Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun movie, but there’s something about the time it spends in the Quantum Realm that’s been picking away at me—and maybe you, too, if you were paying very close attention.
While there’s a completely different (and honestly, kind of predictable) plot in the film about Ghost’s attempt at getting revenge on SHIELD, there’s also a rather important subplot about Hope Van Dyne and Hank Pym saving Janet from the Quantum Realm. Even though Janet’s been stuck in her subatomic form for years, Ant-Man and the Wasp posits that the physics of the Quantum Realm are so different that she could reasonably be alive and, unsurprisingly, she is!
There’s a moment when Hank is shrinking down to Janet’s size where he briefly moves into the Quantum Realm, and the transition looks conspicuously like the Mirror Dimension from Doctor Strange that he quite literally threw at Thanos in Infinity War. People in Marvel’s camp have been teasing that the Ant-Man corner of the MCU would play into the larger universe in a major way for quite some time now, but it’s really, really kind of lame that the studio seems to be on track to explaining a lot of the universe’s magic away as science that’s being misunderstood or interpreted differently.
The bulk of the current phase of Marvel films has been defined by humans whose intellects are more than enough to develop technologies that put them on par with races from other civilizations. But as the MCU keeps chugging along, the stakes have to be raised in significant enough ways to justify the continued adventures of our dear heroes. One of the easiest ways the MCU could—and should—keep upping the ante is through the incorporation of magic, something that it’s dabbled with in the past but never quite nailed. Doctor Strange was very much a movie about Stephen beginning his journey to become Sorcerer Supreme, but if you go back and actually watch the movie with a critical eye for the magical, it quickly becomes clear that a lot of the “magic” in that movie boils down to people creating hard light constructs.
Compared to the kind of magic that exists in Marvel’s comics, the MCU is severely lacking, and that sucks because it means that a lot of fantastic stories from the books can’t really exist in cinematic form. While the MCU’s done the Scarlet Witch absolutely no favors, there’s all kinds of potential for her to become a far more compelling, important character when you take into account all of the things she did in the comics. But there’s no “House of M” if Wanda isn’t an expressly magical person—magic in the sense that people are able to warp reality through sheer force of will, physics and science be damned.
As unrealistic as the MCU is, the studio seems hellbent on trying to justify all of its fantastical-ness by linking it to science, and in doing so, it’s shutting out a lot of potential for the movies’ future. At some point, the Avengers are going to kick Thanos’ ass and there’s going to be a new big bad for them to fight. Rather than having that big bad be yet another threat grounded in pseudoscience, why not dig deeper into the mystical and present the heroes with something that they truly cannot understand?
That’s the sort of thing that Janet Van Dyne, a woman of science, would actually find fascinating and worthy of her attention as opposed to, well, another equation to work out. Marvel clearly doesn’t have plans to slow this machine down and that’s fine, but if the MCU’s going to stay a box office fixture, then it really, really needs to remember that the reason we come out to see these movies isn’t to be told that everything is science. We’re there for the magic.