coming of age

[Netflix Review] Stranger Things Season 1 (2016) ★★★★★

Stranger Things is a wonderfully, fantastical, delightful, epic and sometimes scary nostalgic throwback to the eighties. 


Stranger Things is a science fiction, coming-of-age, adventure horror Netflix Original series. It’s a series full of excitement, suspense, mystery, adventure, humor, romance, friendship and much more, resulting in a fantastic emotional rollercoaster with every emotion present. It’s beautifully shot with full focus on both the characters, their development as on the storyline that unravels the mysteries. It’s a series that does everything right resulting in one of the most engrossing and captivating epic stories for the whole family to enjoy. 

This first season consists of 8 episodes with each a duration of 42-55 minutes. It’s a continuous story about finding Will, helping Eleven, finding out what Hawkins lab is up to and building friendships in the meantime. 


Plot

In 1983 in Hawkins four boys Mike, Lucas, Dustin and Will are playing Dungeons & Dragons in Mike’s basement. But afterwards on his way home Will disappears. While his mother Joyce, his older brother Jonathan and sheriff Hopper are looking for him, so do his three friends. Instead of finding Will, they stumble upon a strange girl who calls herself Eleven and who has super powers.

The disappearance of Will and the appearance of Eleven are no coincidence and have everything to do with the science lab in Hawkins. Something else escaped from that lab, a monster called the Demogorgon. And a different dimension is now creating portals throughout Hawkins, to the Upside Down, the hiding place of the Demogorgon. 

They have to find out where Will has disappeared to and who Eleven is and what secrets the lab is hiding before it’s too late. 


Why you should watch it

Stranger Things is a great coming-of-age adventure full of science fiction, horror elements, a super scary monster, endearing kids, and a mystery that results in an exciting and emotional roller coaster ride. And most of all it’s an eighties throwback and nostalgic feast for each child of the eighties. 

The series looks amazing. The creation of the Demogorgon, the Upside Down, its’ all visually stunning. But how they managed to really bring back the eighties is the best part of the series. The atmosphere, the style, the hair and make-up, the clothing, the interior decoration, the interactions, the disinterest and obliviousness of what’s going on of most parents, the games they play, the bikes, and the music, everything just breaths the eighties. It’s so wonderfully done, that sometimes you even forget you are watching a series that has just been made. 

You might even forget you are watching a series on tv. It’s so captivating and fun, it lures you in with an alluring story and mystery and with its great characters that each get their own time to develop. They are anything but stereotypes, although they do represent the eighties in a great way. Their personal growth and development is amazingly intertwined with the storyline and how the mystery unravels. They aren’t mere pawns to create a baffling story, but they themselves are the key players that interact with the plot, forming a natural and organically evolving story. It’s just brilliantly done, with care for the plot, the nostalgia and the characters. 

But also the structure, the way the mystery unfolds, how the kids interact with each other is just like the Goonies (1985). It is delightfully hysterical, chaotic, lots of screaming, liveliness, playfulness and high spirited kids who immediately steal your heart. It combines horror and mystery and humor and science fiction and a lot of adventure that gives a perfect epic and heroic feel. It’s a perfect Losers Club that trusts and depends on each other, and helps each other and will stand by each other through anything, well except when it comes to liking a girl maybe. A girl whom they have to hide, which gives it an even more alluring feel, and creates a perfect little kids club. 

Eleven is a whole different character on her own. She has no real name, has escaped from the lab that experimented on her and most importantly, she has super powers. She is different, powerful, an enigma, but also clueless. Her stumbling upon Mike, Dustin and Lucas allows her to experience the real world for the first time, which is heartbreaking and endearing at the same time. Suddenly the three boys have a responsibility, have excitement in their lives due to her powers and have these strange feelings in their stomach, likes butterflies. While Eleven is the key to the plot, her storyline is beautifully woven into the lives of the boys, the missing Will and the big secret in Hawkins lab.

But it’s not only Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven we are following on their quest to find Will. Joyce and sheriff Hopper start their search in a far more grown up way. While Jonathan gets help from Nancy, Mike’s older sister who lost her best friend Barb and who investigate in their own way with a more journalistically approach. These other two storylines are great on their own showing a different perspective, creating an even fuller  story, but also connect in a great way with the kids and each other. The heartbreaking search of a determined mother is an excellent performance. And there’s the older brother who’s struggling himself but has a big love for his younger brother and has a big altruistic heart. 

So we have three different approaches to finding Will, the adventurous one seen through the eyes of the kids, while keeping Eleven a secret. The serious approach by the adults and the young adult approach. Each team finds its own clues and obtains a piece of the puzzle to solving what is really going on. Once they all get together, combine their forces and what they know, they know where Will is, why and how they can get him back. 

That’s when the best part starts. When they are all working together as a great team, turning the already epic storyline into something even greater. It’s a story about courage, never giving up hope, the love of a fierce mother, the loyalty of friends, about finding friends and a family and making the right choices. Although it’s a series with a great eighties vibe with lots of nods to the eighties, it feels very refreshing and new and original. 


My favorite part

I really liked the storyline of the kids. The interactions between Mike, Dustin, Lucas and Eleven are the most fleshed out and are the heart of the story. If you’re a child of the eighties like me, you will immediately be transported back to that era. It’s so recognizable and so well-done, it’s absolutely marvelous. But every scene with the kids is what I enjoyed most. Eleven is wonderfully portrayed and Mike, Dustin and Lucas do an amazing job bringing each character to life. They truly are the heart and core of the series and they do it with great charm.

They are a fun bunch of kids, perfectly balanced out between the naive hunger for adventure, being brave when things start to get scary, standing up for each other, but fighting with each other as well which makes them a very real group of kids, without ever becoming stereotypes, like the eighties did portrays those group of kids.

In short I liked every little bit of this series. It’s just perfectly done and escapism at its best. 


Ratings

Rating: ★★★★★

Epic factor: ★★★★★

Thrill factor: ★★★★★

Nostalgic factor: ★★★★★

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★


Read more about Stranger Things:


Cast and crew

Stranger Things is created by The Duffer Brothers. It stars Winona Ryder (Joyce Byers), David Harbour (sheriff Jim Hopper), Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler), Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin Henderson), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas Sinclair), Natalia Dyer (Nancy Wheeler), Charlie Heaton (Jonathan Byers), Joe Keery (Steve Harrington), Noah Schnapp (Will Byers) and Shannon Purser (Barbara Holland).

Music: Kyle Dixon, Michael Stein. Cinematography: Tim Ives, Tod Campbell. Production company: 21 Laps Entertainment, Monkey Massacre. Original Network: Netflix.


Check the trailer below


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