Growing up in the 80s was a truly blessed thing. While it’s super-easy to mock the fashion of the era, few decades have offered as memorable moments in film. Most of the movies that hold meaning in my heart were made during this era, and while not all of them hold up over time, so many of them do. This is one of the reasons for uproar over reboots: the movies are still great today, and no, you’re not improving them. If nothing else, this rash of reboots does little service to films of that decade. It becomes more parody than homage, and for many of us that experienced the old versions firsthand, it’s almost an insult.
That said, borrowing themes from those films and stories that were born in the 80s isn’t a horrible sin. It creates just enough nostalgia to make us long for more efforts that truly honor that time. And, for my money, no film/series has done a better job of honoring the entertainment of the 1980s than that of the Netflix original Stranger Things.
What makes this story so fantastic? If nothing else, it’s the fact that it borrows ideas from a bevy of other films – Goonies, Monster Squad, E.T., Stephen King’s IT, Alien, D.A.R.Y.L., and Stand By Me are the best examples – and turns it into a unique and original tale that feels so fresh and new while being wholly familiar at the same time. It manages to juggle this perfectly. You feel like you’ve been here before, but you’re also trembling with the anticipation of something brand new.
Every facet of this story works. The parallel plots involving three groups – preteens, teenagers, and adults – weave a brilliant tapestry that finally bonds together at the end. Every character feels fleshed out. No one is a cookie-cutter, at least not anyone that matters. Plot elements aren’t totally resolved, but those questions we are left with only enrich the mystery surrounding Stranger Things. In a number of ways, I could see this series mirroring Fargo; could the second season involve an all-new set of characters in a different place? It wouldn’t be frustrating for me to see some of these story arcs left open. After all, in a story as bonkers as Stranger Things, sometimes unsolved mysteries are the best ways to make the story feel more grounded.
If there are downsides to Stranger Things, it’s that it feels a little rushed. It’s only eight episodes, so the binge-watching goes pretty quickly. That’s not to say there isn’t satisfaction in how the story plays out. It’s just that I loved the characters so much that I was left hoping for more. There’s also a scene involving a slingshot that felt poorly put together and almost too determined to make the show an homage to 80s flicks. Otherwise, no complaints.
There are some truly perilous moments in this show, and the showrunners description of a “dark Amblin” film seem particularly apt. That said, there’s not a lot of gore for gore’s sake, which is a plus in my book. True horror films do so much more for me when handled with more mystery than savagery.
This is precisely the type of show Netflix needs to showcase to reel in more customers. The success of shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones have the clout of Marvel Comics behind them. This is a completely different animal that actually surpasses everything else that the streaming service has offered to date. It is as close to perfect television as you will get.
I get goosebumps watching the title sequence. It feels so very 80s that you’re almost sure you’ve gone back in time. In a lot of ways, you’ll be so glad that you did.
The entire first season of Stranger Things is currently available for streaming via Netflix.
Vaya con Dios!
All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!