The film and television industry is currently at a point, where what’s old, is new again. You have old TV shows such as The X-Files, Full House, 24 and Prison Break, coming back from the dead. In the land of film, the big films being produced are sequels, prequels, spin-offs or reboots. There’s very little original content out there. Content producers and audiences alike, seem to desire nostalgia.
It’s therefore, very impressive to see that Netflix’s Stranger Things, manages to pay homage to so much that’s come before it, and also be very original & new, at the same time.
I could be on all day trying to list the many products Stranger Things pays homage to/was influenced by. Therefore, I’ll only list the obvious ones:
- The X-Files
- ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
- John Carpenter’s The Thing
- The Goonies
- Silent Hill (video game series)
- The Twilight Zone
- Halloween (original)
You might notice that most of the above are John Carpenter and Steven Spielberg films. The influence from these two filmmakers is evident right from the get-go. The opening credits for example, look like they’re ripped right out of a John Carpenter film, the focus on children as heroes is a page out of Spielberg’s book and it doesn’t end there. The music sounds like it was made by Carpenter himself and there are visuals, camera angles and shot compositions that flat out copy some of Spielberg’s greatest works.
Another impressive feat about this show is the cast. It’s always hard to cast young, child actors. Simply put, many of them aren’t all that good. Stranger Things however, has managed to cast four really good ones in the lead roles. The standout of the entire cast would have to be Millie Bobby Brown who plays the mysterious girl named, Eleven. I don’t say this often, but I think she’s someone to keep an eye out for. I imagine she’ll start appearing in other films & tv shows after this. I don’t mean to brag or anything, but the last time I said such a thing was in relation to Margot Robbie, and look at her now!
The rest of the cast is fine. David Harbour is good as the sheriff desperate for answers, and Winona Ryder is okay as the mother of a missing child. The only problem here is that Winona, as the biggest name in the series, gets credited first and yet she’s clearly a secondary character. Most the time we see her, she’s either moaning or crying (which is of course understandable), but it does become repetitive and she has little to do as the series progresses.
The biggest problem with the show is its unwillingness to answer anything. There are numerous questions presented by the series. As a mystery show, this does make it very compelling, and clearly the show is doing a good job by doing this. However, having watched the entire series – SPOILER AHEAD – I’m still no further forward. I still don’t really know what’s happened or why. – SPOILERS END.
There’s also a secondary storyline revolving around a rather typical high school love triangle, that never quite works. This storyline isn’t anywhere near as compelling as the central one. SPOILER – It also doesn’t really amount to much in the end, so it feels kinda pointless. SPOILER ENDS.
Ultimately, Stranger Things is a very good show. It pays homage to what’s come before while also trying to be its own thing. It’s certainly another hit for Netflix and I’ve little doubt that there’ll be a second season. SPOILER – I just wish it did a better job of explaining itself and that it provided a bit more closure and answers.