The Avengers may have spent the last week wowing critics and breaking box office records, but Joss Whedon and company reportedly had to accomplish both feats without the assistance of the U. S. military. Although the Defense Department usually jumps at the opportunity to contribute resources to high-profile Hollywood actioners, it took issue with several aspects of the film, especially the role of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Like any organization, the U. S. military strives to cultivate a certain public image, which may explain the Pentagon’s close involvement with a plethora of recent films, including the first Iron Man, and the upcoming Battleship. What better way to drum up support and attract new recruits than to showcase the army’s cutting-edge wares sticking it to a group of terrorists or alien invaders on the big screen? But using cinema as a tool for public relations can backfire, and the Defense Department was apparently wary of its portrayal in The Avengers. Ultimately, they opted to cut ties to the project, concerned that the film didn’t accurately depict certain aspects of the military’s inner workings.
At the heart of the Defense Department’s qualms lay confusion over the actual purpose of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), as well as its relationship to the U. S. military and government. According to Wired, Pentagon representatives couldn’t discern whether S.H.I.E.L.D. is a of branch of the U.S. intelligence community (and therefore answers to the president), or is some sort of independent international organization.
[WARNING - MILD AVENGERS SPOILERS BELOW]
The film seems to suggest that S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) takes orders from someone, since he clearly disobeys them toward the end. However, it’s unclear who exactly he is seen chatting with via video monitors. They are obviously his superiors, but are they U. S. government or military officials, U. N. representatives, or some sort of private board of directors?
To all but the most die-hard Marvel aficionados, these questions seem rather trivial, and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s shadowy nature kind of adds to the fun. The Defense Department, on the other hand, apparently finds such ambiguity too risky. After all, the U. S. Military answering to forces other than the president and federal government could be construed as treasonous, and not something they’d likely want any part of – even in the context of a superhero movie. It’s therefore unlikely that the Pentagon will provide much help to the proposed Nick Fury/S.H.I.E.L.D. solo film.
The military’s one visible contribution to The Avengers is the small group of New York National Guard personnel and Humvees briefly seen during the climactic battle, but easily overlooked amid all the dazzling special effects.
The Avengers is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.