Review: Stranger Things

Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things

Stranger Things, an 8 part series on Netflix, is a fun filled adventure that every age group will enjoy. It’s a reunion with the 80s, with early Steven Spielberg charm, wit, and kid-centric adventurous storytelling. Beware, spoilers ahead.

Stranger Things was created by The Duffer Brothers – Matt and Ross. The Duffer brothers did much of the writing and directing. (There are a couple of women on the writing team.) This series somehow managed to channel the 80s and make it fresh and alive. The story is not just set in the 80s – it is the 80s.

The story begins with four adolescent boys playing Dungeons and Dragons. They are Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Will (Noah Schnapp). Dungeons and Dragons fills every corner of this story. In fact, a couple of times I wondered if the whole story wasn’t a re-enactment of the boys’ imaginations as they played the game. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but it sometimes felt that way.

As the boys are leaving Mike’s house to ride home in the dark on their bikes, Will disappears. And things get strange.

Charlie Heaton and Winona Ryder in Stranger Things
Jonathan and Joyce search for Will

Will’s mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) and big brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) don’t miss him until the morning. They report him missing to the local police, headed by Jim Hopper (David Harbour).

Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things
Lucas, Dustin, Mike and Eleven search for Will.

Two stories run simultaneously in the search for Will: the adults and the kids. The kids run into a strange girl will 011 tattooed on her arm. She has a buzz cut and doesn’t talk much. She says her name is Eleven. The boys hide Eleven in Mike’s basement.

Eleven has superpowers: telekinesis and the ability to communicate with people in an alternate universe. She escaped from a bunch of unnamed bad people led by Dr. Brenner (Matthew Modine) who sends people into the den of the monster. Mostly those people never come back. The bad people are some sort of government agency. They use Eleven to spy on the Russians by listening to them in an alternate reality.

As we eventually learn, Will is in an alternate universe, ruled by the growly, scary creature with no face who likes to snatch the locals for lunch. The kids are the first to learn about the alternate reality. They search for the “gate” into that universe so they can go find Will.

Joyce discovers that she can communicate with Will through the electrical system. She spends her time rigging up her house with lights and devises ways to talk to him.

Mike’s big sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and her boyfriend Steve (Joe Keery) get sucked into the search for Will when Nancy’s friend Barb (Shannon Purser) disappears, too. Nancy teams up with Jonathan to figure things out. They concentrate on luring the scary monster with blood so they can capture and kill it.

David Harbour in Stranger Things
Chief Hopper searches for Will

Hopper, the cop, spends his time investigating the strange government installation outside of town. He knows they have something to do with what’s happening.

For the longest time, the adolescents, the teens and the adults aren’t sharing information with each other. Each group figures out a bit of the puzzle. There’s plenty of action and danger, but the dangers and the scary stuff are mostly off camera or fleeting.

When all the people searching for Will finally start talking to each other, progress is made. They try burning the monster, catching him in a bear trap, going into his lair, shooting him and more. It takes Eleven’s superpowers to make everyone safe again.

In the end we have Will back, but he isn’t exactly the same Will. And Eleven’s story is unresolved.

I wasn’t happy about the way Stranger Things season 1 ended, but the ending did leave the story open for a second season. I would definitely watch more of it. The series felt like one of those 80s movies you could watch over and over again and never grow tired of like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial or Poltergeist. The characters generated warmth, the action was engaging, and the story contained enough scientific underpinning to be interesting.

The young actors who carried much of the story did an outstanding job, especially Millie Bobby Brown. She didn’t have many lines compared with the boys, but she said volumes with her face.

The way the 8 parts of the drama worked, it was more like a long movie than separate episodes. Cliffhangers came at odd moments and the action never broke from one episode to another. The episodes, called Chapters, were not all the same length, similar to chapters in a book. Each chapter had an intriguing name. Chapter Five, for example, is called The Flea and the Acrobat.

Netflix has a winner with Stranger Things. Have you seen it yet? What did you think?

All images ©Netflix

3 thoughts on “Review: Stranger Things”

  1. Pingback: Review: I Am Not Okay with This - Old Ain't Dead

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