‘Doctor Strange’ Reviews Round-Up: A Familiar Origin Story With Dazzling Visuals & Exhilarating Action
Posted on Sunday, October 23rd, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
Last week brought the first reactions to Doctor Strange after press saw the movie before it hits international markets this coming week. Now the embargo has lifted on full reviews of Marvel’s latest addition to their cinematic universe, providing us with a much more detailed reception from critics.
The full Doctor Strange reviews paint a promising picture full of rich performances, dazzling visuals and some of the best action we’ve ever seen. However, these reviews also dive deeper into the movie’s shortcomings, mainly coming from treading familiar territory as another origin story and putting forth a lead character whose defining characteristics might be a little to close to the Marvel franchise that started this whole universe with Iron Man. But thankfully, Benedict Cumberbatch and director Scott Derrickson keep that from being too frustrating.
Check out some highlights from the Doctor Strange reviews after the jump.
Peter Debruge from Variety says it’s very much like other Marvel movies, but has plenty that makes it stand out:
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.
Brian Truitt at USA Today found plenty to love:
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. 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.
Known for his work as a horror director, Derrickson (Sinister) crafts a trippy phantasmagoria for Strange to fly screaming through as he begins his path to sorcerer supreme. The only thing missing is a Doors jam as the sequence unfolds a dizzying blend of psychedelia, geometric oddities and nightmarish dreamscapes.
Erin Goldman at IGN says it feels a little too familiar at times, but still has plenty of good qualities:
14 movies into the MCU — and with many other comic book movies constantly opening these days — Doctor Strange’s basic origin story structure is a bit overly familiar, including a lot of the strengths (the charismatic lead; the exciting and fun moments where he discovers new abilities) and weaknesses (a villain that feels underwritten) we’ve come to expect. But the other realms and accompanying visuals it brings into the MCU are fascinating and thrilling, with a lot of potential for the future. Now that his origin story is out of the way, I look forward to seeing what’s next for the good Doctor.
Mike Ryan at Uproxx ended up liking the film, despite being skeptical beforehand:
I enjoyed Doctor Strange a lot more than I thought I would. Not that I didn’t think director Scott Derrickson (Sinister) could produce a good Doctor Strange movie, but more because introducing a new superher seems like such a thankless task nowadays. Moviegoers don’t love origin stories anymore, but Strange’s world is so strange bizarre, there’s really no way to just have this guy show up with his interdimensional thought-beam weapons, and sling rings, and magic cloak (which, here, has a personality of its own) and not offer some sort of two-hour explanation. This movie is your two-hour explanation. And Derrickson and crew offer enough dazzling visual eye candy that it almost hides what we are actually watching. Again, it’s almost a thankless task these days but Doctor Strange finds a way to make even the mundane seem unique.
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. Doctor Strange is basically a reboot of Iron Man, only with a lot more prettier things to look at while you’re stoned. It’s a good strategy. And it works.
Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter says Marvel has another successful franchise starter on their hands:
A ’60s cult figure stuck on the periphery of the Marvel Comics universe for 50 years finally spins into orbit to command the world’s attention in Doctor Strange, an engaging, smartly cast and sporadically eye-popping addition to the studio’s bulging portfolio. Determined, among other things, to top Christopher Nolan at his own game when it comes to folding, bending and upending famous cityscapes to eye-popping effect, this action movie ostensibly rooted in the mind-expanding tenets of Eastern mysticism is different enough to establish a solid niche alongside the blockbuster combine’s established money machines.
Alonso Duralde from The Wrap praises the way visual effects are used in the theater:
“Doctor Strange,” the latest movie in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, casts a few impressive spells of its own, not the least of which is the redemption of the visual-effects extravaganza. In a year where bloated, empty spectacles have induced a crushing level of CG fatigue — Now Showing: “Alice Through the Warcraft Suicide Apocalypse Justice” — this funny, freaky adventure reminds us of how effective VFX can be when they’ve got some imagination behind them.
