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Realms, Dimensions, Timelines And Multiverse In The MCU Explained

By Mohit Srivastava
June 25,2022

As the latest Marvel outings (movies or series) are getting closer to their comics lore, the regular movie-going audiences seem be getting more distant from them. With the latest introduction of the ‘Noor Dimension‘ in Ms. Marvel episode 3, the obvious question arises what are these dimensions exactly? How are they different from realms or universes? How are they all different or are they same? What are the laws governing them?

Let’s dive deeper into the answer to these multiple questions with what we know so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Realms And Dimensions In MCU

Spider-Man and Doctor Strange fighting in the mirror dimension

Spider-Man and Doctor Strange fighting in the mirror dimension

A realm is a region of space-time. A Dimension is a measurement of space-time that one can exist in. In the Marvel Universe, Realms and Dimensions have been interchangeably used depending on their context. There are two categories of Dimensions – one which exists within a physical universe and the other which exist beyond a physical universe.

  • Those existing within a physical universe: Dimensions like Quantum Realm/Microverse, Soul Dimension, and the Dark Dimension exists within the current physical universe. A person can travel in between these dimensions from the same universe with the right knowledge and technology. Like Avengers did in the Endgame and Dr. Strange visits Dormammu in Dark Dimension. All these dimensions are governed by the laws of the universe they are in. Realms like the Norse’s Nine Realms (Midgard, Alfheim, Asgard, Vanaheim, Niflheim, Muspelheim, Helheim, Svartalfheim, and Jotunheim), Ta Lo in Shang Chi and Olympus in Thor: Love and Thunder are also a part of universe they are in. Even the recently introduced ‘Noor Dimension‘ in Ms. Marvel is one of these.
  • Those existing outside the physical universe: Dimensions like- Astral Dimension and Mirror Dimension in Doctor Strange, the Void and TVA dimension in Loki, or even Utopia (where America Chavez is from) occupy a separate place in the universe. They are beyond the natural laws of space and time of the home universe. In order to access them one requires to alter the reality, which can only be done by powerful beings like sorcerers and wizards.

Timelines

The multiverse as seen in Loki

Branching of Sacred Timeline as shown in Loki

‘Time. Space. Reality. It’s more than a linear path. It’s a prism of endless possibility, where a single choice can branch out into infinite realities, creating alternate worlds from the ones you know.’ – The Watcher (What If…?)

A timeline is the same linear flow of time, shared by all the dimensions existing within a particular universe. A sudden change in a decision, or slight event variation, splits the timelines into various branched timelines. This gives birth to alternate or parallel universes. In these parallel realities, multiple variations of the same person (called ‘Variants’) can exist. The choices that lead to these Variants creation, is absolute and unchangeable. Eradicating them, deletes the whole branched timeline (called ‘pruning’). These branching events are called ‘Nexus Events’.

Organizations like TVA (Time Variance Authority) control the flow of these timelines. As told by He Who Remains in Loki, initially the timeline had several branches. Several Kang variants duked them out for power. As the winner of the war, He Who Remains established the TVA to remove the possibility for other Kangs to even exist and thus stopped the Multiverse War.

The branched timelines collected together by He Who Remains follow the same flow of time, known as the ‘Sacred Timeline’. TVA’s secret work was to prune and delete the timelines that branched off either due to time travel or unscripted decisions by individuals. Thus keeping the Sacred Timeline in check and preventing a new Multiversal War.

Universe and Multiverse

Strange escapes into a star postal of Chavez alongside her

Strange and Chavez travelling through Multiverse in ‘Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness’

A Universe is a single dimension, such as Earth-616, the mainstream Marvel Universe (as foretold in Doc Strange 2). The Illuminaties depicted were a part of Earth-838. However, a Multiverse is the aggregate of all dimensions and parallel realities in existence. It contains all the parallel realities or universes, formed due to the branching of timelines because of certain Nexus events.

Powerful artifacts like Infinity Stones only can work in their home universe. That is why they were mere ‘paperweights’ in TVA dimension. Events like Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Fox’s X-Men are treated as alternate universe in the current MCU. Yet they all are a part of a single Multiverse.

Phew! That is a lot to take in, but hopefully Kevin Feige can make things easier for general movie-going audiences to follow. Time has all the answers, and only Time will tell.

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