Stranger Things & Stranger Things 2
Starring Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Finn Wolfhard, Caleb McLaughlin, Winona Ryder, Noah Schnapp, Natalia Dyer, Charlie Heaton, David Harbour & Joe Keery.
I’m like a year late I think? To the first series anyway – I’ve literally watched both series back to back in a record breaking time if I can say so myself! I have no life, noted.
I really wanted to see what all the fuss was about and more so, the obsession with Millie Bobby Brown! For the past year from what I can see, every celebrity big and small feels their life has been ‘made’ once they have met her! It appears they’ve been queuing up to be her new best friend. I guess I kind of get it? Eleven is endearing and dare I say cute? I’m not sure. Anyway, lets discuss the series.
Like the majority, I can see why both series have been so successful, and I’m now also a huge fan. The supernatural plot I could take or leave believe it or not. I didn’t have an issue with the graphics or special effects, I just don’t find it scary and therefore it doesn’t really appeal. However, given that is just one element to this seriously layered series, I don’t think it actually matters that much. Maybe you could argue it’s the whole premise of the show, but I found the different narratives, combined with the delightfully relatable school kid humour and character dynamics was seriously infectious and way more engaging. Also, the general adolescent approach to the perceived danger and the ability to act way older than your age was hilarious.
If you read my review for It, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of a child-led cast, as long as it works. I saw It before this show, so I was introduced to Finn Wolfhard in a different setting, and was surprised to see him considerably calmer with a clean mouth in Stranger Things. I think it’s this group, led by Mike (Wolfhard) who are the heart of the show and make it clear the type of coming-of-age adventure films The Duffer Brothers are honouring. They travel around on bikes, talk to each other over walkie-talkies and take a journey along some railroad tracks (Stand by Me at it’s best). It’s clearly a show made with love for the pop culture of the era it’s set in — a The Thing poster can be spotted on a wall, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe comes on the TV, characters talk about going to see Poltergeist and All The Right Moves at the cinema. Who can forget the epic tribute to The Ghostbusters in series 2, and how nobody wants to be Winston. I genuinely think this dynamic and narrative is what people are connecting with – we’ve all been kids on adventures and staying out way later than we should have. We didn’t have social media, but then again we didn’t have the upside down either to contend with.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out who The Duffer Brothers are a fan of, and I think at times there is a danger of just literally copying plots. Mike hiding Eleven aka Elliot hiding E.T, and a few slight comparisons to some Stephen King novels. Is anything 100% authentic though these days?
There are also too few surprises. I think we learn so much before the characters do that we watch them realising things long after we’ve worked out what’s actually going on. But despite all this, there are enough human dramas, soapy teenage love triangles and nostalgia-coated kids’ adventures to make it an engaging show. The ’80s looked wicked – what a time to be young!
If I had to pick, the second series I think is my favourite. Relationships are established, Dustin has teeth, Steve isn’t a dick anymore – it’s just a great series. I also loved Max! She is a welcome addition I think to the show and fits perfectly in with the boys. The unlikely friendship between Steve and Dustin also gave the show a bit of depth. The storylines were split but really easy to follow – maybe because they were all working towards the same goal. I’m not going to lie; I was a fan of Nancy and Steve! She and Jonathan are an epic two-person team but I can’t help but feel sorry for poor Steve and him being lumbered with the babysitting job that he has literally zero control over.
Did anyone else feel Winona Ryder was a little erratic and eccentric? I feel like this might be what she’s like in real life ha! I remember watching her up on stage accepting an award with her cast mates recently and her reaction went viral. I just think she’s gloriously nuts and I love it! I loved her as Joyce too – again vulnerable but a fiercely protective brave mother who will stop at nothing. I’m sad she wasn’t given a future with Bob aka Sam from LOTR (mad right?!), they were great together.
I should talk about other aspects but the characters are such a selling point for me! There’s so much I can say – Noah Schnapp as Will is strong and committed throughout the whole show, it’s so impressive for someone of his age. Millie Bobby Brown too, she’s charming and enchanting but has vulnerability and beauty all wrapped into one. The Snow Ball was a lovely ending. We’ve all been there right? Nervous as hell, awkward first dances, first kisses, excessive amounts of hairspray – it brought the show all together.
Characters yes, a massive thing for me. The cinematography though was also wild. Warm colours and lots of stedicam gave it authenticity and really put us there with them. With big productions, there is always room in the budget set aside for ADR, which made it all the more real. It’s always risky setting something in an era, especially when there are plenty of people still around to vouch for it. I’m not one of them, but it felt as close to the ‘80s as I imagine it was like!
Stranger Things 2 manages to be as inspired, deliriously enjoyable and briskly plotted as the original. With hints that the next two seasons will see the gang face another threat, while also contending with puberty (that other looming, unstoppable beast), there’s cause for fans to be very excited indeed. Darker and more ambitious but shot with warmth and wonder.