“Stranger Things 4″: Vol. 1 is an Overstuffed Mess of Goodness”
“Stranger Things 4: Vol. 1” is an overstuffed mess of goodness, setting up the beginning of what is to be an epic conclusion.
“Stranger Things 4” Review
Following the events of “Stranger Things 3”, we find our group of heroes separated across state lines, with …
- Eleven (Millie Bobbie Brown) and the Byers: Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), and Will (Noah Schnapp) in California.
- Mike (Finn Wolfhard), Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), and Max (Sadie Sink) in Hawkins.
- And finally, Sheriff Jim Hopper (David Harbour) as he struggles to survive at a Soviet prison.
Soon however, a new threat in Hawkins arises, leaving a wake of bodies. This leads to our gang banding together to face this new evil from The Upside Down.
When it comes to “Stranger Things”, the success of this show has always been interesting to say the least.
Mainly because of how series creators Matt and Ross Duffer and their collaborators (directors Shawn Levy and Nimrod Antal, along with writers Caitlin Schneiderhan, Paul Dichter, Kate Trefry, and Curtis Gwinn) take tropes and influences from 80s Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror and retrofit them into the show.
We see this happen in Season 1 with the Duffers’ main influences being Steven Spielberg’s “E.T.” & “The Goonies”. For Season 2, that influence was James Cameron’s “Aliens”, as the conflict within the Upside Down escalates. But for Season 3, there was no main influence, leading the season to stumble a bit.
As for the tropes, the Duffers and company do something interesting in which they take a well-earned trope and flesh it out. I mean, just take a look at Joe Keery’s Steve Harrington. Originally a major Jock-like character, who was a bit of an asshole — he is now beloved by both fans and audiences.
Through this process of retrofitting, the Duffers and company manage to create the quintessential 80s mixtape, mixing nostalgia with subversion.
With Season 4, the Duffers and company continue this process, going back to their horror roots pulling influence from “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. As a result, the creators provide us with some suspense and tension. Along with a few twists and turns, which some fans have been expecting for a while.
As for the returning cast members …
Ryder, Harbour, Wolfhard, Matarazzo, McLaughlin, Schnapp, Sink, Heaton, Keery, alongside Natalie Dyer’s Nancy Wheeler, Maya Hawke’s Robin, Priah Ferguson’s Erica, Brett Gelman’s Murray, Cara Buono’s Karen Wheeler, and Paul Resier’s Dr. Owens, all give great performances. Each member of the cast has stepped into their role with such ease, it’s ridiculous.
Moreover, we also get some new character dynamics and chemistry such as Nancy (Dyer) and Robin (Hawke) doing some investigative work together.
However, if there ever was a standout performance from any of the returning members this season, it would be Sink as Max. This is displayed in the episode “Dear Billy” as Sink brings out a sense of vulnerability, reluctance, and perseverance while confronting Vecna in the Upside Down.
As for the newest members of the cast, one of the standouts include Joseph Quinn’s Eddie Munson, who becomes the main suspect in Vecna’s rain of terror. Quinn gives Munson, a genuine likeability one wouldn’t expect, allowing him to ease right into the group dynamic.
FLAWS & STRENGTHS:
However, due to the amount of characters on screen, some of the characters and their arcs, become jumbled.
This creates an over-abundance of storylines, leading to some falling flat. It’s most evident with Hopper’s imprisonment in Russia, where despite Harbour’s stellar performance, the storyline drags way too long.
What’s worse is that with Hopper’s resurrection, certain characters like Joyce and Murray (Bret Gelman) get redirected straight to him. Thus, removing them from the rest of the characters, and the story.
On the flip side however, it does allow the show to shine a focus on supporting characters. Like Max, who along with dealing with grief from the previous season is now targeted by the new threat in Hawkins, a fearsome creature from the Upside Down. Which forces the characters in Hawkins to act quickly as bodies begin to pile up.
All in all, Stranger Things 4: Vol. 1 is an overstuffed mess of goodness.
While the revival of certain characters, like Hopper, do put a damper on things, the Duffers and company were successfully able to return to the show’s horror roots, all while expanding the lore with new ideas that set the stage for an epic conclusion.
Combined with the standout performances from its cast, the first seven episodes of “Stranger Things 4” is a massive step-up from its previous season.
Hopefully with the last two episodes of the season, the Duffers and co are able to keep up the momentum.
We’ll see when Vol. 2 drops in July!
Score: 4 out of 5
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