What do Steven Spielberg and Stephen King have in common?
Imagine if Spielberg and King, two icons of entertainment, collaborated on a movie in the ‘80s and were able to make it as long as they want – that is what “Stranger Things” mainly feels like. References and throwbacks to classics, like “E.T.” and “The Goonies,” ooze out of the screen, as almost every character is a different version of a character from Spielberg and King’s works.
The leading trio of boys – played respectively by Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo and Caleb McLaughlin, are clearly a nod to the handful of groups of young boys in “The Goonies,” “Explorers,” “Stand By Me“ and “E.T.” The strange and compelling Eleven, portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown, is modeled from Carrie and Charlie McGee – who are both telekinetic characters from separate King novels: “Carrie” and “Firestarter.”
The four child actors are what makes this show what it is, aside from the interesting sci-fi plot, and will undoubtedly have a great future ahead of them in the entertainment business. Without this particular bunch of children, the show would lack its emotional and nostalgic impact. The roles, in the hands of anyone else, would lose a majority of organic relatable qualities that the four leads bring to the table.
The way they look and portray their characters make it believable, since they don’t seem like the typical Hollywood child actor type. For example, Matarazzo’s character, Dustin, is missing his front teeth – giving him a goofy look a la Chunk from The Goonies.
Personally, I love the fact that “Stranger Things” feels less like a show and more like a movie because it has memorable cinematic qualities to it that are added by the extensive time we, the audience, have with the characters to emotionally invest in them. Most movies and TV shows fail to capture audiences, not for their lack of “wow” factor, but for focusing on spectacle rather than dwelling on important character moments.
The plot of this Netflix Original series centers on the missing Will Byers, a buddy of the leading trio of boys, in a town where the last missing person case happened decades ago and the appearance of a mysterious girl, Eleven, with powerful telekinetic powers and a horrific backstory.
There is not much I can say about the show without spoiling it, and the reason it is that way is because the creators of “Stranger Things” are aware of the gratifying experience of suspense and not knowing everything beforehand. The first season still ends with many questions unanswered, but it doesn’t feel like a letdown since the show was very satisfying with the plethora of characters it presented us.
I recommend not reading or watching anything spoilery about the show – since most of the show relies on twisting and turning expectations that will ruin one’s experience of the show if spoiled.
Overall, “Stranger Things” is a beautiful homage to movies of the ‘80s and an emotional show about the meaning of friendship and the relationships between parents and children. If the characters won’t get you, the engaging plot that slowly unravels each episode will find its way to your heart and never let go.
The soundtrack is another plus to the show since it truly adds to the feeling of being in the ‘80s and listening to bands like Foreigner and Modern English – this is as ‘80s as you can get. Sure, it might be a bit darker than “E.T.” or “Gremlins,” but it still has the childlike sense of awe mixed with horror elements familiar from movies like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “The Thing.”