The main members of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were chosen for a specific reason despite the huge risks that such an ambitious task as assembling them could entail. In a world where superpowered alien beings and unstoppable rage monsters exist, a reliable team of superheroes seems like a no-brainer. But as an eminent mentor would say, “with great power comes great responsibility” and with great power also comes a lot of danger. The Avengers have never been completely clear-headed, nor have they ever been in total agreement about a single thing, but fortunately for the Earth, they have always been willing to put their differences aside and work together to save the world.
The Avengers Initiative was born after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) met Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and realized how vulnerable the world really was against threats from inside and outside its exosphere. Although a number of heroes had been active before, such as Ant-Man (Michael Douglas), the Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer), and T’Chaka (Atandwa Kani/John Kani), it was only until Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Edward Norton/Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) surfaced as heroes in a span of mere days that Nick Fury found himself forced to put his plan into action.
With the recovery of Captain America’s frozen body, the lineup of the Avengers was ready. The World Security Council was always against these candidates, as the team could get out of hand pretty easily – something that would reemerge later down the line in Captain America: Civil War – but the Avengers proved time and again that the world really needed a group of remarkable people to fight the battles that no one else ever could. Here’s what every Avenger contributed to the team.
Clearly the most volatile member of the Avengers, Hulk was a liability from the start. The green giant had been shown in a bad light by the military and the media since his inception, perhaps because of how terrifying the thought of a huge rage-crazed monster is for the government and civilians alike. When Hulk was forced to come out of the shadows in The Incredible Hulk, General Ross’s (William Hurt) determination to capture him led him to create an even more dangerous beast, The Abomination (Tim Roth), who was then championed by the World Security Council to be the muscle of the Avengers.
However, Bruce Banner’s intellect was impressive enough to justify the possibility of a spontaneous Hulk rampage. Banner’s knowledge of biochemistry, nuclear physics, and gamma radiation proved to be essential in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s goal to track the Tesseract and understand the threats that came from outer space. Considering Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. – and secretly, HYDRA – were planning to develop weapons based on the Tesseract, the addition of Bruce Banner to the team was more of a long-term investment, even more so with Banner’s desire to remain free from persecution. Having the world’s greatest mind onboard is undeniably an invaluable asset, and Bruce Banner’s dichotomy with the Hulk was an added bonus in case the situation called for some brute force, which it obviously did.
Tony Stark was the first candidate to be shown being personally interviewed by Nick Fury for the job. Stark repeatedly refused to be involved in government matters, but Fury’s offhand rejection of Stark’s capabilities convinced him that he needed to prove his worth as a person over the mere value of his tech. Once Stark bit Fury’s bait, the S.H.I.E.L.D director gave Stark one last task prior to his full involvement with the Avengers. Fury kept Stark as a consultant while the billionaire playboy manipulated General Ross into giving up the idea of The Abomination as an Avenger in order to favor Hulk as the muscle of the team. More important than Stark’s way with words, obviously, was still his intellect and his tech.
Decades before superheroes were a mainstream concept in the MCU, Tony Stark had already shown the world that his mind was as powerful as any superpower. Even if he hadn’t created the Iron Man armors, Tony Stark‘s tendency to transform his billions into powerful weapons would have still granted the Avengers a considerable advantage in battle. The weapon industry heavily relied on Stark Industries before Tony funneled all his focus into a defensive strategy in the form of a suit of armor. No threat ever stood a chance against Tony Stark’s will – or narcissistic obstinacy, at worst – to protect the Earth.
Among all the oddballs that have passed through the ranks of the Avengers, Steve Rogers is the only one who was specifically forged for the role before Nick Fury was even born. The idea of a perfect Super Soldier who can follow orders and go unscathed by the fiercest of battles was devised by the United States government in the 1930s. Steve Rogers’ personality not only made him a better Captain America than any organization could have ever wished for but also shaped him into the leader of a superhero team that would be active well into the 21st century.
Steve Rogers’s defiance and stubborn determination to do the right thing made him the only successful Super Soldier experiment and the most sensible Avenger. On top of being the ideal soldier, a war icon, and an exemplary superhuman, Captain America had demonstrated to the whole world how vital he was as the leader of a team due to his influence in the American victory during World War II. Conveniently, Steve Rogers’ sacrifice froze him in time until Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. needed him the most. Phil Coulson’s insistence on finding his idol when a wise team captain was badly needed also helped S.H.I.E.L.D. go the extra mile to find him.
Thor is an extraordinary instance, as he wasn’t particularly recruited as much as he was welcomed. S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t possess much information about the Asgardians prior to Thor’s landing on Earth, but they realized they needed to react quickly to Mjolnir‘s appearance in New Mexico and connect its mythological background to Jane Foster’s (Natalie Portman) research on wormholes. When Thor broke into the makeshift facilities that S.H.I.E.L.D. had arranged around Mjolnir, they waited to see if he really was who they thought he was: the worthy, rightful owner of the mythical weapon.
Of course, it took a longer time for Thor to prove his worth to Earth and to himself, but there was no longer any doubt of his identity as soon as he reverted to his royal self. A literal god always comes in handy for a team of superpowered beings. S.H.I.E.L.D. counted with a lot of luck given that Thor was so intimately connected to the Tesseract and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), not mention how fortunate the whole world was that he was never interested in taking over this realm or in causing mayhem with only a shake of his hammer.
After Captain America, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is the earliest member of the original Avengers to be recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. Clint Barton was personally chosen by Nick Fury to join S.H.I.E.L.D. as a special agent and one of the director’s right-hand men. Hawkeye’s peak-human marksmanship, his loyalty, and the persuasive abilities he demonstrated when recruiting Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) when she was an independent spy made him an easier pick for the Avengers than any other hero. Although a bow and arrow always sound absurd when dealing with larger-than-life threats – which Hawkeye promptly proved wrong – it was his perfect track record that secured his spot among gods and soldiers.
Natasha Romanoff already wanted to right her wrongs and escape from her dark past when Hawkeye was sent to kill her. They struck up a close friendship and Natasha joined S.H.I.E.L.D. as a secret agent. This wish for redemption, plus her exceptional abilities despite not having superpowers, made her an essential asset when recruiting Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Her talent for problem-solving would be of extreme importance later down the line in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when she defended Captain America’s actions from the government, in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Black Widow became Hulk’s key to revert to Bruce Banner, and in Avengers: Endgame when she sacrificed her life for the Soul Stone, thus playing a crucial role in saving the entire universe.
The Avengers Initiative could have gone very wrong. Luckily for the fate of the Earth, all of the original Avengers had redeeming qualities that secured their spot in the most influential roster of superheroes and paved the way for more powerful and even more unstable members to join the team and protect multiple realities. Nick Fury’s faith in his plan proved to be wise, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe more than benefited from it.