series creator: The Duffer Brothers
show runner: The Duffer Brothers
starring: Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown
genre: Adventure | Sci-Fi
premiered on Netflix: July 15, 2016
This show is built massively around 1980's movie nostalgia right to its very core. In addition, it had enough luck and determination that's it's kid actors didn't suck and also despite its story and setting being a variation of so many 80's genres bundled together. It managed to be an engaging entertainment package that has developed a cult following and possibly future awards glory that it does objectively deserve.
In the 1984 town of Hawkins, life was going as normal with friends playing Dungeons and Dragons, teenagers being infatuated by romance and adults oblivious to the world around them.
When one of the kids of this small community goes missing and another one pops up out of nowhere with special powers. It will mobilize certain groups of the population to finally take charge and find out the true reason behind the young boy's disappearance and the government's interest in all of this.
A show's success lies not only if it can be groundbreaking but also in its innate ability to keep you engaged throughout an entire season with likable characters that are on worthwhile or even frightening adventures. And while this may be a throwback to 80's pop culture from Stephen King novels to Spielberg films and using various elements that suits them. From a synth soundtrack to a small town community similar to 'Twin Peaks' (which makes sense as they wrote 'Wayward Pines' episodes) or even 'Halloween'. It is a show worth watching all nostalgia talk aside. As people are after the viewing of the show still talking about it regardless of the endless pop culture references, smart easter egg memorabilia and subliminal referencing. Something that proves you can follow a trend without being annoying about it.
In general, this is how films of the 80's survived and thrived on with small knit groups banding together to fight evil and explore the world around them. Think of 'Goonies' or 'E.T.' and you will surely know where this show takes its cues from. Similarly, the film 'Super 8' tried to do the same but in the end was too much of a homage and downer to get people on board. 'Stranger Things' trick is that it's fun, romantic and very funny at times. It has good mix of flashbacks to get a deeper understanding of the characters, enough time for all of them to have an arc of sorts and most importantly the kids act like kids and the adults act like adults. With their priorities being in order and jumping in the face of danger for different reasons based on their age and character.
Furthermore, the cast and the simplicity of their stories is what makes this show incredibly enjoyable. Not so much the alien inter-dimensional stuff and many of the other sci-fi elements. It's about Eleven and her bond with the kids group, every main character's determination to find Will and for each them to become the person they aspire to be or run away from. Such as the jock running away from being the stereotype and falling in love with the geek, or the geek succumbing to the stereotype and falling for the jock and the band of kids who are total science nerds but the real thrill seekers and heroes of the story.
Nevertheless, my joy for the unexpected level of great acting from the children, the very well written small town quaint characters and consistent intrigue of the fate of certain characters and bond between them. The show is still a run of the mill sci-fi monster show, with no real mythology to it, no over arching conspiracy and deeper meanings either. Now, this could also be considered to be to the show's advantage that it isn't so complex. As it really is a great go to casual show to suggest to anyone to watch. However, one thing that should have been fixed was the visual effects of the film as they aren't particularly impressive. The practical effects may be passable and even when Eleven uses her powers you kind of buy it. But when the monster comes on screen you can see they needed another million here and there to spruce it up. While also the 'Under the Skin' rip off/homage from Eleven's under the water sensory deprivation was something awkward to experience.
Now this shouldn't take away from the experience that anyone might have with the show, its just difficult for myself to hear individuals rave about the great entertainment that this is or how this was what was missing from television when they have never seen 'Twin Peaks' or even the 'Twilight Zone'. While also forgetting that some will see it just as great causal entertainment and not another TV milestone that we all try to make out these shows to be.
This show could have been destined to fail on any other network but a little creative freedom while also a great array of talent and judgment for the product on screen played a role from having this show be yet another gimmick. As its trip down nostalgia lane is a sensationally worthwhile experience without boring moments, complicated deeper meanings or facetious story-lines.