Most movies, even when they're big ensembles, have one clear protagonist. This is often read as having its roots in the dominant Western point of view that values the individual over the group – I've read an awful lot of essays on this topic, over the years, by my film studies students. They often seem to conclude that they like the multi-protagonist paradigm more… and then go ahead and make their own films on the single protagonist model anyway. Huh.
Joss Whedon was faced with a couple of fundamental choices when taking on The Avengers: would he try to make a multi-protagonist film? Or, if not, who would be his protagonist?
The EW Summer Movie preview, in the issue on American news stands today, includes a revealing little quote from Whedon, transcribed by Collider:
I set out with a very simple problem: There is no reason for these people to be in the same movie. So that's what my movie has to be about. So much of the movie takes place from Steve Rogers' perspective, since he's the guy who just woke up and sees this weird ass world. Everyone else has been living in it.
It reads like he didn't even consider the multi-protagonist group model. That should put a smile on Darin Wagner's face.
I'll leave it to my students to argue about what it means for this single protagonist to be an avatar for America. Hopefully they'll not get in too deep before they've actually seen the film.