Now that our movie has a protagonist, the question, as always, is “What does the protagonist want?” Superficially, the protagonist of The Avengers, Nick Fury, wants “to save the world,” that most generic of motives. To save the world, Fury must get a group of superheroes from vastly different backgrounds to work together.
Surprise! What the protagonist wants is exactly the same thing as what the writer-director wants! If Joss Whedon cannot succeed in getting his dog’s-breakfast of a cast to mesh, meld and work as a unit, his narrative will fail and no one will go see his movie. This not only gives the writer a keen insight into his protagonist’s character, it’s a stroke of genius, giving the narrative a spine that would otherwise make it an ensemble comedy-spectacle, an It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with superheroes.