The Pentagon withdrew support from 2012’s The Avengers due to their inability to reconcile their place in the “unreality” of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The autonomy of S.H.I.E.L.D. to make decisions against threats seemed to supersede that of the Pentagon, which could have made showing the Pentagon in the film burdensome. While the Pentagon opted out of The Avengers, Marvel has still worked closely with the U.S. military for other MCU films, including Iron Man and Captain America, creating a palpable military presence in the franchise.

2012’s The Avengers lost the support of the Pentagon due to one big element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe‘s first big crossover movie. Superhero movies frequently include the presence of American soldiers and the Department of Defense in the backdrop of their stories, which typically makes a lot of narrative sense. In scenarios like alien invasions and attacks by superpowered evildoers, it would be expected for the military to step in. The MCU has its own such government bodies in the form the defense organizations S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.W.O.R.D., though S.H.I.E.L.D. is the more prominent of the two.

While S.H.I.E.L.D. supports the Avengers on their missions, it is also the reason behind the Pentagon pulling out of providing support to The Avengers. As explained by the Defense Department’s Hollywood liaison Phil Strub in an interview with Wired, “We couldn’t reconcile the unreality of this international organization and our place in it…To whom did S.H.I.E.L.D. answer? Did we work for S.H.I.E.L.D.? We hit that roadblock and decided we couldn’t do anything.” This ultimately left Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and S.H.I.E.L.D. to save the world on their own in The Avengers, but that does raise questions about how different a movie it could have been.

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Did The Pentagon Quitting The Avengers Affect The Movie?

Strub’s observation about where the Pentagon would have fit as a government agency in The Avengers is an interesting topic to ponder. Nick Fury’s Avenger Initiative seems to have been something that he and S.H.I.E.L.D. had significant autonomy in implementing. This suggests that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s authority to make decisions against alien and superhuman threats supersedes that of the Pentagon, though even Nick Fury still had to deal with some shadowy government bureaucrats who nearly nuked New York City in The Avengers‘s climactic battle.

In many ways, trying to actively show the Pentagon in The Avengers might have been more of a burden if its place in the U.S. government’s hierarchy were to actually be shown. Otherwise, The Avengers is probably more or less the same movie it would have been with more hands-on involvement from the Pentagon. Still, that doesn’t mean that the Department of Defense has completely stepped away from the MCU.

How Marvel Has Worked With The US Military Before And After The Avengers

Though the Pentagon pulled out of working with Marvel Studios for The Avengers, Marvel has nonetheless worked very closely with the U.S. military for multiple MCU films. As explained by Vox, the Iron Man trilogy and Captain America: The First Avenger saw a particularly heavy coordination between Marvel Studios and the U.S. military, as did 2019’s Captain Marvel. All three are examples of MCU movies in which major characters are either active duty service people or connected to characters who are, making locations like military bases, the use of aircraft and other vehicles, and even military weaponry story necessities for each film.

Marvel is hardly alone in working with the U.S. military for film productions, with other blockbusters with heavy military elements coordinating with the Department of Defense in much the same way. In the end, the U.S. military still has a palpable presence in the MCU. That just makes it all the more ironic that The Avengers, as the movie that made the Marvel Cinematic Universe into such a big-screen titan, is one that the Pentagon opted to sit out.

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