The Multiverse In The MCU So Far
The last few years have seen Marvel commit wholeheartedly to the multiverse - although they haven't quite handled it the same way as the comics. The MCU imagines a scenario where there are entirely different planes of reality, ones that are traditionally beyond the reach of three-dimensional beings. In fact, sorcerers like Doctor Strange borrow power from these other dimensions, using it to reshape reality; with training, they can learn to access some of these dimensions, whether physically or in an astral form. The Multiverse was explored in detail in one scene of Doctor Strange, where the Ancient One cast Stephen Strange on a "Magical Mystery Tour" where he tumbled through countless different dimensions.
The movies have really explored only two key dimensions in depth. The first is the Dark Dimension, a strange and hostile universe that is ruled by the Dread Dormammu. Time does not work properly in the Dark Dimension, and hence powerful sorcerers such as the Ancient One are able to draw upon its power to lengthen their lifespans. Dormammu's consciousness appears to pervade the Dark Dimension, and it burns with a hunger to consume other planes of reality and absorb them into itself. Fortunately for Earth, Doctor Strange entered the Dark Dimension when armed with the Time Stone; Dormammu was unable to deal with the concept of time, and was forced to swear never to attack Earth again. Of course, it's unlikely he'll keep to his vow.
The second is the Quantum Realm. According to the theories of quantum mechanics, if you shrink to subatomic size you would enter a state where the laws of science - laws such as gravity or time - cease to apply. In the MCU, that is the Quantum Realm, a place outside space and time. It was introduced in the first Ant-Man film, and explored a little in Ant-Man & The Wasp, when Hank Pym attempted to rescue his long-missing wife Janet Van Dyne from it. The Quantum Realm appears to have a sort of "geography" to it; the deeper you go into the Quantum Realm, the more the laws of science break down.
There have been other references in the wider MCU as well. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 revealed that some creatures can move from one dimension to another at will; the film opened with an interdimensional creature attempting to consume the Sovereign's power batteries. Meanwhile, in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4, Marvel Television revealed that the Ghost Rider is an interdimensional creature from a Hellish plane of existence, who transfers his consciousness from one host to another. Eli Morrow attempted to draw untold power from that dimension, and risked tearing the dimensional barriers apart. Meanwhile, in season 5 the team found themselves plagued by the Dimension of Dreams, suffering from nightmarish hallucinations. There have been references to other sources of extradimensional power as well, such as Zero Matter in Agent Carter and Cloak & Dagger. In Runaways, it's been hinted that Nico Minoru's Staff of One draws its abilities from the Dark Dimension.
The Multiverse In The MCU's Future
The multiverse is sure to be an important part of the MCU going forward, and the Quantum Realm appears to be key. When Marvel first designed the Quantum Realm, they worked closely with Dr. Spiros Michalakis, a quantum physicist who found the concept thrilling. "This is exciting for the future," he explained in one interview. "There are different ways that some of these ideas appear on-screen in a few years. Not just for Ant-Man, but also for Captain Marvel and all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe." More recently, Michael Douglas agreed; "The Quantum Realm plays an important part in all the next chapters, I think, of the Marvel films," he observed. The Quantum Realm is known to play a role in Captain Marvel, perhaps as the source of Carol Danvers' Binary powers, and may explain Samuel L. Jackson's revelation that Captain Marvel can travel in time.
It's generally believed that Avengers: Endgame is a time travel story, with the Avengers using the Quantum Realm to travel through time and attempt to rewrite history in order to avert or undo the snap. In terms of quantum theory, access to a subatomic dimension like the Quantum Realm could indeed enable that, and Ant-Man & the Wasp established that there are mysterious "time vortexes" in the Quantum Realm that could theoretically enable time travel. Tie-in merchandise has shown the Avengers wearing new white costumes that are reminiscent of Hank Pym's Quantum Realm environment suits, presumably to allow them to safely explore this strange plane of reality.
Looking beyond the next two films, Doctor Strange 2 is in the works, with Scott Derrickson signed up to return as director; it's safe to assume that film will continue to explore the multiverse. Meanwhile, Marvel Television looks set to tap into other dimensions in both Runaways and Cloak & Dagger. The mysterious mystical corruption Nico suffered while using the Staff of One has yet to be explained, and both Cloak and Dagger draw their power from other dimensions. Finally, there's even speculation that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 6 could feature an alternate-reality version of Coulson. It's clear the multiverse is in the MCU to stay.
- 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