Joss Whedon dissects the family dynamic of The Avengers

Nobody knows how to portray a messed-up family like Joss Whedon. From Buffy and Angel to Firefly Whedon has been portraying dysfunctional family dynamics for years — so we were excited to see him tackle Marvel's most fractious superteam, The Avengers.

In our exclusive interview with Whedon, we asked him to analyze each character, and explain to us why they all can't get along. Also, we asked him if Nick Fury is the daddy in this family — and does he even care about his soldiers? Minor spoilers ahead.

The members of the Avengers are like Buffy in that they're built for this, there's really nothing else they can do. Do you think you get to explore the difference between "you're built for this" versus "this is your destiny" in The Avengers?

Joss Whedon: I kind of like both narratives. I like the narrative where the person just embodies what they're meant for, and the one where they go, "I have no business being here, I can't possibly do this, and it feels awkward and strange." The getting of strength and the having of strength are the two narratives that I love.

The Avengers is definitely a "getting" movie. Even though it isn't the origin story of any one person, it is the origin story of the team. In that sense, people have to find something in themselves that makes them need to work with each other. Something that makes them need to step outside of themselves. It's not a story of personal empowerment — it's a story about community.

Each Avenger is flawed, I was wondering if you could take us through the team and explain the flaw in each member that keeps the team from working together?

To an extent, they are all wrapped up in their own world. Banner doesn't want to be around people, necessarily, because although he has more control than in the other stories, he doesn't want to be put in a position where he could lose that. Steve Rogers just woke up after a really long nap, and the modern world doesn't impress him in the slightest. Nor does he think he's necessarily very useful in it. Hawkeye is a sniper. Natasha is a spy. Tony owns everything he sees, and Gwyneth Paltrow is his girlfriend, so clearly he's not living in the real world. And Thor, doesn't even come from this planet and finds people incomprehensible, though he loves them.

So it's very easy to say, "Oh actually they all have the same flaw, which is that they're each trapped in their own version of things." The goal of the movie is to pull them out of that.

How is being a sniper a flaw?

It means that he does not necessarily make a very great teammate. It is his job to be somewhere, where nobody can see him, very far away from the thing that he is observing. It means that he is an observer as opposed to someone who is going to take an active role, side by side with, say, a Hulk.

You mentioned that Captain America was your ground zero for The Avengers. Do you want to take over the next Captain America movie?

Well Kevin described what they're planning to do for the second movie and it did sound pretty damn cool. But I kind of feel that way about all of them. "Can I do that one? Can I do that one?" And then I just realized that I just want to rest.

What turns a superhero group into a family? Does it need to have a father figure? Is there a head of the household here?

To an extent, yes. The idea that Nick Fury always had was that these guys would need to have a father figure, and then they would need to have that father figure taken away. That they were going to have to do it on their own. It's more of a platoon Sargeant leader, than a daddy. Daddy wouldn't want to go away. He knew that working for S.H.I.E.L.D. was not going to make the Avengers. It's a dangerous gamble and to some an idiotic one, but he was going to have to bring them together and hope that if he pushed them enough that they would gel even if it was in rebellion to him.

Does Nick Fury have the Avengers' best interests at heart?

I think he absolutely believes in them, he's rooting for them. He cares about them. He would sacrifice any of them in a heartbeat to do his job. And his job is to protect humanity. It's not to protect the Avengers.

Joss Whedon dissects the family dynamic of The Avengers

There's a lot of fun pair dynamics in the film. Bruce and Tony, Loki and Thor, Cap and Iron Man. Which duo did you like playing around with the most?

Quite frankly, they were all pretty fun. I have a pretty soft spot for the relationship, even though we got all of a scene of it, between Natasha and Barton. I love that scene. I think the bond that they have, even though you don't get to see much of it in the film, was one I found very compelling. Structurally, it was impossible for there to be more.

Full disclosure: Disney paid for io9's travel and expenses at this press junket.