Stranger Things is the 21st century’s love letter to the geek culture of the 80s. The clever Easter eggs and more obvious references to this entertainment era make for quite the 80s retro experience.
Stranger Things is a series that the Dungeons and Dragons playing, bicycle riding, and The Clash loving segment of this generation can identify with. Drawing on influences from the great sci-fi and thriller creators of the 80s, Stranger Things shines a new light on the other-worldly entertainment genres of this decade. The Netflix series is possibly the greatest compilation of the iconic works of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg.
Virtually every scene captures the essence of what made the works of both King and Spielberg so popular in the 80s and beyond. Producer and director Shawn Levy uses the movie magic of our decade in the way Spielberg and Lucas did during the 80s. There is enough mystery and thrill invoked during the first season, and the first few minutes of the show make it clear that this atmosphere is maintained throughout the rest of the series.
In 1983 Hawkins, Indiana, the strange disappearance of Will Byers (Noah Schnapp), on his way home from a rather long campaign of Dungeons and Dragons sets a small town on a mass search. His mother, Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), and Hawkins police sheriff, Jim Hopper (David Harbour), are the first to take charge of the search for Will. As they attempt to move forward with investigating the nature of recent disappearances, including Will’s, a sinister government organization pushes back against their efforts. Will’s friends Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard), Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin), and Dustin Henderson (Gaten Matarazzo) make sense of the mystery around his disappearance using many elements of 80s geek culture.
The nature of these boys and the way in which they communicate with each other are reminiscent of the bands of misfit boys from movies such as The Goonies and Stand By Me, both stories by Spielberg and King.
When conducting their first search for Will in the woods, the boys discover a young girl named Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown), who looks to be around their ages with a shaven head. Later, they also discover something else rather peculiar about her: telekinetic powers. Eleven helps search for Will using her powers.
Will’s protective and introverted older brother Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) finds himself conducting his own search for Will with Nancy Wheeler (Natalia Dryer), Mike’s sister. In a nod to the teen romance genre, the two make an odd duo. The differences between the two become less apparent as they become dependent on each other.
What makes the style of the plot so unique is how many 80s movie genres are evident. Neatly told in 8 episodes- each around an hour long- Matt and Ross Duffer do more than copy and paste these genres into a story. Each is significant to the progression of the story. It is only when their groups combine the knowledge that they acquire from their experiences that true progress begins.
The use of CGI is apparent in the depiction of the show’s more supernatural elements. Certain critics of the use of CGI in the series have complained that in using CGI, the series has made itself less authentic to the films it was inspired by. Despite this, it is worth mentioning that the use of 21st century film tech was meant to enhance the experience for those who grew up watching sci-fi films, not to make it seem less authentic.
Stranger Things has garnered similar support in only its first season as have E.T. and film series Star Wars upon both of their releases.“Watching Stranger Things is [like] watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits. I mean that in a good way” Stephen King said about the show.
The Duffer brothers incorporate aspects of beloved sci-fi, horror, and adventure films from the 80s into Stranger Things, simultaneously creating a show that is still a work of its own.