Aside from the fact that they both exist within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Doctor Strange” and “Ant-Man” have little in common. The Sorcerer Supreme deals in magic and multiversal mayhem, while Ant-Man works strictly with science, even if that science sometimes seems impossible. Nevertheless, they may just be connected by one subtle aspect: the microverse — or, as Strange knows it, the multiverse.
Let’s back up a little. The microverse was introduced in “Ant-Man,” which dropped in 2015. Scott Lang entered the microverse when he went subatomic; that is, when he shrank beyond his suit’s limitations. As he continued to grow smaller and smaller, he passed through the microverse, where — in original Ant-Man Hank Pym’s own words — “all concepts of time and space become irrelevant.” The smaller he became, the more abstract his environment, all while he spun helplessly in circles. He was eventually able to think his way out of the situation, but his experience with the microverse probably won’t encourage him to return there anytime soon.
Enter “Doctor Strange,” which hit theaters earlier this month. Leading up to the film, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, director Scott Derrickson and several other key members of production placed a heavy emphasis on the multiverse. It is from the multiverse that Strange derives his power; by manipulating it, he is able to bend space — and, in the conclusion, time. It is a power he hasn’t quite mastered, but he’s well on his way when the film draws to an end. However, his first encounter with it didn’t go quite so smoothly, as the Ancient One pushed his astral form through it in order to open his eyes to the unlimited possibilities of the multiverse. There, he encountered bizarre, neon-colored landscapes and Steve Ditko-inspired psychedelic visions.
First, let’s consider the most striking similarity between the microverse and the multiverse: the absence of time and space. Ant-Man didn’t spend too much time in the microverse, so we’ll have to take Hank Pym’s word for it; considering he’s the one that designed the technology in the first place, though, it’s probably pretty safe to assume he’s right. Plus, the microverse was so unlike anything we’ve seen in the MCU thus far that it isn’t much of a stretch, and it would open up an opportunity for Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, to make her MCU debut. With Doctor Strange, however, we got a bit more of a taste of the mutilverse’s timelessness — or, we should say, the Dark Dimension’s timelessness. Upon his encounter with Dormammu, Strange was able to manipulate the Eye of Agamotto — the Time Stone — in order to outwit the ancient demon, who had no concept of time. Judging by his reaction alone, Dormammu had never encountered anything quite like Strange’s timeloop, and was thus forced to let him — and the Earth — go.
And then there’s the visual similarities. Doctor Strange encountered sprawling universes with amoebic planets and dark suns; Ant-Man zoomed past particles as big as planets with globular lights that shone bright like stars. Both encountered kaleidoscopes of bright colors and shifting space. In one scene, Ant-Man hovers in a dark space with haphazard, mirror-like panes — a scene that looks strikingly similar to “Doctor Strange’s” own mirror world, the place he and his fellow sorcerers popped in and out of throughout the film.
Additionally, both characters move in a similar way as they tumble through the multiverse/microverse. Both spin helplessly past the psychedelic sights, yet remain the centered focus of the shot. Sure, Doctor Strange’s journey is a little more complex and he undergoes some substantial transformations, but we see his astral form move through the multiverse, where Ant-Man enters the microverse physically. It’s worth noting that neither character had much control over their situation at the time of their journeys; this could account for the freewheeling and panic, but the similarities between the scenes stand out when viewed side-by-side.
Further, the MCU has put a big emphasis on the idea that magic is just science we don’t understand yet. Take, for instance, Jane’s trip to Asgard in “Thor: The Dark World.” To her, their soul forge is a quantum field generator. “Does the soul forge transfer molecular energy from one place to another?” she asks of the woman who is tending to her; surprised, the woman answers yes, to which Jane smiles knowingly — because they’re both aware of how this technology works, even though it appears to be magic. In “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Tony Stark analyzes the Mind Stone, which Loki wielded in his scepter from “Avengers.” After Jarvis runs a diagnostic, he discovers that the Mind Stone is like a super computer and uses it as a map to create Ultron. It wouldn’t come as much of a shock, then, for the microverse and multiverse to be connected in the grand scheme of the MCU.
So, what does this mean for the MCU at large? For one thing, Doctor Strange could lend a hand to both Ant-Man and Hope van Dyne in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” It certainly won’t be the first time he helps another Avenger out, as he’ll likely be joining Thor in “Thor: Ragnarok” and he’ll appear in “Avengers: Infinity War,” which drops just a few months ahead of the “Ant-Man” sequel. What’s more, their shared access to the microverse/multiverse would provide a great tool for battling Thanos. After all, where better to imprison the Mad Titan than a place where he cannot pose a threat to time or space? Whether or not the multiverse and microverse are truly connected is yet to be seen, of course, but “Doctor Strange” makes it seem increasingly likely that the MCU’s link between magic and science is stronger than ever.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme, “Doctor Strange” is now in theaters. The film also stars Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Baron Karl Mordo, Mads Mikkelsen as Kaecilius, Benedict Wong as Wong, Rachel McAdams as Christine Palmer and more. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is scheduled to hit theaters on July 6, 2018.
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