Doctor Strange early reviews applaud Benedict Cumberbatch and Marvel video

Benedict Cumberbatch on the red carpet at the world premiere of Doctor Strange talking about the excitement of seeing the movie for the first time.

If you ever doubted wanting to see another Marvel superhero in action, think again.

Most US film critics agree Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange is very much in the vein of Robert Downey Jnr's Tony Stark – they even have matching goatees – but this movie does not make the mistake of trying to recreate Iron Man's winning formula. 

Instead the almost unanimous verdict is that Doctor Strange delivers a fresh and unique branch to Marvel's well-mined portfolio.


Doctor Strange is now screening in New Zealand cinemas.

IndieWire's David Ehrlich has even gone as far as suggesting that the movie is a thinly veiled commentary on Marvel itself, writing: "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."

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Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange in Marvel's Doctor Strange.

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Doctor Stephen Strange in Marvel's Doctor Strange.

Many agree that the decade-long success of Marvel movies has threatened to become the comic book universe's downfall since its blockbuster plots tend to feel overfamiliar and well-worn. So it has come as a welcome surprise to reviewers that the studio still has new tricks up its sleeve.

Variety's Peter Debruge writes: "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."

While Elhrich says of the Marvel Comic Universe (MCU), "it's one thing to take a new world and make it feel familiar, and quite another to take a familiar world and show us new ways of looking at it. This is the first chapter of the MCU that accomplishes that second, more difficult, more thrilling task, and that bodes well for a better, stranger tomorrow for the MCU."

Marvel's Doctor Strange characters The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).
Jay Maidment/Marvel

Marvel's Doctor Strange characters The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

So how does Doctor Strange compare to the studio's predecessors?

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Debruge says "it's the very fact of this deeply insecure and wildly overcompensating character's determination to prove himself ... that makes Doctor Strange Marvel's most satisfying entry since Spider-Man 2, and a throwback to M Night Shyamalan's soul-searching identity-crisis epic Unbreakable, which remains the gold standard for thinking people's superhero movies."

Ehrlich writes: "This is the most exciting addition to their ever-expanding universe since The Avengers.


A look behind the scenes of Doctor Strange

"Finally, for the first time since The Avengers, the action scenes are special. ... And, dodgy CG aside, remember how cool it was when Yoda finally threw down at the end of Attack of the Clones? Watching Tilda Swinton roll up her sleeves is better - way better."

The Daily Beasts' Jen Yamato says "Doctor Strange is also, notably, much more mature than its predecessors" and "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."

"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," writes The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy.

Mads Mikkelsen plays the villain in Marvel's Doctor Strange.

Mads Mikkelsen plays the villain in Marvel's Doctor Strange.

USA Today's Brian Truitt gives it three out of four stars, calling it "brilliantly bizarre".

"Saying the battles are out of this world would be technically accurate and also an understatement... 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," Truitt writes.

They all agree Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, does still come with pitfalls typical of a comic book blockbuster, but the star-studded cast and psychedelic visuals alone seem enough to entrance any viewer.


Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton talk Doctor Strange

Even the potential controversy of having white-woman Swinton play the supreme custodian of Himalayan wisdom has not only been dismissed by critics, but in Variety's case it has been suggested that she should have commanded the title role "because who is stranger?"

Still Cumberbatch can do no wrong as Doctor Stephen Strange.

"The character is literally fighting for his life in this film, and Cumberbatch captures both his humbling and the subsequent recovery of confidence," acknowledges Debruge.

"His brash genius pairs him as something of a blood brother to Tony Stark in the Marvel stable. Apart from Swinton, the other fine actors here can't do much more than lend their able-bodied presences to the proceedings," writes McCarthy.

For Truitt, Cumberbatch delivers a superhero "with enchanting spirit and a clever wit".

"Derrickson has rounded up a deep cast of tried-and-true thespians... And with Cumberbatch as a fellow who's perfectly Strange, this Doctor is down to leave you spellbound."

 - Brisbane Times


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