Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TV Review: STRANGER THINGS (Review #2)

We are in the 80s, in the small American town of Hawking, when Will Byers (Noah Schnapp) mysteriously disappears. In the meantime a little girl (Millie Bobby Brown) without a name is found by Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). All of these events seem to be connected and what starts as a simple missing person case slowly evolves into creating a chain of events that will find Hawking's police chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) joining forces with Will's mother Joyce (Winona Ryder) to uncover what is really going on.

Admittedly, that plot synopsis doesn't cover even half of it, but there is no need to know anything going into this, I went in without having literally any idea what this was going to be and, just like the rest of the world, Stranger Things caught me deeply and by surprise. I was not expecting the best season of television I have seen in the last few years.

This is incredible storytelling, this is the next big thing, a voice so original and unique you are swept away by the power of the emotional narrative. I will quote a sentence that sums up the show so perfectly it is hard not to bring it up: "in Stranger Things the kids are in a Spielberg film, the teens in a Carpenter film and the adults are in a Stephen King film". That basically outlines the brilliance of the show in one sentence. The molding of tones and atmospheres is seamless, at no point I felt like the creators were bluntly copying off of any of their inspirations.

Many have talked about how this show is such an homage to the 80s and the storytellers of that time, but I think that that comes into play only as a consequence of the storytelling, which is why it works. The first thing these writers worry about nailing is the characters and what an incredible ensemble we are presented to. There are no stereotypes, no clich├ęs, no archetypal figures, every single on of these people is three dimensional, we get behind every character, we believe in their world and we root for them. The complexity of the dynamics that is brought to life with such clarity is indicative of the evident passion the creators had for this project.

The scene weave is just unbelievable, how plot and story manage to forward each other, building a building a narrative that grows and culminates in a beautiful resolution which once again avoids any type of predictions and presents itself as original as the whole series. Anyone accusing the writers of having excessively borrowed from the 80s is only trying to bit*h around. The originality of the series is unbelievable and it is sure to produce a great deal of imitators, just as every time such a new and fresh voice comes to life.

The writing merits here are off the charts, definitely something worth studying, and the directors deserve deep recognition for how brilliantly and completely the vision on the page is brought to the screen. The cinematography is so stylish, it molds 80s dynamics with modern technology without ever calling attention to itself. The score and soundtrack could not have been more spot on. The theme of the show encapsulates perfectly what the whole thing is about, it nails it down perfectly and when that theme is heard for the first time you will know you are in for something special.

What it also comes down to is how powerful the themes explored are thanks to a story world that lends itself so brilliantly to them. This is one of the best portrayed friendships of recent years, but the themes go well beyond that. The power of love over hate is a theme that is carried over into all of the story lines and has different manifestations in all of them and when they are all brought together the impact on the viewer is truly special. Other than being so smart and affectionate, the series was probably most memorable for me for how moving it was in its small yet powerful moments.

And we haven't even started talking about the actors yet. Whilst every single one of them deserves loads of praise on his or her own, for me the scene stealer is hands down David Harbour. I did not know he was this good of an actor, this is world class acting. He brings to life a character, subverting every possible expectation we had about him and ultimately creating a person that feels incredibly real. The only complaint I have is that Winona Ryder struggled through the first half of the show being very one note and giving a flat portrayal of her struggles.

Stranger Things was incredible, it was overwhelming in its originality and whilst I am still not sure on whether I want a season two or not, I will forever cherish the experience I had with this treasure of a tale.

James's Score: 9/10

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