(Warning - SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron lie below - if you still haven't seen it, then, y'know what? Go watch it. It's awesome. And don't worry, we'll wait...)
Now, it's been over six weeks now since Avengers: Age of Ultron hit our screens, and blew millions of minds along with it. With its winning combination of Avengers, an evil and robotic James Spader, and explosions, it quickly became one of the most successful movies of all time (it's currently in fifth spot on the all-time worldwide box office gross list), and for good reason.
That increasing lack of proximity, though, doesn't mean that all of the movie's mysteries have been solved - or that there aren't still questions dangling tantalizingly close to being answered.
Just What Was Up with the Avengers' Nightmares?
Y'know, the ones that the Scarlet Witch prompted in all of our favorite heroes (except Hawkeye, thankfully), and that ultimately played havoc with the entire team.
With each of the visions Ms. Maximoff induced, we were given a glimpse of what very much seemed to be that Avengers' greatest fear - but what if that wasn't what we actually saw?
What if, instead:
The Avengers Saw Glimpses of Their True Selves
Specifically, rather than seeing their worst nightmares, as has often been suggested, what if our heroes were actually seeing the sides of themselves that they most hated and feared?
What's more, what if, in so doing, they were (essentially) given a glimpse into their futures, since those sides to themselves don't seem likely to go away anytime soon?
Let's take a look at each Avengers' dream, then, shall we?
Thor's Vision of Asgard
Of all the visions we saw on screen, Thor's is arguably the most difficult to analyze. After all, he clearly saw a glimpse of something real - since his trip to the magical waters of plot foreshadowing confirmed much of what he saw.
How, then, can we explain his sudden awareness that his friends and family in Asgard were in danger? Well, by remembering Heimdall's key line during the sequence - pointing out that everything Thor is seeing happen to Asgard is his own fault. Y'see, one of the defining traits of movie Thor is his increasing awareness of his own fallibility - as well as, more recently, his guilt over the death of his mother.
It's that awareness that anything bad happening to Asgard will be partly his fault - whether due to past actions, or not being there to defend it - that seemingly triggers his vision.
Which Will Effect the Future of the MCU Because: Thor: Ragnarok is coming, and who wants to bet it's going to continue exploring the theme of Thor's feelings of inadequacy, as well his inadvertent complicity in Loki's rise to power...
Iron Man's Vision of Death (and Thanos?)
Much like Thor's, Iron Man's vision initially seems to be a foretelling of doom to come - but, again similarly, may well actually reveal a whole lot more about the state of Tony Stark's brain than it does about the future. After all, his actions for the rest of the movie - including the creation of Ultron - may well be influenced by his fears coming out of that vision, but he'd already built the Iron Legion, and set about trying to build a suit of armor around the planet.
In other words. Tony Stark was already hugely pre-occupied by the dangers facing his friends and his planet - and his vision largely seems to have reflected those concerns, rather than actually confirming them.
Which Will Effect the Future of the MCU Because: Both Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War are on their way, and it's looking more and more likely that Iron Man's desperate desire to protect the world (and the hubris that comes along with it) will be the cause of a whole heap of trouble in both of them.
Captain America's Vision of His Own Identity
Unlike his teammates', Cap's vision was notably a whole lot more subdued - and though nightmarish, seemed to be more of an enticement to stay in the past, than a regular, garden-variety nightmare.
In fact, though, it was arguably an equally important moment of realization for Cap - giving him the opportunity to understand an essential part of who he is. Cap, y'see, is - in the MCU at least - largely defined by his role as a soldier, and has virtually no conception of who he could be outside of that identity.
As I've discussed elsewhere, it's most likely that identity - as a man who knows only how to fight - that made Cap not quite worthy to lift Thor's hammer, but that same nature is also something that, on a moral and intellectual level, Steve Rogers would be appalled by.
Cap, then, isn't dreaming about living in the past - he's beginning to see that he has nothing to live for other than war...and someday soon, he may well not be all that okay with it...
Which Will Effect the Future of the MCU Because: Civil War is almost here, and when it arrives, there's a good chance Cap's inherent militarism is going to come to the fore before - as in the comic book version of the storyline - he realizes the error of his ways.
Black Widow's Vision of Her Dark Past
Arguably the darkest of the visions - and the closest to a straight memory - Black Widow's return to her traumatic youth in the Black Widow training program is, in one sense, exactly that. It's a terrible memory.
The reason she seems to see it, though, is that she still believes that the awful things that were done to her have made her a monster - as she later points out to Bruce.
That vision, then, acts as a reminder of perhaps her worst fear - that she really is nothing more than the product of that training program. An assassin, without any real identity - or the capacity to truly love. Which, looking at the rest of the movie, would certainly explain why she quite literally ends up pushing Bruce away.
Which Will Effect the Future of the MCU Because: The secrets of Black Widow's training - and her dark past - have been being teased for years now. Odds are that one of these days they're going to come right out into the open, and bite Natasha in the ass. Forced service in order to avoid prison in next year's Captain America: Civil War, perhaps?
The Hulk's Vision of...What, Exactly?
Now, we didn't actually get to see what the Hulk - or, rather, Bruce Banner - ended up having, but from the looks of his subsequent rampage, it wasn't pretty...
If the pattern established by his fellow Avengers' visions continued, though, there's a good chance that Banner saw something very simple, and yet utterly horrifying to him: Him being the Hulk, and liking it.
After all, the darkest secret Banner has to hide? He truly is the Hulk. Whether or not he can be considered to be truly in control is beside the point, since on some level, the Hulk's rage is an extension of Banner's. As he once told Cap:
"That's the secret...I'm always angry."
And, much to Banner's dismay, that's why he can sometimes, but not always, keep the Hulk at bay - he's essentially the darkest, angriest part of Banner, always fighting to get out.
Which Will Effect the Future of the MCU Because: The Hulk will continue to smash things, and Bruce Banner will continue to be completely horrified by (but secretly enjoy) it. Repeatedly.