Stranger Things 2016 Quick Review
Stranger Things is a Netflix original series centering around a middle school boy who goes missing on his way home after seeing something monstrous and sinister up head of on the road. There’s young mysterious girl on the run and a government agency conducting some very dark experiments. This is all takes place in a small town in Indiana back in 1983.
I only heard about Netflix’s Stranger Things a few weeks ago. It was released on July 15th according to the poster and the first season contains 8 episodes. From the moment I heard about this I was interested in it. However, I put off seeing it because I just don’t like soap opera’s and any TV show that doesn’t end it’s story in one or two episodes is a soap opera. If I am going to watch a soap opera, it really has to interest me. Further more, if I am actually going to like a soap opera, it better wrap itself up by season’s end. Thankfully, Stranger Things, did all of that. There were a few things it did that I didn’t like but nothing to the point of frustration. Just minor things I will discus later.
As the story goes, it’s in many very similar to the book I’ve written. Small town, strange things happening, a cop trying to figure out what’s going on, a group of friends, a mysterious lab. A mysterious girl. Thankfully, aside from that, the stories are completely different. And, thankfully, should I ever be able to afford an editor for my book and it gets made into an series, my book is registered so I can prove that I didn’t copy anything from Stranger Things.
Now that I have got that out of the way. Almost everything about season 1 of Stranger Things is great. The acting is phenomenal. The special effects, are great most of the time. A couple of CGI monster issues once or twice but the rest of it was simply spectacular looking. The writing was really good. There were a few times some characters did some really stupid things but I never found what they did to be so significantly stupid that it made want to root against them. And, if you’re on of my 2.5 readers you know once a character does something so stupid, I start rooting for the bad guy. Thankfully, there’s none of that in Stranger Things.
Talking about the acting, the stand out role to me is that of the character Eleven played so perfectly by Milli Brown. I couldn’t take my eyes off this kid. I don’t think she says more than 20 words in the entire first season and yet, her facial expression are so enthralling, so hypnotic. She can go from scared and helpless to “I’m about to fuck you up.” in a heartbeat. I mean I’m a grown a ass man I do not ever want to be on the receiving end of one of her glares. Damn! She reminded so much of a young Natalie Portman in The Professional. She has that same type of innocence and intensity. There’s no way she’s not going to be every bit as successful as Portman. Milli Brown is amazing.
Also it was good to see Winona Ryder again. I have loved her since Heather’s. I thought she was also excellent in this. She played being, timid and strong with such believability. There comes a time when no believes her character. I wanted to be mad. I hate it when one of our hero’s is telling the truth and no one believes them. But, under the circumstances, how could anyone. She was saying some crazy things, she was acting crazy. So well played. I could see the people around her wanting to believe her but at the same time, just knowing she’s a grieving mom and needs help. The denial of others never became so frustrating that it takes you out of the story. And, I think that has a lot to do with Winona’s acting skills. I felt for her character every second she was on the screen.
Also the group of middle school kids, they were amazing. I knew kids like that. I was probably like that. Never was a D&D player but mad props for their taste in movie posters and choices in horror movies. Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo as the the missing boy’s best friends were so good. They had a good vibe together and reminiscent of great movies like Goonies or Explorers but with a Stephen King kinda feel to it.
Then there was the feel of the 80’s. They managed to make it actually feel like the 80’s without going over the top in pop culture references and clothing. They kept it all confined into 1983 or prior for the most part and as someone that grew up in the 1980’s I would have noticed any huge inaccurate. The only thing that really stood out as an error was the choice of music they used to end episode two. Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bengals wasn’t released until 1985. But, in the series defense, the music was playing over the end credits, it wasn’t part of the story. Still it was enough to make me think, “Wait, that song wasn’t even out yet.”
Also, the score to Stranger Things. Brilliant! Once again Stranger Things managed to capture the feel and the sound of the 80’s. That low synth sound took me right into every early 80’s movie and TV show when it blended with the screen title, Stranger Things, and it’s design of glowing read boldface. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that I was watching an early 80’s suspense or horror thriller like The Thing or Cujo or Christine.
I guess the only things I didn’t like about it was that at times I felt like it ran a little slow. But, it was never not interesting. I planned on watching the first episode yesterday just to see if I liked it. Four episodes later I turned it off to get some sleep. I tossed and turned. Then started watching the next episode on my tablet while in bed. After about 13 minutes into the fifth episode I said, “Screw it!” and got up and spent the rest of the night watching the final four episodes.
Then there was the older teen’s story-lines. Natalia Dyer played Nancy Wheeler, the older sister of Mike Wheeler, one of the missing kids best friends. Charlie Heaton played Jonathan Byers, the older brother of the missing kid gone missing, Will Byers. It would have been far more enjoyable seeing what these two would have done if they only could have come together sooner. More adventures, more monster hunting. Instead too much time is wasted on the love the triangle. Natalia’s badassery was simply wasted on the triangle story-line.
The love triangle was just more of a distraction then an interesting part of the story. I will say that the “triangle” had a nice twist to it concerning the stereo-typical douchebag boyfriend but all that took away from the adventures that Natalia Dyer’s character could have had with Charlie Heaton’s character. This is a real shame because it slowed the pace down. I’m not saying the triangle didn’t need to be there. I’m just saying too much time was devoted to it.
If you were around in the 80’s I think the only thing that will disappoint you is that Stranger Things almost felt at times there wasn’t enough 80’s stuff in it. But, that’s also what made it so great. It wasn’t over done. It wasn’t filled with a ton of references that only 80’s kids would get. But, I did love the shout out Dan O’Bannon for example, just a small character named after real writer and sometimes director of such greats as Alien (writer) and The Return of the Living Dead (director). I am sure there were more shout outs that I didn’t catch because I was so into the story.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this. It’s fun, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time it’s no joke. There are some top notch performances here. A more than descent story, good music, creepy monster and some really beautifully shot scenes. It’s well worth your time.