David Ehrlich at IndieWire says Doctor Strange is refreshing, but at the cost of revealing some of Marvel’s weaknesses:
Giving a whole new meaning to the idea of Doctors Without Borders, “Doctor Strange” is a superhero movie that often feels as though it’s been shot through a kaleidoscope — it’s hollow, hypnotic, and every twist of the tube reflects a beautiful new dimension of infinite possibilities. Unapologetically folding the likes of “The Matrix” and “Inception” into the fabric of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Sinister” director Scott Derrickson reaches into the mirror dimension (whatever the hell that is) and retrieves the year’s most (only?) visually dazzling blockbuster.
That spectacle comes at a cost. As with all of the best installments of the MCU, the film’s unique strengths have a perverse way of highlighting the franchise’s shared weaknesses. But “Doctor Strange” deserves credit for treating several of the ailments that have been infecting the series, and for diagnosing several more.
Jen Yamato from The Daily Beast continues the trend of finding a movie that’s successful, but also a little too safe:
Doctor Strange manages the feat of opening up the scope of the MCU beyond the previously delineated confines of its less fantasy-based predecessors, bridging the grounded heroics of the Avengers and the cosmic gallivanting of Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy. But it also rings with some tired familiarity. Stephen Strange is, in so many ways, pretty much another Tony Stark: Wealthy, egotistical, selfish. Cumberbatch’s charisma and the story’s nonstop momentum are perhaps the only things balancing the fact that the character is yet another white male Chosen One destined to excel within an exotic culture not his own, an issue the film doesn’t bother trying to address.
But she also has plenty of positive things to say:
As a contained standalone this is the most inventive Marvel has allowed its movies to get so far… The 3D work is immersive when Derrickson shoots in naturalistic settings on location in Kathmandu, and transportive when he uses it to distort depth and perception in its more fantastical sequences—made even more otherworldly by a memorably electric Michael Giacchino score. Doctor Strange is propelled by one dazzlingly intricate VFX set piece after another.
Gregory Ellwood over at The Playlist found the cast to be one of the most satisfying elements:
Like most Marvel movies, “Doctor Strange” would be pure escapist fare except for two important elements: the film’s often stunning depiction of the multiverse and a cast that simply insist their characters are grounded even with all the fantastical drama surrounding them (something audiences have not seen since the first “Iron Man” or portions of “The Avengers”).
…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.
Matt Singer at ScreenCrush adds to the receptions that reconcile the good with the bad:
[Doctor Strange[ is easily the studio’s most exciting spectacle to date. Its hero, a former surgeon turned butt-kicking wizard, spends a fair amount of time exploring the multiverse, in sequences rendered with loads of bizarre, lysergic imagery. That’s the good news. The bad news is the studio’s most innovative visuals are wedded to one of its most formulaic origin stories. In some scenes, Doctor Strange is Marvel’s most exciting movie yet. In others, it might be its most boring movie since Iron Man 2.
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. It’s to Derrickson’s credit that he managed to conjure up images to match his protagonist’s adventurous spirit. But you can see right through his characters, even when their souls aren’t floating outside of their bodies.
Finally, /Filmcast co-host Jeff Cannata had this to say over at ComicBook.com:
The new Marvel movie directed by Scott Derrickson is very much a solo adventure – perhaps not since the very first few Marvel Studios films has there been a more stand-alone, single hero story without overlap to the broader cinematic tapestry – and it is for sure about demons and dimensions and reality-bending mumbo jumbo, but it is so much fun, so dazzling and inventive, and exciting, that it proves Dr Strange is worthy of his own film franchise. I can’t wait for more.
Thankfully, it sounds like the tiring rehashing of a typical Marvel origin story is elevated by some outstanding performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen and Rachel McAdams. In addition, the action sequences and visuals appear to be enhanced by the expansion of the Marvel cinematic universe into the unexplored mystical world, including the very bending of time itself. Even though the character of Stephen Strange treads familiar territory, there appears to be enough originality in other ways to make up for it. At the very least, there’s potential for an even more promising sequel.Cool Posts From Around the Web: