Lets get a basic thing out of the way – A short review of Netflix’s ” Stranger things “, the show that is sweeping across the geeklands…
—> A “Stranger things” review by Vit.
(seriously, that all you need to know. If you have not seen it, keep the mystery on your side and jump into it.)
I mean, I could go on and on about what is so great about the show but then you already probably know. Because you have either seen it, or 80% of your geek friends are shouting about it – ALL.THE.DAMNED.TIME. But that is NOT why we are here. We are here to talk about one thing only.
NOSTALGIA and how Stranger things NAILED IT!
It is the “how” part which matters a lot in my opinion. Because unless you have been living underground in an Apocalypse cult shelter, you know that there is an EPIDEMIC OF MOVIES/SHOWS TRYING TO TO REAP OUR NOSTALGIA.
And frankly, it is getting pathetic. feels like they have no stories left to tell. In the middle of all that, Stranger things just showed everyone else HOW TO DO IT.
Stranger things gets inspired from a lot of the things that made the 80s what they were.
So many beloved shows and movies oozes through the show. It feels at times like you are in middle of Goonies, the next second you are in E.T. and then all of a sudden you are in a John Hughes movie. And each time the show rings true.
It does feel like it was shot in that era, just with better cameras. But the real reason it still works is that despite it giving feels of all those things that we loved, Stranger things has something new to tell us, something new to show us. The characters might remind us of the people we grew up watching on the big or screen.They are fresh and they create their own place in our hearts.
While the SciFi portion gives the 80s feel all the time, it is a new idea that the director and writers have manged to present in an enticing way. It also takes us back to the days before horror meant “scare thrills” and yet, avoids getting predictable. It takes us to our childhood days, but it is not about showing us exactly the things which we saw with new people.Instead, Stranger things gives us the style, the flair, the drama the way it used to be and now we miss.
This is something that these “Rebooters” seem to be missing entirely.
I DO NOT want to see the same thing again, just with new people. Why not just go back and watch what we loved in first place? I mean, I have seen all episodes of Friends about 20-25 times now. ( I KID YOU NOT) But I would NEVER EVER want a reboot of it. What I DO want is a show that made me care about the characters and their relationships the way Friends did. Nothing else is gonna capture the perfection of it again. What I would love, would be a show that is spirit of Friends, and make me feel connected to everyone on it the way it did with Friends.
But NOOOOO, somehow the lazy people in this medium has gotten into their brain that if people loved something 20 years back, they will pay for it again. It DOES NOT work that way.
Case in point – Ghostbusters 2016. What is the point of telling us the same story? With about same kinda visuals ? (Well, some would argue, worse. ) It is clearly just trying to exploit Nostalgia. And hey, GHOSTBUSTERS 2 ALREADY TRIED THAT, LOL. AND FAILED.
Some other examples of “Good reboots” are 1958s Oceans eleven and 1969s Italian job. Both of them were turned into highly successful and beloved heist movie, because the technology had evolved so much, that even though they had same concept, they were ENTIRELY DIFFERENT movies. ( PS : I do recommend the older versions if you have not seen )
And sure, sometimes copying the old things CAN WORK. SOMETIMES.
Star wars Episode VII is a good example of that. But there were lots of factors involved here, like…
- Star wars- A new hope was 38 years old already.
- The prequels had destroyed the original fan base so much, that they were willing to welcome anything to wash the prequels off.
- Despite having same plot, it introduced new characters that were interesting. And as good, if not better in my opinion.
- The movie sets up a world where you know we will get something new now. So that takes the edge off it.
But MOST of the new adaptations DO NOT have things like these going for them. There is a new wave of “gender bent” version that is sweeping the nation. Sure, i am all for gender equality and we need more representation in shows and movies. But problem is, the execution of the same is faulty. Let’s take Ghostbusters 2016 again, in an attempt to go for feminism, the movie overshot into the realms of Man hate, which I am sure could have been avoided.
Going back to Stranger things, it managed to avoid most of the traps and pitfalls that come with trying to generate “Nostalgia”.
It takes us back to a simpler time with a much different flow than what we see now that we miss. And yet, it managed to stay fresh at each turn. I can personally attest to the fact that the show kept me riveted to the edge of my seat as as I never knew what was gonna happen next.
Sure, Stranger things also kept dropping dozens of references. But unlike most shows they did not fall in to “look, LOOK, this character just mentioned something that you loved”. INSTEAD, STRANGER THINGS MADE THOSE REFERENCES PART OF THE SHOW AND THE STORY ITSELF. ( for example, “Lando”)
Stranger things also did not miss out on the essentials of a good show in trying to be a “Nostalgia fest”.
The character or plot might be nostalgic initially, but they were developed so well, that you would stop thinking about them that way pretty soon. The little team of kids initially might remind you of Goonies, but very soon you fall in love with them for themselves. Eleven might remind you of E.T early on. But immediately you realize that they are doing something different here. IT DID NOT FALL INTO THE TRAP OF EVOKING NOSTALGIA AGAIN AND AGAIN WITH THE SAME THING. Instead, it found new things to make you feel nostalgic about, and turned the previous things into something you would like for itself.
The show also doesn’t let up for a single moment. A shorter, 8 episode, format has really helped to keep it tight. And then the show ended it on a bang with a brilliant finale. One that managed to enthrall, shock, hurt and please us completely. A finale that completed the arc and yet, showed us potential of something new.
Stranger things managed to be a show that evoked Nostalgia among us like very few shows can. It took us back to our childhood, to a world and a style that clearly miss. And yet, it did with a completely new story, new set of characters, with some new variation on the lore that we adore, with some damned decent SciFi, and make it all look believable. Despite its heavy reliance on Nostalgia, Originality rang true through Stranger things. And that is something that we desperately need. In today’s world, something that is not based on a book, comics or previous movie/tv has become a rare commodity. Unfortunately, the good original work like “Stranger things” or “Zootopia” have become exception rather than the rule.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for adaptations. I mean, come on, I am writing for ” COMICADDICTS.COM “. But originality is something that must be valued very high.
You want to make a reboot/sequel of something that happened 20-30 years back? Go ahead. But be sure that you have something new to show me. Make a movie in the style of John Huges, but give me new stories and characters, and make me fall in love with them. You want to make a film-noir? Go ahead. But capture the soul of noir and tell us a new story, not just make a black and white movie with characters trying to sound mysterious every single sentence.
In times, when we get one disappointing reboot over another, all vying for the nostalgia factor, Stranger things gives us a fresh new journey , while still maintaining its wondrous 80s Nostalgia charm. Not by just taking an old formula and rehashing it, but by clever writing and using all that they could organically from that era.
TAKE US BACK THE KIND OF WORLD THAT WE GREW UP LOVING BUT TAKE ON A NEW JOURNEY, DO NOT SERVE US 30 DAYS OLD POPCORN IN A NEW TUB, BECAUSE WE LOVED THAT BATCH WHEN WE LAST VISITED YOUR THEATER!
NOSTALGIC AND YET FRESH – THAT should be your target, dear writers/directors/producers!