It's probably fair to say that a lot of people were surprised when the closing movie in Marvel's "Phase 2", Ant-Man, turned out to be a really great film earlier in the Summer. Less surprising (but extremely welcome) was Kevin Feige's announcement of a sequel this week, due in 2018, titled Ant-Man and The Wasp.
But whilst the first film had a plot that was pretty easy to understand (especially compared to the likes of Age of Ultron), it did, briefly, introduce the concept of the Quantum Realm, something which is bound to come into play in the sequel, and probably in [The Avengers: Infinity War](tag:738027) too.
The Quantum Realm, you may recall, is the alternate dimensional space in which Hank Pym lost his wife Janet, the original Wasp, during an adventure in the '80s. It's accessible only on a micro-molecular level, hence how Scott finds himself trapped inside it when wearing the Ant-Man suit. There are levels within the realm: microscopic, atomic, dissolution into energy, and finally an unexplored level which seems to be in some way reflective of the soul. It's very science-y, basically, and ties Ant-Man as a character in more with Doctor Strange on the science and supernatural plane of Marvel heroes than with fighters like Hulk or Captain America.
And you can be damn sure that Marvel will explore the concept further when it comes to Ant-Man and the Wasp, particularly if, as speculated, the sequel's story concerns finding and rescuing Janet Van Dyne. So, here is a round-up of some of the strongest theories regarding Ant-Man and the Quantum Realm.
Who is Eternity?
The threat of Thanos looms large over everything that happens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once he collects the six infinity stones - mind, power, reality, soul, space and time - Thanos will effectively have omniscience, which is a fancy way of saying he'll become God - the God of destruction. The Avengers could be wiped out simply by Thanos willing it.
So in order to prevent Thanos from becoming all-powerful, the Avengers really need to find another entity of a similar magnitude. Which is where Eternity steps in. Eternity is the physical incarnation of time itself. He has the collective consciousness of every sentient beings in the universe, and because of this immense power, he is frequently a target for those who wish to gain control of the universe. In the comics, Doctor Strange has been known to protect Eternity from these attacks on a mortal (Earth-bound) level, and thus the two are allies.
You may recall that some kind of figure was seen in silhouette as Ant-Man fell through the Quantum Realm, and one popular theory is that this was Eternity. Therefore, having access to the realm, it's possible that Scott and Hope could recruit Eternity to join their infinity war and resist total decimation at the hand of Thanos.
What about Janet Van Dyne?
Here's where things get (even more) complicated. Because time does not exist inside the Quantum Realm, somebody lost inside it for thirty human years - like Janet - could have spent the equivalent of several thousand lifetimes in there. And therefore, given that nobody knows the exact origins of Eternity or how he was created, it's possible that Janet herself has become Eternity.
Clearly this would have much wider implications for the MCU, but making Hank Pym's wife and the original Wasp arguably the most powerful entity in the entire universe would guarantee that Scott and Hope remain integral to the MCU well into Phase 4, potentially even taking over from Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow as the series' flagship superheroes.
A highway to space travel
On an entirely different note, it's possible that Scott and Hope will be able to manipulate the Quantum Realm as a means of inter-dimensional travel, giving Marvel a way of integrating the Guardians of the Galaxy into wider MCU for the first time. The problem with this theory? Guardians director James Gunn has been pretty vocal about the fact that Star Lord and the gang won't be fighting alongside the Avengers any time soon.
But Infinity War is literally the climax of everything that's happened in the MCU to date. It doesn't make sense to leave out a bunch of the most popular heroes (even though they have no specific powers) simply because they're not Earth-bound - and Thanos already connects them to the guys on Earth. Space travel would give Ant-Man the chance to collect one of the final two infinity gems before Thanos completes the gauntlet.
All of these theories make a degree of sense, but they could yet be way off the mark. Marvel is only just beginning to deep its toes into the super-sciencey aspects of its cinematic universe, and we might be able to make more sense of what's to come once we've seen how Doctor Strange pans out in 2016.
Do you have a theory? Could Janet have become Eternity inside the Quantum Realm, and will Ant-Man and Doctor Strange connect in some way? Share your thoughts in the comments!