A very common criticism of the modern film and television scene is that there are no new ideas. In general, it would seem that the public feels tired of recycling old materials and old ideas. However, Stranger Things has proven there is still room for nostalgia in pop culture.
Stranger Things, Netflix’s new science fiction series, is an homage to old school sci-fi horror. It takes place in a small Indiana town, and has all the trappings of what we’ve come to expect from American science fiction—a mysterious disappearance, a mysterious escape, and a mysterious creature. However, it is able to imbue these familiar elements with a sense of discovery for the audience, largely due to the skill with which the thrills have been constructed. Even when the series feels familiar, it feels as if we are watching the platonic ideal of each of the tropes that we know so well. However, the nostalgia goes a touch too far in the final episodes, when sentimentality overtakes the series and makes the series feel undeservedly self-important.
A major talking point with fans of the series has been the young cast. While many people have extolled their praises, for me they feel adequate at best. Sure, they’re cute, and yes, there’s a black one, so as a black millennial I’m supposed to be impressed… but wide eyed, open mouthed gaping for eight hours does not an award-deserving performance make. Not to say that they were bad in any way, but the young cast’s contribution, for this reviewer, was serviceable at best.
Not to say that the rest of the cast gave stunning performances either. It seems as the cast had two settings, and everyone got to pick one—they were either overwrought or simply not acting. Of course, this is not a problem localized to Stranger Things itself, as a matter of fact, through the distinct acting choices, the series is able to place itself within the canon that it owes its existence to.
Overall, Stranger Things can stand proud as one of the better Netflix original series. It’s balanced, thoughtfully structured and has an engaging enough plot to warrant a recommendation to pretty much anyone. It will be interesting to see where the series goes in light of the new power that fans have over their series future, but I have high hopes.
Jared Free is a student at NYU, where he studies acting and cinema studies.