Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
Doctor Strange is a breath of fresh air for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After being bludgeoned to death by the Russo Brothers' overbearing Civil War, Scott Derrickson has come rushing in to revive interest in a slowly dwindling franchise. The frenetic shaky cam action and cheesily heroic orchestral themes are tossed out the window in favor of an atmosphere much more deeply rooted in its mysticism than previous entries were, and the mind-bending elements make this just about the most fun I've had with a Marvel debut since Guardians of the Galaxy.
Doctor Strange is in fact Marvel's Inception, tossing the audience on an acid trip induced by complex visuals reminiscent of Nolan's sci-fi dreamscape. There were just as many of these elements as I had expected from the trailers, with a few added surprises along the way. Strange's atmosphere breaks free of the Marvel formula, choosing to head in its own direction with a more fluid style of action that had been so coldly stripped from the more recent Marvel entries. Even the pseudo-villain was less disappointing than recent adversaries have been, although he's certainly not without his shortcomings.
Mads Mikkelsen does his absolute best to create a three dimensional comic book villain, and it's easy to tell just how much he was trying to stand out from the others. He sadly isn't given enough room to fully develop into an interesting villain, once again playing the foil to Marvel's preferred and oft overdone cinematic formula. It was, however, refreshing to see a fully developed character cycle in Strange himself. It undoubtedly follows a typical heroic pattern that forces him to overcome his sense of pride, but by the time the credits rolled, I felt that he was a fully fleshed out hero that I could really dig into, unlike so many other Marvel debuts.
The visuals of Doctor Strange are its biggest standout. It overflows with psychedelic effects and does a marvelous job at constructing its multifaceted universe in such a way that it doesn't feel overwhelming. It is these spectacular effects that really make it feel completely different from any other Marvel solo film we've received recently, and it even manages to keep its humor up to a level that doesn't betray a Disney-centric influence. Benedict Cumberbatch's immense talent radiates from Strange, relieving the audience with a sense of innovation that once again gives me new hope for the future of Marvel's films. Perhaps it's still too early to write off their universe for good, despite the depressingly overstayed welcome of other additions like Civil War and Iron Man 3. Perhaps superhero solo films should stop at their second installment, anything after that seems to take a considerable dip in quality.
Doctor Strange is more than a pleasant surprise- it's a superb delight. A sweeping journey of the mind supported by its stellar effects and talented cast. The development put into its titular character is organic, piecing together a tangible protagonist that feels like more than simply another hero to admire and root for. His arc can actually be seen and felt; his struggles to become the hero he is meant to be fully visible on the screen. He doesn't just feel like a token hero for the sake of being called a Marvel film- he's a sympathetic individual with feelings all his own. The love and effort put into Doctor Strange, not only from Cumberbatch but from Derrickson himself, resonates through just about every frame of this wondrous trip. Its authenticity gives it a refreshing feeling that I've been longing for out of these films since 2014, and one that I won't hesitate to immerse myself in again before it leaves the theater.