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Marvel's Doctor Strange: First reviews positive

Doctor Strange

Story by Jack Foley

EARLY reviews for Marvel’s Doctor Strange have been largely positive, suggesting that the superhero giant has another sizeable hit on its hands.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, Doctor Strange is being hailed as Marvel’s weirdest title to date given the way it operates in alternate dimensions.

The film follows Dr Stephen Strange who, after being involved in a car crash, becomes attuned to the world of magic after losing the use of his hands. He is tutored in alternate dimensions by Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One.

Many critics in the US have compared the film’s style to both Christopher Nolan’s Inception and Marvel’s own Iron Man, which helped to set up the Marvel Universe in the first place.

They were all unanimous in their praise for the film’s principal cast, with Cumberbatch, Swinton and Chiwetel Ejiofor singled out for special mention.

The only criticisms tended to focus on how the film does eventually pander to the Marvel [and superhero] formula, emerging as both another origins story and culminating in another big battle between the hero and a potentially world-ending villain.

Leading the fanfare, though, was Variety’s Peter Debruge, who wrote: “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.”

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The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy described it as “a vigorous start for another Marvel franchise”, adding that it was “an engaging, smartly cast and sporadically eye-popping addition to the studio’s bulging portfolio”.

He continued: “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.”

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IGN wrote: “The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe movie (Welcome to MCU: Part 14!), Doctor Strange is a bit of a contradiction, feeling both very familiar yet also very different from what has come before. Structurally, it’s another basic superhero origin story, but on the other hand, it’s going into a trippier, more psychedelic place than any comic book movie has before.”

It concludes: “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.”

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Elsewhere, USA Today opined: “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.”

While Screen International wrote: “Entertaining in its grand flourishes but spottier when it comes to character work and thematic coherence, the film boasts a slightly darker and more mystical air than its peers, accentuated by some of the most arresting set pieces in the MCU canon.”

The Wrap, meanwhile, concluded: “Casts a few impressive spells of its own, not the least of which is the redemption of the visual-effects extravaganza. This funny, freaky adventure reminds us of how effective VFX can be when they’ve got some imagination behind them.”

And Britain’s own Den of Geek concludes this overview with the following summary: “The acting, the visual fireworks and Michael Giacchino’s distinctive, Eastern-influenced score all go a long way toward disguising the fact that we are once again watching an origin story, and one that seems even a bit more perfunctory than usual.”

Doctor Strange opens in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 25, 2016.