The two final episodes of Stranger Things season 4 came out on Netflix last Friday, July 1st, at 9:01 a.m. For many fans of the show, it felt like a major event. But are these episodes really worth the wait, especially since they respectively run for almost one hour and a half, and more than two hours? The first seven episodes of Stranger Things season 4, which cost a whopping $30 million each and lasted more than 9 hours total, have not really convinced us so far. The special effects used in the series are pharaonic and costed more per episode than the series Game of Thrones. Are they enough to give us a thrill though?
In this fourth opus, the crew of youngsters composed by Finn Wolfhard (Mike Wheeler) and Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), among others, has grown up. But their usual concerns remain intact – teenage love stories, basketball games, and lots of mood swings. It is hard to follow their playacting, as the narrative feels like a draft and the transition to the “upside down” is not always well-led. As much as we love Winona Ryder, her neurasthenic role in Stranger Things is far from being the best one of her career. As for listening to Kate Bush in actress Sadie Sink’s ears, it is not enough to move us.
The main problem with this ultra- repetitive fourth season is the lack of inventiveness, emotions, and exciting sequences. Stranger Things’ forte being its slick and sublime vintage aesthetic, it once again plays on to the 1980s cult atmosphere. With a marvelous synthetic soundtrack, colorful clothes, dubious hairstyles, and strong references to Dungeons and Dragons, the magic still works but remains over-used. As for the main plots and dialogues, season 4 is rather poor and you often feel like you are watching Riverdale rather than Stranger Things. Not to mention the issues regarding the general rhythm, the lack of clarity in the storyline, and the strange mixing of genres that take us from a remake of a political thriller evoking Russia to that of a cheesy 80s teen comedy – have in mind the cult and soapy Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).
“We’ve got some deaths and some gore coming”, actor Noah Schnapp told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show about this new season. The teenage gang faces a new enemy: the terrifying wizard Vecna. But anyone who has ever watched films and series from the 1980s, such as A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Alien (1979), Tales From the Crypt (1989), E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Gremlins (1984), Ghostbusters (1984) or The Goonies (1985), is aware of the kind of entertainment Stranger Things season 4 has in store. The only real joyful find of this big- budget magma? The rather funny and cool character of Eddie Munson (the irresistible Joseph Quinn), a joker and metal fan like we have in films like Wayne’s World (1992) and Airheads (1994). The latter brings a bit of spice, freshness, and rock'n'roll jokes to a season that remains on the surface in terms of deep emotions.
As for the rest, the fan service – a practice consisting in intentionally adding unnecessary material to please the fans’ passion and fantasies – kills any creative impulse or stylistic innovation. The last two episodes, quite well-done formally (with Stranger Things, aesthetics always take precedence over substance) but made of horrific violence and abusive length, change nothing. It is better to revisit masterpieces from the 1980s that tell the story of teenage years torments with grace, such as The Lost Boys (1987), Stand by Me (1986), The Breakfast Club (1985), Rumble Fish (1983) or The Outsiders (1983), than to wait for season 5 or for the spin-offs of the sci-fi series already planned by Netflix.
Stranger Things season 4, available now on Netflix.