Friday, September 9, 2016

Netflix TV Review: Stranger Things (2016)

Stranger Things poster
Stranger Things (2016) - Created by Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer; Starring Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton.

By Kenny Howell

When watching the first couple of episodes of Netflix's Stranger Things, I wondered what I was missing.

Since it premiered, it has been all over over social media, the kids have been on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon playing those stupid games, and many people have declared that they "can't stop watching!"

I never had that feeling, and it's not cause I didn't like it. The series is fun, but I feel like I have seen it before. It's probably because the creators, brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, cram all their influences into one gigantic ball. Stranger Things is part E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, part The Goonies, part Stephen King, part Close Encounters of the Third Kind, part every horror movie from the 1980s, and part Super 8, the J.J. Abrams film from 2011 that tried to do some of those same things, and holds lots of similarities to Stranger Things.

It is about a group of friends in the 1980s who love some Dungeons & Dragons and hanging out, which obviously makes them a target for bullies. When one of them named Will goes missing with super mysterious circumstances, they set out to figure out. Also trying to uncover it is Will's mom, played by an extra crazy Winona Ryder (Experimenter), who finds help in the local police chief (David Harbour).

Will's disappearance goes way deeper than expected and includes the CIA, possibly supernatural worlds, and a girl named Eleven who has some crazy powers and loves Eggo waffles.

When Stranger Things works it is because of the kids, led by Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven. She luckily has a cool, badass character to work with, but she really kills it as the tortured hero. The other kids, played by Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin bring the heart to this love letter to 80s cinema when it gets too bogged down in being a love letter. The last half of the season really gets things going, and finally did at least partially give me that feeling of wanting to immediately watch the next one, mostly because the story finally gets moving.

The ending of course leaves it open to a second season, which is going to be a lot of pressure on the Duffer brothers. They entered this first season with no expectations and no budget, but it has exploded now. It's suddenly become a hot commodity. How they handle that is going to be interesting, cause now all the weight is on their shoulders.

Rating: ***

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