Stranger Things Opinion - A Loveable & Entertaining Trip back to the 80's
Netflix has become an extremely influential distribution house of series' and films. From "House of Cards" to "Orange is the New Black", Netflix has come out with several shows that have gone on to become insanely popular and critically acclaimed. So when I think about what new show they will come out with, and more specifically, what genre will they be getting into, 80's Spielberg mystery thriller isn't the first thing that comes to my mind. But that is the direction they decided to go when they picked up the Duffer Brothers' "Stranger Things" for distribution. Its 2016 after all, and in my mind, before even watching this show, today's era of pop culture is severely incompatible with the good old E.T. days. But it turns out that it doesn't matter that the Snapchat generation is not the '80s. In fact, "Stranger Things" makes it very clear that it wants the viewer to be immersed in the world it exists in, and the results are pretty great and surprisingly refreshing. "Stranger Things" is an instantly loveable show that cements its place right alongside J.J. Abrams' "Super 8" in the "Thank you Spielberg, Lucas & Co. for making my childhood awesome" homage genre.
Its hard to understate this, but a large part of this show is emphasising the life and pop-culture of kids in the era of Star Wars, The Clash's music and other heavily influential arts of the era. Even the very first shot of the first episode is a downward pan from a view of stars, likening itself to the first Star Wars film. But instead of a "consular ship" being chased down by a large starship, we see a heavily gated government facility where all manner of secret research is going on, ostensibly to defeat the Russians at the fag end of the Cold War. Even though the 80's is an era that was literally beyond my span of existence, the show progresses from its rather scary first scene into a more familiar and comfortable scenario and makes the viewer as comfortable as possible in its universe of young, budding geekdom.
We primarily follow the story of a small group of young kids, Will, Lucas, Mike and Dustin, who are living the typical suburban life in a town where almost nothing extraordinary happens. The plot kicks off when Will mysteriously vanishes and no one is able to find him. The intertwining of the search for Will with that of a government experiment gone rogue is the central main plot of the series. Already you are kind-of thinking of E.T. and Super 8, which was a tribute to the former film, and the series uses that likening to very entertaining results. Stranger Things is very much a throwback to the organic mystery thrillers and it works so well as did its predecessors because of the fact that the primary protagonists of the show are kids, and their understanding of plot moves in tandem with that of our own.
But Will's best friends aren't the only ones who are desperate to find him, Will's mother is played by 90's icon Winona Ryder, best known for her amazing performance in "Girl, Interrupted" alongside Angelina Jolie. Ryder's return to the forefront of entertainment is something of a nostalgic return in and of itself for many people who idolised her in the '90s. "Winona Forever" was the war-cry for die hard Ryder fans and this show will undoubtedly give them more reason to chant her name. Winona Ryder is absolutely fantastic in this show as Will's mother, Joyce, in a very convincing portrayal of fear, motherly love and protectiveness.
But of all the feel-good nostalgic aspects, the most memorable one in Stranger Things is the character Eleven, a young girl of similar age to the protagonists who has been subjected to a secretive government experiment and has managed to escape the facility where they kept her. On their seemingly futile search for Will in the nearby forests of their suburb, Mike, Lucas and Dustin find Eleven nearly bald in a hospital gown. Mike, the semi-leader of the group takes Eleven (or as he affectionately comes to call her, El) into his home without his parents knowing (straight from E.T.) to help her out. El is the best written character on this show and Millie B. Brown, the actress who portrays her, does an amazing job portraying a girl who seemingly has never known what it is like to live with other people in a normal life. She also knows just enough English to communicate her feelings with the people around her, but most importantly to the plot, she has telekinetic powers and she knows how to find Will.
From this point on, its sci-fi galore as the show delves into alternate dimensions and ginormous freaky monsters. The cross-over is arguably what works best for this show as relatable characters take part in a pretty gripping monster-mystery with high stakes. As Will's mother discovers the way to find and talk to her son, so do we the audience find out the rules of the show's world. At first when the sheriff of the town, played by David Harbour, dismisses all of the craziness Joyce comes up with, we as the audience too can't help but think she's just not making sense. But as the story progresses, the crazy conspiracy theories start becoming more and more plausible and the elevating tension that permeates across the entire show is what makes Stranger Things totally binge-watchable.