Andrea’s film review – Stranger Things (season 4)

Stranger Things (season 4) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali

When a young boy vanishes, a small town uncovers a mystery involving secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one strange little girl. Available to watch on Netflix.

As I am writing this, Stranger Things has become the most watched series on Netflix, so chances are that by now, a week or so after its release, you might have already seen this latest season and are now eagerly awaiting the last two episodes which will come out in about a month or so.

I don’t need to state the obvious, but I will: Stranger Things has been an absolute phenomenon. When the first season came out nobody expected this Spielbergian-80s-soaked experiment to do as well as it did. And yet somehow it managed to tap into that sense of nostalgia for the ‘80s which we didn’t know we had, while at the same time drawing in the younger crowds too, by evoking (or stealing… though they like to call them ‘’homages’’ these days) ideas, themes, scenes, images and sometimes entire plots from classic products which had proved successful enough and probably were not so well known by the new generations. And you know what? It worked.

Even if the subsequent seasons 2 and 3 were not as good and fresh as the first one, they were still decent enough to build a huge fanbase, so large and loyal in fact that now that season 4 is out, there seems to be nothing else on Netflix to talk about.

By now the so-called mythology is pretty intricate to the point that you have to have seen what came before. The cast has also got bigger, not just in terms of age, but head count too. Some of that is to the detriment of the series itself, which by now has not just lost a lot of that sense of innocence and fun, which made the original so charming, but also it’s becoming more and more wrapped up in itself and its convoluted story.

As for the large cast, the most obvious consequence is that a lot of the characters seemed to have suffered by being squeezed out and reduced to nothing (Will and Jonathan are the main victims of that). They have also been separated from one another in their own separate subplots. This exposed the fact that the series is clearly stronger when it brings all its strands and characters together. The last episode indeed showed how much better things are when all the plots converge and all our heroes act together.

It feels to me that the series has been so successful that it’s been allowed to indulge itself pretty much in every single department. There’s a lot of money on that screen and it shows. It has to be said, the production values of season 4 are really high. The series looks impressive, both in the way it’s filmed and the way it’s been put together. In the first episode for example there’s a great scene where a game of Dungeons & dragons is intercut with a game of basketball. Film making at its best and it is a beauty to behold, which can rival any film out of Hollywood on the big screen.

However, while some of that excess has clearly paid off, too often it gave the film makers a licence to draw things beyond what should be allowed. The average length of each episode seemed to get longer and longer and while audiences have been asking for more and more, some focus and being a bit more rigid would have certainly helped the meandering nature of pretty much every episode. A lot of that seemed to me very indulgent. Even that above-mentioned intercut, however beautiful and crafty, was pretty irrelevant considering where it’s all heading to.

Just because you can (extend each story to however long you want to) it does not mean that you should.

It’s a dangerous path to follow and I’m wondering if it can sustain this bloated form for too long.

I wouldn’t want it to echo the indulgent expansion of its home network, Netflix itself, which all of a sudden imploded and lost millions in the process.

But clearly with the viewing figures they have for this series, it’s hard to imagine any course correction at this point.

People seem to crave for more and more anyway and we know that hundreds of millions will turn up to see the last two episodes on the first of July, which will be 1 hour and 25 and 2 hours and 19 respectively.

And despite its shortcomings (I mean, let’s not talk about the script and that final speech from the “baddie” who basically explained the whole plot and why he’s doing the things he’s doing in the most contrived way…) I will be one of those glued to the screen too (hopefully a bit less bored) to see how it all ends…

But of course, it’s not going to end, because season 5 has been announced for next year.

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick

Stranger Things (season 4) is available to watch on Netflix

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

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