The Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with some of the strongest superheroes and most dangerous villains in movie history, with alien beasts, Asgardian gods and gamma-irradiated giants leveling cities during the course of their battles.
And then there are the tiny, fragile little beings who are just doing their best, despite being almost laughably weak. Now, that's not to say these characters aren't wonderful, charming, sinister, or downright awesome for what they contribute to the world. It's just that, if they tried to punch Thor, they'd just break their own hand.
In a effort to give them their due, it's important to understand what they contribute before explaining exactly why, despite their various mental or emotional strengths, they are physically out of their league in the MCU.
As a member of the Warriors Three and an Asgardian, Fandral is obviously more powerful than, say, an average human. But the Warriors Three sure feel like cannon fodder in the MCU on a really regular basis. They try to fight the Destroyer in the first Thor movie and almost immediately get beaten. During that fight, Fandral doesn't even do anything but look worried about Volstagg and Lady Sif the whole time.
Then, in Thor: Ragnarok, the warriors are just standing around when Hela shows up and takes out all three of them in the blink of an eye with her magic throwing daggers. They literally put up less of a fight than almost any random soldier in the Asgardian army. And, among the Warrior's Three, Fandral is the one best known for his charm - not his fighting prowess or his valiant efforts, just his winning personality.8731,885Are they weak?
This Sokovian soldier turned underworld mastermind proves he is not to be trifled with when it comes to his plans for revenge. He orchestrates the discord that tears the Avengers apart in Captain America: Civil War, he activates the Winter Soldier after framing him for an attack, and he drives a nearly fatal wedge between Iron Man and Captain America that leads to them almost slaying each other and ruining their friendship.
The express reason, however, for all of the mind games and subterfuge and lying is because Zemo knows, for a 100% fact, that he'd never be able to take on the Avengers himself, and is too weak to end them individually. So he relies on his brain instead of his brawn to decimate his enemies. If Helmut had tried to take on any of them one-on-one, they would have ripped him apart. He can't even end his own life because Black Panther overpowers him and forces him to face justice.8311,954Are they weak?
Like his son Tony, Howard Stark is a groundbreaking scientific genius who would have undoubtedly been amazed by all that his son eventually creates and builds. He works on the super soldier serum that gives the world Captain America, he spends his life fighting Hydra, and he even lays the groundwork for his son to one day invent a brand new element. But Howard Stark is every bit the brazen playboy that his son is before Tony's post-kidnapping self-reinvention.
He is a businessman and an exec, and while he admittedly knows how to get his hands dirty if he needs to, he is just a dude in a well-tailored suit. It's his passing at the hands of the Winter Soldier that exemplifies his limitations as an ordinary man when it comes to fighting and the strength needed to take on increasingly powerful baddies. After a brainwashed Bucky Barnes causes his car to crash, Howard perishes after a few strong punches from the Winter Soldier's powerful metal arm. Sure, it's understandable why this ends him, but it's that same human vulnerability that makes him so outmatched from the start.7221,926Are they weak?
Tony Stark (Without His Iron Man Armor)
As a founding member of the Avengers, Tony has gone from a self-serving playboy arms dealer to a self-sacrificing savior of all mankind over the course of little more than a decade and a half. In his Iron Man battle armor, he's taken out hordes of Chitauri aliens, fought fire-breathing super soldiers, and blasted an army of vicious robots, all before snapping his fingers to obliterate a massive invading army threatening the entire planet.
However, without his Iron Man armor, he's just a spoiled billionaire with a smart mouth. And unlike another billionaire with a powerful suit (we're looking at you, Bruce Wayne), he doesn't have years of ninja training to back up his caustic wit. He's an undeniable genius, which is how he created his many different suits in the first place, but in a scrape, he couldn't do much without some tech and gear.
For a clear visual reference to his relative strength, look no further than when he and Steve Rogers are chopping wood at Clint Barton's farm in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Tony has an ax and barely gets through a few logs while Steve doesn't even need a blade to rip the logs apart. Without his suit, Stark is just a thrill-seeking businessman.7923,261Are they weak?