I've made no secret of the fact that I loved the JJ Abrams film Super 8. Aside from the fact that the film takes place during the year I turned six years old, the child actors were amazing. I also liked the sci-fi edge. It felt like one of the Steven Spielberg movies of the 1980s. This is why I should have known I'd love Netflix's Stranger Things.
Stranger Things also has amazing kid actors. I love that rather than choosing a cast of boring attractive kids, the main cast all has a bit of a quirky look to them. And their acting is phenomenal.
There's so many things you can point to about this show and commend. The story, the setting, the acting, or the music which is phenomenal. I do love the 80s bands playing on radios in the background throughout, but it's the awesome retro-electronic score that really impressed me.
But the setting. Like Super 8, I've got to term it Nostalgia Porn. Maybe I'm just hitting an age where I get a serious kick out of revisiting that time. It's not that I think the 80s was better than now, it's not that I had such a great time back then. Maybe it's just that I can appreciate a setting that's all about a time I've lived through that is not now. From my perspective, a large part of what makes a setting a setting are the differences between it and whatever exists here and now, in my own place and time. We get tons of different places, whether they're Russia, the bottom of the ocean, or Mars. But usually when a show takes place in a different time, it's future-science-fiction or distant-past, like Medieval times or World War 2. And while perhaps to someone of my parents' age, WW2 isn't that distant of a past, it feels that way to me because it happened thirty years before I was born. But the eighties, that's my nostalgia hotspot.
And even more than just the time frame of the setting, the filmmakers here have put more thought into film references than I can shake a stick at. And I'm really good at shaking sticks. There are references, both subtle and overt, to Close Encounters, Goonies, Aliens, The Thing, Stand By Me, and Firestarter. And I know that for every one I caught, two went over my head. If you've seen the show, you'll realize at this point that I've left out the one movie to which Stranger Things had the most references of all: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Right down to the scene at the very beginning with the kids playing Dungeons & Dragons.
Nostalgia Porn really isn't new, and it's not going away any time soon. The upcoming Ready, Player One movie is going to be an 80s motherlode. And it's directed by Spielberg. I only hope that such a film can live up to my very high expectations.