The review embargo has finally lifted for Marvel’s much-anticipated superhero-magician adventure Doctor Strange in advance of the film’s early overseas premiere, and the early word should make fans of the Sorcerer Supreme very optimistic. Director Scott Derrickson and writer C. Robert Cargill have been tasked with not only bringing one of the comics giant’s most unusual characters to life, but also with delivering an new visual and narrative elements to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; and early reviews would so far indicate that they have succeeded – mostly. While some critics are noting the familiarity of the film’s superhero-origin formula, its visual imagination and supernatural storytelling are receiving high praise overall.
While the reviews are still coming in the early word on Doctor Strange paints a picture of a somewhat conventional Marvel superhero adventure (a hero who’s his own worst enemy attains great power contingent on humility, and battles an enemy who represents his own dark side) buoyed by strong performances and memorable visuals.
The critics seem to largely agree that the film’s interpretation of the comics’ mind-bending visuals and bizarre mystical Marvel mythology are its strongest suits, though they’re more divided on whether or not star Benedict Cumberbatch stands out from them – or from the shadow of Robert Downey Jr’s similar arc as Iron Man‘s Tony Stark. Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong and Chiwetel Ejiofor receive near-universal praise as Strange’s superhero-side supporting cast; but critics are also largely in agreement that Mads Mikkelsen’s villain and Rachel McAdams’ love-interest feel underwritten. Nonetheless, the majority of even the most critical takes have come down on the positive side.
The Hollywood Reporter — Todd McCarthy
“Non-specialists would not want to bet their lives on being able to identify which dimension the film occupies at any specific moment, but from a visual point of view the upshot is that Doctor Strange enters a dazzling zone in which whole slabs of the New York cityscape fold down, multiply and assume new configurations in ways that take their cue from Inception but go far beyond it in visual spectacle.”
Variety — Peter Debruge
“Yes, this new project shares the same look, feel, and fancy corporate sheen as the rest of Marvel’s rapidly expanding Avengers portfolio, but it also boasts an underlying originality and freshness missing from the increasingly cookie-cutter comic-book realm of late. From this second-tier side character, the studio has created a thrilling existential dilemma in which its flawed hero’s personal search for purpose dovetails beautifully with forays into the occult New Age realm of magic and sorcery where Doctor Strange ultimately finds his calling.”
The Daily Beast — Jen Yamato
“Broadening the consciousness of the mind, and by extension the conscientiousness of the soul, is one of the decidedly atypical end goals Doctor Strange has in its sights in spite of the minefield of superhero origin story clichés it sweeps across to get there. Stacked with an excellent cast led by Benedict Cumberbatch and the singular Tilda Swinton in a captivating and controversial role, it’s the most dazzling technical achievement of the franchise whose visual delights are worth the ticket price alone.”
Indiewire — David Ehrlich
“A movie about a forward-thinking man who is deeply afraid of failure, “Doctor Strange” can be seen as something of a self-portrait for the studio that produced it — it might even be more fun to think of it in that context, as the risks taken by the story’s thinly sketched superhero are endowed with the weight and history of the many-tentacled mythos that we’ve been watching Marvel unpack for almost a decade. This is the most exciting addition to their ever-expanding universe since “The Avengers.”
The Wrap — Alonso Duralde
“The action climaxes with a truly impressive finale, one that employs time going in multiple directions that’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in a movie before. The effects shots here aren’t just visually impressive; they actually let the narrative go to places it couldn’t without this level of, you’ll pardon the expression, wizardry.”
Polygon — Allyson Gronowitz
“In typical Marvel fashion, the timing of the good Doctor’s big-screen adaptation couldn’t be better, as the surrealist mysticism of Doctor Strange provides a much-needed tonic for the gritty realism of Marvel’s Netflix shows and the hyper-politicized Captain America: Civil War.”
The Playlist — Gregory Ellwood
“And, yet, even when the familiar distracts the actors and Derrickson find a way to bring you back in. That’s apparent most prominently in Ejiofor’s portrayal of Mordo. The last time a supporting character’s motivations in a Marvel movie were played in such captivating shades of gray was when Tom Hiddleston brought Loki to life in the first “Thor.”
ScreenCrush — Matt Singer
“This is really the only way Doctor Strange deviates from the established Marvel formula: Typically Marvel movies have terrific characters and so-so visuals and action. Strange is the opposite; it’s glorious to look at (and the rare blockbuster where the 3D genuinely adds something to the experience) but the people are kind of dull.”
IGN — Eric Goldman
“What really ends up making Doctor Strange an entertaining film are the actors and the visuals. This is a rather incredible cast and there are moments when you have the likes of Cumberbatch, Swinton and Ejiofer sharing the screen when it’s hard not to smile simply seeing these talented actors fully immerse themselves in the mystic part of the Marvel Universe.”
USA Today — Brian Truitt
“A kaleidoscope of weirdness and innovative visual effects successfully introduce the newest Marvel superhero in director/co-writer Scott Derrickson’s brilliantly bizarre Doctor Strange (*** out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters nationwide Nov. 4). Benedict Cumberbatch plays Stephen Strange with enchanting spirit and a clever wit, giving comic-book movies another goateed icon who can hang alongside Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark.”
ComicBook.com — Jeff Cannata
“Not since the first Matrix have I seen “there are no rules” taken to such a satisfying cinematic extreme. It is a blast, the action is constant, and the ideas are wondrous. Even more impressive, Derrickson’s direction manages to keep the geography of the action sequences clear, even when the actual geography of the scenes is magically twisting and whirling around the characters running through it.”
Uproxx — Mike Ryan
“That summary is also the plot of Doctor Strange, a character who, right now, is fairly unknown to mass audiences – but that’s all about to change. And after seeing Doctor Strange, it seems pretty obvious that Marvel is banking that Benedict Cumberbatch’s Stephen Strange will be their new go-to character as Downey (now 51) isn’t going to play Tony Stark forever.”
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