Even though season 2 of Stranger Things came out just under 2 weeks ago I feel like I am woefully late in logging this review. Most of the world binge watched it in the first weekend but I didn’t have the time and I hate binge watching so I just finished today and I thought I would share with you my response. First, I loved the original because of the intriguing story, nostalgic atmosphere, and the strong performances. This second season was entertaining but for me it fell short of that first season.
Let’s talk about the strengths first. The biggest one is the performances. The kids are all so great and have amazing chemistry with each other. These feel like real kids with unique personalities, bonds and conflicts. As a child of the 80s I can’t help but think back to my friends while watching and the adventures we would have in our neighborhood riding our bikes and pretending in our backyards. Noah Schnapp as Will does a particularly nice job portraying a child trying to sort out his time in the Upside Down. Millie Bobby Brown is fantastic as Eleven and Gaten Matarazzo couldn’t be cuter as Dustin. Sadie Sink is a nice newcomer as Maxine (or Madmax as the boys call her). All the kids are great and completely adorable.
The returning teens are also all good with Natalia Dyer as Nancy, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan and Joe Keery as Steve (he steals the show as the assistant for Dustin hunting down a monster). The one miss for me was Dacre Montgomery as Billy, Max’s racist brother. I didn’t really see the purpose of his character except to just be racist and not take care of Max. I thought he might get eaten by the monsters in some humorous way but no such luck. He was just there to be an unused bad guy from what I could see.
The atmosphere is also really good with terrific music and dialogue that works. The one exception of that was episode 7 that focuses on Eleven and her sister Eight. These characters remind me of the gang in Chappie, which if you know me that is not a good thing. They were very annoying, and I feel like the episode didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know about Eleven aside from giving her a chance at revenge and not taking it. It felt superfluous to me.
Now let’s talk about the parts I didn’t like as much. In the first season the Upside Down is a total mystery. We know Will is gone and all of these strange things keep happening, so when for example Joyce is making an alphabet wall with Christmas lights to communicate with her son it is tense and we as a viewer have no idea what is happening. She could be insane or it could be leading to something sinister? We must keep watching to find out.
There are so many elements of mystery in the first season that kept me engaged and excited. Who is 11? What happened to Barb? What is the strange government facility etc? For the first 3 or 4 episodes of season 2 they do a good job continuing to build mystery by having Will’s character experience new fears and pain. They try to have a similar scene to the lights on the wall by having Will draw a puzzle that gets put together all over the walls and it mostly works if a little repetitive. They also have Nancy and Jonathan looking into Barb’s disappearance and Dustin finding a new mysterious life-form. All of this works pretty well and is entertaining. The problem is eventually Dustin’s life form turns into a monster called a demogorgon and the narrative changes to a standard monster movie.
It kind of reminded me of the movie I am Legend, which is so fantastic for the first 45 minutes when Will Smith is alone and the unknown surrounds him. It is scary and full of surprises. Then the zombies appear and it becomes pretty generic and lame. That’s how I felt about season 2 of Stranger Things
Part of the problem is we get too much of the monsters (as in I Am Legend). Creatures are more scary when we don’t see them and I think you can tell from the image above these monsters are pretty cheesy looking and they are in packs so we see a lot of them. I can enjoy a monster hunting people scene. I love Jurassic Park after all, but it just felt less special than the mystery of the first season. Monsters on the prowl in a hospital with intermittent electricity is fun but not something you speculate about for weeks amongst your friends.
So all in all, I had a good time watching Stranger Things 2. The acting alone makes it worth a watch, but I don’t think it will be something that will stay with me like the first season did especially the last half of the season that got monster-heavy.
I seem to be in the minority with this view but what else is new! LOL. What about you? What did you think of Stranger Things season 2? Which season do you prefer?
Overall Grade- B