If there trailers and initial critic reactions weren’t enough to assure fans that Marvel Studios has summoned something magical with “Doctor Strange,” the first reviews are in — and they’re overwhelmingly positive.
While many of the critics acknowledge that, yes, director Scott Derrickson’s film follows the familiar Marvel formula established in 2010’s “Iron Man,” they heap praise on the near-psychedelic visual effects, as well as the top-tier cast, led by star Benedict Cumberbatch.
Here’s a selection of the initial reviews:
Brian Truitt, USA Today: “Saying the battles are out of this world would be technically accurate and also an understatement. Kaecilius chases Strange and colleague Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) through New York, folding buildings onto each other and bending skyscrapers to create an M.C. Escher-style Big Apple. The way the wizarding good guys use helpful accessories like Strange’s signature Cloak of Levitation — a character in itself — makes ‘Harry Potter’ magic look like amateur hour at a kid’s birthday party.”
Allyson Gronowitz, Polygon: “Visually, ‘Doctor Strange’ is a staggering feat of both imagination and technology, with dizzying, multi-dimensional mind-trips and action sequences that quite literally defy gravity. (It was cool in Inception, and it’s even cooler here). Tonally, ‘Doctor Strange’ is familiar Marvel fare, seamlessly merging humor and pathos. Some might say it’s become too familiar — the brilliant, arrogant Stephen Strange can be difficult to distinguish from the brilliant, arrogant Tony Stark, after all — but Derrickson and fellow screenwriters Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill capitalize on the familiarity intrinsic to superhero origin stories in order to push the MCU further into surrealist mysticism than ever before.”
Dino-Ray Ramos, The Tracking Board: “With ‘Doctor Strange,’ the comic book powerhouse steps into ambitious territory, opening a portal into a whole new world of magic, sorcery, and mysticism that would be elevated to levels of psychedelic proportions with the aid of hallucinogenics. Despite being a visual marvel for stoners and shroom heads, the trippy effects and mind-bending fight scenes are merely window dressing for a refreshing, yet recognizable journey of a superhero that isn’t a household name for non-comic geeks.”
Peter Debruge, Variety: “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.”
Mike Ryan, Uproxx: “It’s obvious why they hired a big time star like Cumberbatch, because Doctor Strange is here to guide us through the next decade of Marvel movies, just like Downey did in the last decade.”
Gregory Ellwood, The Playlist: “… 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.’ Ejiofor is so good you’ll likely be more excited about Mordo’s potential return than that of the title character himself.”
Eric Goldman, IGN: “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. Controversies around changing the Ancient One from the comics aside, Swinton’s ethereal, unique presence feels right at home here, playing this serene yet oh-so powerful character. Ejiofer brings his usual strong, noble presence to a character clearly being set up for more in the sequels, while Cumberbatch is great as Strange, whether he’s playing him as a know it all or someone in awe of what he’s seeing. Wong meanwhile has an amusing dynamic with Cumberbatch that will also hopefully develop more in other films.”
Alonso, Duralde, TheWrap: “The performances are consistently engaging: Cumberbatch remains charming and quippy whether he’s full of himself or learning to let go and to face his fear, Swinton puts her otherworldly qualities to great use, and Rachel McAdams (as Strange’s former and maybe future girlfriend) provides a much-needed degree of groundedness to the bizarre goings-on. Mikkelsen is sadly underutilized, but his conflicts with Strange allow TV fans a long-awaited Hannibal vs. Sherlock match-up.”
Arriving in theaters Nov. 4, “Doctor Strange” stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton.
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