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MCU MADNESS SWEET 16: #7 Captain America: The Winter Soldier vs. #10 Doctor Strange

Winter Soldier vs. Doctor Strange
By Matt Roembke

This matchup in the MCU Madness Tournament is one that many fans will view as a mismatch - most may believe that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is seeded too low and Doctor Strange is seeded too high. But when it comes down to it, this is a battle of two of the most unique solo films in the MCU. We get a Captain America spy thriller that accomplishes arguably the most world-building of any other Phase Two film facing off against an origin story that manages to introduce new dimensions while also including one of the most unique final battles to date. This #7 vs. #10 matchup is the physical vs. the mystical. Game on. Vote Down Below!

Winter Soldier Banner Released: 2014

Director: Joe and Anthony Russo

Phase: 2

Box Office: $714,264,267

Synopsis: After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), lives in the nation's capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy.

Pros: One of Marvel Studios' biggest accomplishments of their Phase Two is how they managed to grow on the universe they built while still telling unique and exciting stories. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has become the benchmark that following solo films are measured by. Simultaneously, the Russo brothers were able to make Cap cool while also moving the ball forward with the overall MCU story. They also ended up creating one of the best espionage films of this century.

Cons: Captain America: The Winter Soldier is widely considered as one of the most complete films in the MCU (much like all Russo Bros. films are). So, when pointing out the cons in this film we have to look at its impact on the MCU as a whole. Most of this film revolves around the remaining existence of HYDRA and the destruction of S.H.I.E.L.D. What some fans may find an issue with is how quickly one of the biggest organizations in the Universe is removed from the story. We got bits and pieces of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Phase One, but their full prescence wasn't truly felt until The Avengers. And just two movies later, she was gone. That is a nit-picky and very unique con with this film, but that is why it is seeded so high: It manages to cover most if not all of its bases.

Strange Banner Released: 2016

Director: Scott Derrickson

Phase: 3

Box Office: $677,718,395

Synopsis: Dr. Stephen Strange's (Benedict Cumberbatch) life changes after a car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he looks for healing, and hope, in a mysterious enclave. He quickly learns that the enclave is at the front line of a battle against unseen dark forces bent on destroying reality. Before long, Strange is forced to choose between his life of fortune and status or leave it all behind to defend the world as the most powerful sorcerer in existence.

Pros: Doctor Strange is the last true origin story we have seen in the MCU so far. The journey of Stephen Strange from an arrogant superstar surgeon to a humbled Sorcerer Supreme shows a great character arch throughout the film. Fans also get one of the most interesting and unique final battles in MCU history with the famous "I've come to bargain" scene.

Cons: While this movie has many unique moments and story devices, it tends to fall into the common trap of the origin story in structure and villain. The linear progression of a jerk, to training, to fighting the anti-Stephen Strange forces comparisons to the original Iron Man film, which may seem slightly "cut & paste". We also see a love interest with Rachel McAdam's character that does not seem to have a lot behind it, at least not yet.