Stranger Things Season 2 Review

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 adults are all good with the nice addition of Sean Astin as Bob Newby (the boyfriend of Winona Ryder’s Joyce). Paul Reiser is also fine as a government doctor keeping tabs on Will’s recovery.

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

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Stranger Things Series Review

stranger-things2I realized I haven’t posted in nearly a week. Sorry about that!! Make sure you are subscribed to my youtube channel where I do family movie nights (just posted review of Land Before Time) and weekly Disney Canon reviews (just did review of Fantasia 2000). Part of the reason I didn’t post anything for 6 days is there wasn’t any movies I was interested in seeing beyond Magnificent 7 and Storks which I already reviewed. But I also was kept away from the theater, busily¬† finally catching up on the new hit Netflix miniseries Stranger Things! I thought I would share with you guys some of my thoughts. Spoiler free of course.

So Stranger Things is a creation of the Duffer Brothers and directed by Shawn Levy of Night at the Museum fame (big step up for him!). Pulling from the style and lore of 80s television and movies (particularly Stephen Spielberg and Stephen King) Stranger Things tells an absorbing story with compelling characters and fantastic atmosphere.

stranger-things3Stranger Things is about a woman named Joyce (Winona Ryder) who’s son Will ends up missing. Like so many movies it is set in a small town in Indiana (go Hoosiers!) and Will is friends with a group of boys that he likes to play Dungeon and Dragons with. These boys try to find Will and they find a mysterious girl named Eleven. There is also a sheriff looking into the disappearance and teenage girl named Nancy who’s friend Barb also is lost. Nancy has relationship drama with a boy named Steve and Will’s brother Jonathan, who is creepy but likable. stranger-things-smallerThe best thing about Stranger Things is the cast. I particularly loved the kid actors. They are completely adorable but also believable as real kids. They spoke like real kids and had conflict and supported each other in realistic ways. When Lucas gets mad at Mike over Eleven it feels completely believable.

stranger-things6Millie Bobby Brown is also sensational as Eleven. She is mysterious and weird but not in the ‘creepy child from horror movie’ kind of way. You feel deeply sorry for her and much like Mike quickly want to protect her. It always seems like she is a hair away from bursting into tears but then she throws vans into the air. That mixture of strength and vulnerability really works.

stranger-things4That is also true for the teenagers who aren’t just one note bad/good guys.¬† While I liked their storylines less than the kids they still did a good job. I like that Jonathan was kind of creepy and weird and Nancy wasn’t just a damsel in distress. They could have given Barb a better storyline but you can’t have everything for every character I suppose. They were just different enough to keep you guessing.

stranger-things10Winona Ryder is fantastic as Joyce who is paranoid and crazy but is she…I don’t think she completely knows for most of the show, which makes her a compelling character. She’s a grieving frantic mother but also warm and sympathetic when she needs to be. It’s also refreshing that she isn’t given a love interest to cling on to in the show. She must be strong for herself and her family but she’s a mess at times as well. A great character!

stranger-things19David Harbour is also terrific as Sheriff Jim Hopper. He’s used to nothing big ever happening in the small town but with Will missing he faces one obstacle after another. Then Barb is gone and other strange things happen. He also has a tragedy in his past which makes him more than just the typical macho cop.

I think you can get an idea from this trailer the tone and atmosphere of the show. It is so well done. I was completely absorbed and watched it in 4 hour batches so set aside time if you do watch it. Also the music by Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon is perfect.

The cool thing is I don’t think Stranger Things is just nostalgia porn. It pays heavy homages to past properties but it is its own story with compelling characters. On its own it is as good as anything it is paying homage to and in some cases better. I think you will all love it.

As far as content there are some scares and bloody moments but nothing too bad. If you can handle a movie like Gremlins or The Burbs you will be fine. There is a little bit of language and one scene of sensuality. I would rate it pg13.

Overall Grade- A+ if it was a movie it would be in my top 10 for sure, maybe top 5