LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - The reviews are officially in, answering the question: Can Marvel score another critical smash with Doctor Strange?
The early answer looks like yes. While some journalists shared their opinions on Twitter after a few U.S. screenings, full reviews for Marvel's latest dropped at midnight on Sunday, and they were largely positive. The film holds a 100% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes after first reviews (though it's worth noting that this is subject to change after more reviews are released).
Definitely regarded as Marvel's (fittingly) weirdest film to date, critics praised the hypnotic visuals, the origin story of Benedict Cumberbatch's hero, as well as the performances of Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One.
The most common criticism was that Doctor Strange, directed by Scott Derrickson, falls within Marvel's corporate, tried-and-true strategy. Many compared it to the first Iron Man movie -- though that film did go on to spawn a billion-dollar franchise.
Still, the Marvel formula shouldn't detract from the joy of the tentpole. As Variety's Peter Debruge put it in his review, "While we might yawn at yet another threat to all mankind, Doctor Strange has been presented in such a way that this higher calling restores his ability to help the world entire. We understand that this calling matters to him, even if his motives remain a mystery."
Doctor Strange opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday. See more critical reactions below.
Variety's 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."
Indiewire's David Ehrlich: "It's one thing to take a new world and make it feel familiar, and quite another to take a familiar word 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."
The Daily Beast's Jen Yamato: "Swinton is effortlessly excellent in her role--one that was gender-flipped, in a progressive move for strong female representation in the genre, at least--and her arc, too, focuses instead on more simple universal binaries: Life vs. death, shadows vs. light, good vs. evil, the kind of yin and yang terrain that dials right into the major currents of Strange's origin tale. As a contained standalone this is the most inventive Marvel has allowed its movies to get so far, which is a positive indication for new freshness as Phase 3 rolls out."
Uproxx's Mike Ryan: "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."
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy: "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."
The Wrap's Alonso Duralde: "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."