Stranger Things – Welcome to Hawkins, 1980
‘Stranger Things’ created by the Duffer Brothers was released on July 15, 2016. It is a science-fiction series released by Netflix that revolves around the disappearance of a child called Will and, the sudden appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities, called Eleven; in the imaginary town of Hawkins .
The show is lead by an ensemble including prominent actors like – Winona Ryder as Joyce, Will’s mother and David Harbour as Jim Hopper, the sheriff. The rest of the ensemble includes – Mike, Dustin and Lucas, the over-zealous teenagers who are avidly searching for their lost friend; Nancy, Steve and Jonathan, the high-schoolers stuck in a love triangle and lastly, Eleven and Will. In season two, we have Maxine, who destroys the zealous teenagers at their arcade game and her step-brother Billy who is basically Biff from Back to the Future, but with longer hair.
The entire series could have been easily been a rip-off and a repetition of 1980’s supernatural/sci-fi movies, however, the manner in which these elements have been carefully incorporated, makes it a gem of a show. It has a hoard of obvious influences such as – E.T, Poltergeist, Close encounters of the third kind, Alien, The Shining and the many more. Despite clearly including them in the show and having the characters being influenced by them; the show and characters manage to be different and interesting. This is actually because of the influences – the characters are a wonderful amalgamation of different characters taken from Spielberg’s, King’s (adaptations) and other collections of 80’s films.
There comes a point in season 2, when Steve and Billy have a showdown which is a reminder of the one between Marty Mcfly and Biff’s from ‘Back to the Future.’ However, Steve was not always the good guy, he was rude and jock-ish – like, one of the Socs – a tamed version, though . Eleven is a lot like E.T but a girl with a very mulit-layered personality and background story. Similarly, a lot of the characters take from their stereotypical predecessors, with a twist and a pinch or sometimes a handful of influence from several other similar characters . Thus, it results in layered characters with unique personalities and a strong ensemble that holds the show together.
It takes effort to characterise and build and ensemble. It is also necessary to understand how the characters fit in together. These characters are so effectively crafted, that they seamlessly work together. Each character is established in season one and their relationship to one another. Their introduction involves them bouncing off each other i.e. personalities shown by how they react to one another. In season 2, these characters are taken forward and new relationships and kindled which has us rooting for them even more – Steve and Dustin, Lucas and Max, Mike and Will (it was not explored much in season 1). We see how they grow and develop. We love them, sometimes hate them but always come back to these characters.
The science-fiction and horror element to the film too has been taken from the same influences, which makes us feel the nostalgia and a sudden connection and affinity to the show. It appeals all age groups too. First, kids and young adults are all able to relate to the teenagers and high-schoolers going on a adventure, defying their parents in a “land unknown”. Adults are able to relate to Joyce and Hopper becoming heroes to save the town and the children. The idea of a different dimension is explored very well that the Demogorgon, (taken from Dunches and Dragons); a powerful Villain makes us all fear the unknown power of that dimension. The series starts off with scientists running for their lives from a creature we don’t see. Hence, from the very beginning it is established that this creature is something beyond the control of the very people (scientists) who might have a way to stop it. Hence, we begin to fear it and do so till the very end. \
Thus, Stranger Things is a must-watch! It is a great show and I can safely say it is one of the best I have seen in the past years. It is wisely crafted, has a well-built story-line and gripping characters. Do not miss it for the world!