Possibly against my better judgment, I saw Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania recently. While it’s not my least favorite Marvel movie, it was pretty bad, somehow finding a way to rob Paul Rudd of nearly all of his natural charm, and filled with special effects that look not very special at all. I found my mind drifting, wondering if any of these actors actually met each other during filming, or if production had them fly in separately to film in front of massive green screens. And, as it too frequently does, my thoughts turned to watches. Wondering, as my colleagues did a few weeks ago, if Rudd chose that Grand Seiko for himself at the Ant-Man premiere, and if there was a quantum reality where he might have chosen a different watch for himself altogether, and if maybe in that reality he plays Captain America instead, and the MCU movies weren’t in a state of perpetual decline.
The premise of Quantumania is actually interesting. Without getting too deep into the weeds, everything in the movie hinges on the quantum physics inspired idea that every decision point you encounter has infinite possibilities, and those possibilities play out in the “quantum realm.” That means new versions of you, and everyone you encounter, are constantly splitting off of your own perceived reality. This type of multiverse enabling storytelling is core to comic book mythologies, and seems to be playing out more frequently in this phase of Marvel films. In Quantumania, it means that in one reality Rudd’s Scott Lang heroically saves the day, but in another, he’s stuck behind the counter working at Baskin-Robbins. This is a gross oversimplification (and not a spoiler for the movie itself) but you get the idea. Of course, the silliness of the movie is rooted in real science, and quantum theory is a fascinating rabbit hole to fall down if you’re at all inclined. This Ted Talk by theoretical physicist Briane Greene is as good a place to start as any.