Strange Things…More Like “Sampled Things”

Stranger Things. Photo courtesy of Netflix

The ignorance of youth has never been more glaring.

To be clear and to make it official, Michael Bay is officially off the hook. Any and all shorthand for lazy directing or story now belongs to the Duffer Brothers. The duo, and Stranger Things 3 is New Coke in every way.

To have the hubris not only to compare their work to the material that they’re aping, and do it so brazenly, is not only disrespectful, it changes the manner in how you watch the latest season of Stranger Things. There are some highlights amid the many missteps, but it would’ve led to a better viewing experience not to have its flaws pointed out so glaringly. Truly, the Duffer Brothers have a Duffer Brothers problem.

I imagine the outline for the season was laid out for the writers in this fashion: the kids for Stand by Me are playing out a music video to Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.” As it begins to get too sad, we see the story of Red Dawn fused with The Thing, and only because we’ve seen Eleven save the day two seasons in a row, Magnum P.I. is going to get the win here, except he has to beat The Terminator first, and to have a duet of The Neverending Story in the fog of war, that’s what hack YouTube sketches are made for.

The pacing and the arc of the season plays like a retro Resident Evil, complete with zombies, hallways, bloody hospitals, desolate communal areas, and flickering lights aplenty. It’s as if every level…err…location, had a checklist of all those same accoutrements making them even less uninspired than originally conceived. 

Openly admitting theft isn’t homage, it’s just plain lazy. The Duffers make Ernest Cline—an American novelist (Ready Player One), slam poet, and co-writer for the Steven Spielberg-directed film adaptation of the novel—seem inspired. This is the exact reason why it makes it okay for George R.R. Martin to take however long he needs to create the vivid worlds he creates.

Unfortunately, all that said, the gang is a good hang when it finally gets there, but even that was almost wasted due to all the yada-yadaing the Duffers did. 

All that credit goes to the actors who bring these cliched characters to life. Imagine how much better the series would be if that much investment were put into every facet of the production as if people were going to see it.

I don’t like it but the only reasonable excuse for this sloppiness is changing the show’s demographic from Gen-Xers and Millenials selling nostalgia wholesale to actual teenagers. Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard have become teen idols, so screen time has become more important than character development and it shows.

The brightest spot this show has is the surplus of strong female characters. Sure, Eleven (Nancy Wheeler), a main character, doesn’t take no for an answer but Robin (Maya Hawke) and Erica Sinclair (Priah Ferguson) completely stole the season. Quips and jokes are requisite, but these were the only characters that were fully fleshed-out with motivations and backstory while broadening spectrum. It’s easy to pair Stranger Things 3 with a Fourth of July meal: you’re going to overindulge on junk food that you know is not good for you, but it comes once a year so, why not? Just have your antacids ready.

 

JP Spence
JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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