31 Days of Reviews: Stranger Things (season 1)

As Will Byers travels home one night, he vanishes. His small town is caught up in the mystery of his disappearance, as well as the disappearances of other citizens and the arrival of a mysterious girl with special abilities.

This review will discuss the first season of the Netflix series, Stranger Things.

When Netflix releases an original television series, it almost always causes a stir, even if it’s a small one. Stranger Things was no exception. Within a matter of days, you couldn’t go anywhere on the internet without seeing something about it. The show was recommended to me extensively by several people. It was a science fiction/horror series. I knew I had to see it.

While I was a bit late to the party, I will definitely say that Stranger Things has a bit of an addictive nature to it, similar to a lot of other Netflix originals. After seeing the first season in its entirety, I’m honestly a bit surprised that it was as popular as it was. This genre doesn’t usually bring people together like Stranger Things did. It’s been quite the phenomenon, already confirmed for a second season.

What made Stranger Things so popular? There was a definite 80s nostalgia throughout the series, set in 1984 when science fiction films were at a peak. It has plenty of homages to classic films from the era, such as E.T and Stand by Me. I got a huge The Goonies vibe mixed with a bit of Twin Peaks (not exactly from the 80s, but still). There were also a few strong nods to the Japanese cult classic Akira. The series was chock full of throwbacks.

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Stranger Things‘ popularity could be because of that nostalgia factor. Once you remove that feeling, it’s a pretty solid science fiction series. I will say it’s pretty average to be honest. The fact that it drew such a big fanbase is really surprising to me.

There were a lot of good female characters in Stranger Things. Winona Ryder plays Joyce Byers, a grieving mother who is surprisingly realistic with that grief. The way that she openly shows her feelings is somewhat off putting at first, but believable nonetheless. Natalia Dyer plays Nancy Wheeler, a teenage girl who is able to make mistakes and has a decent character arc (although this arc is at the expense of another female character.. Poor Barb). Cara Buono plays Karen Wheeler, a caring mother who desperately tries to let her children know that she’s there for them.

Eleven was a definite stand out character in the first season of Stranger Things. Played by Millie Bobby Brown, Eleven stumbles into a world that she knows little about, surrounded by people she is wary of. Her character is incredibly endearing. She seems to be a fan favorite. I’ve seen her on a lot of different merchandise.

If you’re the type of person who gets annoyed by children in movies, then you may get annoyed by Stranger Things. The main characters are a group of young boys. Their group of friends includes Will Byers, and they are completely shaken up by his disappearance, leading them on a search to find him somehow. Their search is one of the biggest homages to 80s films within the series because it’s the most constant. There are times when they will make you want to roll your eyes in frustration, and there are times when their young naivety will make you smile. It’s a toss up.

Personally, my least favorite storyline concerns Nancy Wheeler and her boyfriend Steve. I don’t like Steve. I just don’t understand. It’s not that I’m saying Nancy’s love interest should have been another established character. I just feel like after everything Steve did, Nancy was better off without him. By the end of the season, I was completely baffled by how their relationship was depicted.

I mentioned earlier that Stranger Things is pretty average. When I say that, I don’t mean that it’s bad. It’s quite good. It’s got great atmosphere and pacing. Every episode pulls you forward into something new. When I say it’s average, I’m mainly referring to the subject matter. There’s really nothing new about it. It’s still a fun ride.

I absolutely loved the concept and look of “the upside down”, which comes into play about halfway through the first season. It was a cool addition to the plot, and I wish they had spent more time there. I can only hope that season two will show us a bit more with that. This was the stand out part of Stranger Things for me.

The cinematography was fabulous. I loved all the symmetry throughout the series. As you can see in the image I’ve included above, Christmas lights play a particular role in the season, and the way they incorporated it all was just so mesmerizing. I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was. When you add together the upside down, the 80s nostalgia, and other various cinematography, Stranger Things is visually stunning.

While the series does have some scary moments, it’s really not a scary show. It leans more on the science fiction side of things. Either way, I’m still surprised that it got as much interest as it did. I’m just not used to this type of wide popularity from this genre. Maybe this will bleed over to other films and television series? Only time will tell.

The first season of Stranger Things sits at a solid 8 episodes. That’s perfect. It’s not too long, and there’s very little filler. It’s great. I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who is looking for something new to watch. Looking forward to season two!

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