Stranger Things 4 — now streaming on Netflix — is bigger than ever, that’s for sure. Nearly every chapter in the seven-episode Volume 1 is over 70 minutes long, with Stranger Things Season 4 Episode 7 ending in 100 minutes. Because of the three-year gap between the seasons, the kids have grown up more than ever. I can imagine some viewers being upset about how certain actors have carried their characters. They’re so obviously big that Stranger Things 4 ends up using a de-aging technique on teenagers for flashback scenes, a tactic typically reserved for older actors like Robert De Niro or Samuel L. captain marvel, While it revisits some old horrors in places, Stranger Things 4 also throws more CGI monsters at us.
But in trying to become bigger, slimmer and taller than ever, strange things 4 — still run by producers Matt and Ross Duffer aka The Duffer Brothers as principal writers and primary directors — feels a lot like standard genre stuff like myself. The big problem, though, isn’t that the new season of the hit Netflix series is formulaic. is that it is in its lack of joy and humour. Stranger Things 4 is so steeped in its plot that it forgets what made last season so exciting. No malls are hijinks (stranger things 3) here, nor any Ghostbusters-type nostalgia (weird things 2) Efforts to bring the proceedings to life on Stranger Things 4 are few and far between.
The highlight comes at the start of the season, when a new character wonders how they plan to kill the giant and dangerous new thing – once again inspired by Dungeons & Dragons – from the Upside Down. Season 3 entrant Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) explains that he has gone through this sort of thing before, unlike him, more than once. “Mine was related to human flesh, their smoking was related,” Robin says. Stranger Things 4 is essentially making fun of itself, and how every season brings with it a new crazy thing. Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) says they usually trust this girl who has super powers, but she’s out now. To an outsider, the gang looks completely insane. Stranger Things 4 could have done with more of these self-referential moments.
Unfortunately, there are bigger problems. Due to the writing choices made this season or last, some characters have little work to do on Stranger Things 4. Others are entirely on their own, or completely mired in tangent subplots. Netflix The show’s universe has expanded so much — but instead of being a boon, it’s a curse. Stranger Things 4 feels dissatisfied as a result. It takes a while to get the gang back together, and those parts unfold as the wheels spin. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it the table setting for the fifth and final season, but it sure is bloated. I enjoyed some parts of Stranger Things 4, and I reminisced through other parts. Unfortunately, the latter trumps the former by a considerable amount.
At times, it seems that Stranger Things 4 is more interested in lowering audience expectations, rather than in delivering a story where its ensemble is back together.
Of course, it doesn’t help that the episodes are so long. And while the seven-episode Volume 1 may look like it’s about 80 percent through Season 4, it’s not. The final two episodes are film-length, with director and executive producer Sean Levy revealing that they are longer than the two Ryan Reynolds films – action-comedy free guyand sci-fi adventure Adam Project – He formed during the three-year hiatus of Stranger Things. This means that Volume 1 could be close to two-thirds of the way through. This is a long endgame. But critics were not given access to them, so this review only deals with Volume 1.
After the first eight minutes that Netflix has already revealed — in a media race tease whose mystery is solved much later in the new season — Stranger Things 4 jumps to present day. And by the present day I mean 1986. Six months into the Battle of Starcourt Mall, Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) counts down the days she’s away from her boyfriend Mike Wheeler (Finn Wolfhard). Through a letter to Mike, she tells us what is happening to everyone in the family. Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder), who moved Eleven and her kids Will (Noah Schnapp) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) to California at the end of Stranger Things 3, is working from home. Will gets into painting, and Jonathan and his new best friend Argyll (Eduardo Franco) “love to smoke smelly plants together.”
Meanwhile back in Hawkins, Mike is preparing to head to California for spring break to see Eleven. Dustin Henderson (Gateon Matarazzo) is hacking his school scores with his long-distance girlfriend Suzy (Gabriella Pizzolo). Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max Mayfield (Sadie Sink) have broken up, the latter deeply affected by the death of their brother Billy at the end of Stranger Things 3. Max is back to his cold self, while Lucas finds himself on the basketball team, tired of being bullied and the girls laughing at him. Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) has a girl problem of his own, while his platonic friend Robin Buckley (Maya Hawke) is trying to take a girl out, though he’s not sure she’s even gay. A major new entrant to the gang is Eddie Munson (Joseph Quinn), an outgoing Hawkins High senior and founder of Hellfire Club, a Dungeons & Dragons playgroup.
A series of deaths at Hawkins triggered an investigation – by both the police and our gang. But the group is split this time, as you can tell, half of them are in (at least) California. Stranger Things 4 also brings the Satanic panic that gripped America in the ’80s, with a group of jocks hunting Hawkins’ students as they joined D&D. (It would be dumb and hilarious if it weren’t based on a real thing.) Easy parallels can be drawn here to the culture conflict in America today. Meanwhile, after finding a terrifying doll in the mail, Joyce begins her own investigation. And going on for the second year – after the Marvel movie Kali Mai — David Harbor finds himself in a Russian prison. Except he’s not a superhero, and neither is his protector.
Beyond the many adventures it thrusts the gang on, Stranger Things 4 also seeks to investigate Eleven’s traumatic past. Born as an experiment, she responds to any trigger with physical violence. And after losing his powers on Stranger Things 3, Eleven tries to get them back in the new season. But Stranger Things 4 doesn’t really let Eleven question whether she needs the powers. Her violent reactions are proof that she needs to break away from her past. Instead, Eleven does the opposite for itself on Stranger Things 4. On some level, it looks like Eleven has a savior complex. Additionally, the Eleven’s Stranger Things 4 arc contributes more to the narrative requirements of the season, rather than being an in-depth examination of its formative years.
In fact, plot is so prioritized on Stranger Things 4 that, at times, it seems like the Netflix series doesn’t really have time for conversation. The characters would have honest, revealing moments before any other character who was listening to them would reset it to focus on the story.
And though Stranger Things 4 is tangled up in the early stages, it loses steam deeply in seven-episode Volume 1. Not only is there too much plot, it’s not always natural to do all the jumping between different threads. Stranger Things 3 wrought itself into a corner, looks like it’s headed backwards. It expanded its world beyond Hawkins, though I’m not sure how much meaning I see in it now, having watched seven episodes of a show that struggles for encouragement and further momentum outside Hawkins plot threads. Hawkins still does a lot strange thingsBut there’s a lot going on outside of it as well. And it apparently doesn’t help that some of those threads spin around.
Mike, Will and Jonathan are essentially eliminated from the show. Joyce and Murray (Brett Gelman) go on an adventure, while Eleven is too much on its own. And Hopper was separated from these people only at the end of Stranger Things 3. While the bulk of the gang is still working together in Hawkins, it’s not as exciting, joyous, or enjoyable as last season. What we have left – at least in Volume 1 – is unfortunately an unconvincingly poor show. One that’s trying to go in different directions, but doesn’t always have room for it, despite the insane runtime above. I’m afraid Stranger Things 4 has grown too big for its own good.
Stranger Things 4 Premiere Friday, May 27 12:30pm IST / 12am PT on Netflix in India and worldwide.
Cover Image Full Caption (LR): Eduardo Franco as Argyll, Charlie Heaton as Jonathan Byers, Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven, Noah Schnapp as Will Byers, and Finn Wolfhard as Mike Wheeler in Stranger Things 4 in