[NON-SPOILER] Review: Stranger Things Is The Adult, Spiritual Remake Of E.T. You Never Knew You Always Wanted

Stranger Things has become the must-watch series of the summer for everyone who has a Netflix subscription.  Which is just about everyone.  Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, horror, thrillers, mysteries, or grew up in the 80s, there’s a lot to love in this eight-episode series.

But the thing I loved the most about Stranger Things is that it is a spiritual remake of one of my all-time favorite movies, E.T.  This is not a spoiler and I’m not revealing whether any of those stranger things deals with aliens–instead you have to think bigger.  E.T. was, at its heart, two very different movies.  It starts off as a scary movie with an unknown creature out in the wild, then it turns into a movie filled with wonder about an encounter with a being from another planet.  Then the third act mixes it all together.

Stranger Things isn’t a remake or reboot of E.T. per se, but it is highly evocative of the movie.  This is intentional–there are scenes and moments that are either directly lifted from E.T. or highly evocative of the film.  But for all of those moments the series is not E.T.  Instead, it is an adult show playing with those same themes.  The fear of the unknown.  The wonder of abilities beyond our comprehension.  The different ways people from separate generations might deal with what happens.  The pain of loss. The power of friendship.  All of this comes into play in 8 hours that cover approximately 6 days.  It’s as if the creators sat down wanting to make an adult version of E.T., but without E.T.

The show takes place in 1983 and is filled with 80s references.  You can see books and TV shows and movie posters that put us back in a more innocent time.  And when the police chief has to research using microfiche or stop at a pay phone in the middle of nowhere to get an address, you remember just how difficult some things were in the 80s.  The timing is intentional–it puts our protagonists in a world with less information than our own and also more isolated.  But the setting is almost meant to directly pay homage to E.T. and so many other 80s influences.  (The E.T. part is amusing because, taking place in 1983, E.T. has already been out and taken the world by storm–yet it’s never explicitly mentioned even once, even when it would make perfect sense to do so.)

And unlike the original E.T., which had some intense moments but was ultimately fine for kids to watch, Stranger Things is certainly not for kids.  Maybe a few kids who can handle the intensity of a horror movie, but not most.  Instead, this is for adults–most likely adults who grew up with some memories of the 80s.  If you enjoyed 80s films (E.T. in particular) and would like to see an adult reworking of those same themes, you must immediately watch Stranger Things.

Score: 10 out of 10 locked doors of curiosity.

 

ryan

Gabbing Geek co-founder, podcaster

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