Stranger Things 3 Review: Of course, they were gonna bring the Russians as the villains this time! Stranger Things the series, as you know, celebrates everything '80s in pop culture, and Russians were a favourite punching bag for Hollywood movies then. So this time, Stranger Things 3 not only brought the Mind-Flayer back, they even amped up the human villains in the form of a Russian military unit, a corrupt Mayor (Cary Elwes) and a few Hawkinsians gone Flayed. There is also a Terminator-like Russian henchman in a hitman-mode. So does the increase in the number of villains do any good to the show, that had a rocky previous season? Partly, yes! Stranger Things 3: These Episode Titles Will Prepare You For What's In Store in the Third Season of the Netflix Show.
Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown) might have closed the breach to the Dark Dimension, but she hasn't apparently done a good job at that. For a secret Russian military unit is looking to open the breach again for some goddamn reason. Meanwhile back in Hawkins, the kids are now teens, high on hormones and romance. Eleven's relationship with Mike (Finn Wolfhard) is still going strong but their lip-lock sessions in her room don't go down well with her adoptive father, Chief Hopper (David Harbour). Hopper himself is trying to go on a date with Joyce (Winona Ryder), but she is still mourning the death of her last boyfriend Bob Newby (Sean Astin).
Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) and Max (Sadie Sink) have become this bickering couple now, with Max getting annoyed often by Lucas' childish behaviour. Will (Noah Schnapp) is irked that his friends want to talk about girls rather play Dungeons & Dragons with him. Even Dustin, who had just returned from a summer science camp, has the same complaint, and also annoyed that they don't believe he has found a new girlfriend, Suzie, in Utah.
Nancy (Natalia Dyer) and Jonathan (Charlie Heaton), still a couple, is working at the local newspaper where Nancy is made to do menial jobs. She becomes the butt of many sexist jibes, mostly courtesy their star reporter Bruce (Gary Busey). Our favourite nanny, Steve (Joe Keery) is no longer the prom king of his gang and is now working at an ice-cream shop at the newly opened Starcourt Mall, and often gets ridiculed by his new co-worker Robin (Maya Hawke). Max's half-brother Billy (Dacre Montgomery) is now working as a lifeguard at the swimming pool and he continues to be a cynosure of all the ladies there, especially Karen Wheeler (Cara Buono), Nancy and Mike's mother.
As everyone is busy with the summer of their lives, trouble starts brewing for Hawkins when the breach gets cracked, and a new monster begins its conquest on the unsuspecting citizens. Once again, it is upto Eleven and gang to stop it from taking over the world, this time with more allies, and unfortunately, more foes too!
With Stranger Things 3, the creators Duffer Brothers and Shawn Levy, have gone bigger, badder and even creepier. The production values have become much better, the visuals continue to be top-notch and the direction is extremely steady. There are plenty of action scenes and thrills in the new season, that is set from creepy cabins to an underground hi-tech facility. The VFX is a highlight this year; the creature effects are just top-notch. While Stranger Things have never stayed away from gory effects, in season 3, they have gone on an ickier level right from episode 1. There is hardly any doubt that Stranger Things is one of the best-looking show available on the digital medium. Stranger Things 3 Brings Back ‘New’ Coke After 34 Years Thanks to Tie-Up With Beverage Company (Watch Video).
But brilliant visuals is not the main reason why we are hooked on to Stranger Things; it's the affable kids and their adventures, right? Here's where things are more of a mixed bag, especially with the writing. Well, it is pretty much more consistent than in Stranger Things 2, with thankfully, no detours like the dreaded Chapter 7 of last season. The episodes are back to eight, which is good.
But the new season doesn't get back the charm of the first one, with the character development happening on a minimal level and the gang getting split up for most of the time. Dustin, in fact, spends more time with Steve and Robin, which is not exactly a bad thing, than with his gang, who hardly seems to miss him much. Save for Eleven, none of the other teens actually see any kind of growth as a character. Like, Will's disappointment about losing his childhood doesn't really worthy payoff, though I liked that he gets to be in the middle of the action. Rather than spending time as the victim of the Mind-Flayer that he did in the last two seasons.
The Starcourt Mall and the Russian army subplots, the latter with its inherent racism, don't create the same kind of impact as the Mind-Flayer and its terrifying hold over humans (and rats, yuck-ily). The plotline is very predictable with hardly any big twists, save for one HUGE (and hilarious) one that has nothing to do with the monsters. Even the so-called surprise deaths, you can smell coming away from a mile. Eleven's powers are often used as a convenient way to get the gang out of trouble (which is why, I like how the final episode subverts things). The pacing is very uneven, with the initial episodes moving at a slow pace and the final ones going on a breakneck speed level.
The pop culture references, that range from Alien to Back to The Future, feel annoying at times; there is a little bit too much reliance on our sense of nostalgia to like what's happening on screen.
While there are problems galore, Stranger Things 3's writing is not a complete 'Game of Thrones 8' kind of a letdown. There are some good-character bonding moments, like that between Steve and Robin, a very fascinating addition to the roster. Or Lucas' scene-stealing younger sister Erica (Priah Ferguson) getting an expanded role here (and going Die Hard too), which is always a good thing here. And how can you really not like it when Eleven and Max go shopping to the beats of Madonna's "Material Girl"!
The most interesting character arc is reserved for Billy. After spending season 2 as a one-dimensional douchebag, Billy has a more integral role this time. His connection with the Mind-Flayer has plenty of uneasy moments, but we also get to know him and his background better. Dacre Montgomery gives an excellent performance here to make Billy a more rounded character.
Stranger Things had its fun moments in the past, but the third season seems to have taken a page out of Marvel and had gone all out with the jokes and gags. Sometimes they feel a bit too much, and at times, they feel quirkily out of place. Like an unexpected rendition of Limahl's "The NeverEnding Story" right in the middle of an action-packed scene. But when the actors give in the best here, we don't mind the humour in spite of its occasionally misplaced priorities.
As for the performances, the entire cast in unison puts up a terrific act together, though David Harbour, Millie Bobby Brown and Dacre Montgomery are quite the standouts. Maya Hawke, the daughter of actors Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, turns out to be a very appealing addition to the cast and her chemistry with Joe Keery is incredible.
- The Performances
- The Visuals
- The VFX
- The New Additions in the Hero Roster
- The Many Thrills and Spooks
- The Direction
- The Uneven Writing and Editing
- Character Development At Minimal
- The Human Villans
- Very Few Surprises
Is Stranger Things 3 better than season 2? Oh, yes! Is it better than the first season? Not quite there! