When writing on the strange, there’s nowhere for the story to traverse but the unknown. Since man first travelled to the stars, Hollywood has been obsessed with science fiction, an infinite universe of story. But, one of the greatest impediments to a good sci-fi story is no more than man’s own recesses of imagination. We may only create as much as we know. However, once our resources are exhausted, where may man go for good film? It’s a quarry of otherworldly and outstanding material, but more often than not produces little more than fool’s gold. To solve such an exhaustion of concepts, film makers choose instead to take good concepts and improve upon their stories. Films like ‘‘Super 8,’’ ‘‘Looper,’’ and ‘‘The Martian’’ took very classic ideas like an alien landing, time travel, or space travel, and humanized them. But, there are the few times that a work of true genius comes along: when concept and heart collide and create a work of creative prosperity. ‘‘Stranger Things,’’ created by Matt and Ross Duffer, is a multifaceted, genuinely jaw dropping, and incredibly emotional work of television that proves that science fiction is far from dead.
‘‘Stranger Things,’’ at face value, is a story of a small town in Indiana from the 1980s that gets very exciting very quickly. And, one of the greatest parts of this incredible story is that it starts right away. Not too much context is necessary to jumpstart the story plainly because the plot is 10 steps ahead of our believed notion of prediction. It’s fresh and different, yet still so familiar. It’s about friendship, family, and love. But it’s also about a mother who’s lost her son, a girl who can do extraordinary things, and a man with nothing left to lose, all with a plot that none of us have ever seen. When there’s nowhere to go but left, right, up, down, or sideways, the room for suspense, surprise, and wonder is as endless as it was when man first flew into the unknown.
At the core of the show is an ensemble of eclectic and exciting characters played by talented child actors, Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Will (Noah Schnapp), and Mike (Finn Wolfhard). A group of nerds who have no one but each other and their sense of imagination. With a veracious appetite for adventure, the kids quickly embrace the bizarre and terrifying events of the show and face them without pause. Millie Bobby Brown, who plays Eleven, a mysterious girl with a mysterious past, completely steals the show. It will be exciting to see where these debut roles take the young stars. All of them work well together, and there is a distinguishable bond that becomes a central theme of the show. The scenes between the young actors are always the most captivating.
One of the most interesting dynamics of the show is between Mike’s older sister Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Will’s older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton). Nancy is a regular teenage rebel who dates the jock and sneaks out at night. Will is the pretentious loner who can’t wait to get out of high school. Without giving too much away, the two have a certain connection that stems from realistic and believable care. The outlandish events of the show provide organic context that lays the groundwork for well-written discussions and emotions. It is always a chore to write for teenagers, but the Duffer brothers did so with great charm, as is the case for much of the show.
One of the greatest points of publicity for the show was the inclusion of Winona Ryder as Will and Jonathan’s single mom. After an acting hiatus caused by a publicized shoplifting incident in the early 2000s, Ryder has kept out of the public eye and has since starred in smaller roles. Although the kids are the real stars of ‘‘Stranger Things,’’ and work best as a group, Ryder had many solo scenes which were often emotionally driven, with her taking the lead in the show. Ryder isn’t exactly a renowned thespian, but it would be hard to beat Brown, the young girl who plays Eleven. Ryder played emotions rather than actions. Mad instead of upset. Crazy instead of conflicted. All in all, though, Ryder did a solid job, and this could be a promising return for the self-exiled actress.
The time period for the show could not have been any better than the 1980s. Before the Internet, during the Cold War, and after the moon landing, the sci-fi period piece is ripe for good context. The fashion in the show is constantly spot-on, not to mention the general set designs, attention to vehicles, and pop culture references. The wonderful retro feel just makes it fun to watch visually without even considering the story, as was the case in ‘‘Freaks and Geeks’’ and “Super 8.’’ The sci-fi visuals are simple yet interesting. There are a few moments of stilted CGI but are understandable with the clearly small budget. Overall, the retro style coupled with the sci-fi aspects of the show truly brings the viewer back to the ’80s (without the clichés and ridiculous hair).
‘‘Stranger Things” successfully portrayed a fresh and exciting concept while also painting a meaningful story of love and devotion. This, carried by a solid cast and incredibly encapsulating style, really makes ‘‘Stranger Things” one of the best shows of the year, and maybe one of the best shows ever. There are a few areas that the show could improve, but its completely unpredictable storyline and emotional draw will ensure its timelessness. It pulls no punches and will leave you crying for more. It will be exciting to see where the show goes in the next season. Everyone should watch ‘‘Stranger Things.” The whole series is currently available on Netflix.