When I saw Netflix advertising their newest original series, “Stranger Things,” I pretty much didn’t care about it at all. Sure, the artwork is neat, but I’ve been suckered too many times into watching a bad film or series by a pretty poster. I finally gave in due to the recommendations of friends and the buzz the show was getting on the internet.
Let me tell you, “Stranger Things” is a great show which mixes and matches the best parts from 80s pop culture to tell a compelling new story.
People that know me personally are aware of my disdain for the J.J. Abrams film “Super 8.” That entire film was not an homage but a plagiarism of every trope from Spielberg movies, repackaged with glossy special effects and marketed as a touching story. “Super 8” was a poor copy of a poor copy — a movie with annoying children dodging comically dangerous levels of destruction, not to mention a script that tried its hardest to recapture the magic and wonder of Spielberg’s movies without understanding what made those films special.
Where “Super 8” fails, “Stranger Things” succeeds. It crafts a genuinely touching narrative about family, friendship, loss, acceptance and social anxiety, all tied together with an impressive science fiction story.
While the story is compelling, the characters are what makes the show shine. These are kids in the 80s, so they curse and reference pop culture and even occasionally fight. Kudos to the casting director for filling out the show with great child and teen actors.
“Stranger Things” works as show because it develops the characters at a great pace and also allows the story to breathe. It’s eight episodes, which is just the right amount. Any more and the story would’ve dragged. “Stranger Things” is 80s nostalgia done right because it is apparent in every scene that the creators love this time period. There are so many details and story elements that are borrowed that it can’t help but be charming, especially to those who actually lived through the 1980s.
Despite the creative detail that goes into this period sci-fi drama, “Stranger Things” doesn’t feel like an original idea. Rather, the show feels like its borrowing all of the story elements from 80s movies and just throws them in a blender. While watching the show, I could point out which movies the plot elements or scenes came from. “This is from ‘E.T.’, that’s from ‘Poltergeist’, this reminds me of the ‘Breakfast Club.'”
“Stranger Things” did win me over because it was heartfelt, but I couldn’t help but notice. Also, the show suffers from some budgetary constraints which becomes apparent whenever the CG monster appears on screen.
Overall, “Stranger Things” is a great launching pad for new viewers into 1980s films. The show caters to veteran consumers by hearkening back their childhood or to their teenage years. It never gets too melodramatic and does a fantastic job of developing the characters. The plot does feel a little derivative, but the acting and pacing are top notch.
“Stranger Things” is quality programming, a show with compelling characters, which will entertain from start to finish.