, where you can rewrite history.

The book includes a series of images from Marvel's concept artist Jackson Sze featuring a shrunken Hank Pym walking through a spectral reality, approaching a vast column of light. When he steps into the column, there's a flare as reality itself is reconstructed around him. And then, astoundingly, Hank finds himself stepping into a surreal representation of his own memories. As Sze explained:

"Early on, there was almost a Nexus inside the Quantum Realm that they wanted to explore, which was a quantum memory palace. I think they were discussing ideas about how Hank might actually be able to go into his own memories and change history. My ideas for the memory palace was, 'What would be the most important, most striking memory that he has?' And that would be when he loses Janet to the Quantum Realm when they were on that rocket for that one mission. That is his most scarring memory. And so his memory has been made up of that kind of imagery, but in a surreal state, so the panel of the rocket that Janet flew into is basically just repeated over and over - he's just zooming through this, reliving that mission flying through the sky."

Related: The Significance of The Quantum Realm To The MCU’s Future

This concept didn't make it into the finished film (although memories were a key aspect of Ant-Man 2's plot, with Janet communicating with Scott via her past), but the idea of a memory-based form of time travel was considered at the concept stage. Considering how the Quantum Realm in the finished film has links to time travel (and given that Marvel often save ideas for later movies), this could be the key to what's going on in Avengers 4.

Page 2 of 2: Do The Avengers Time Travel Through Their Memories?

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Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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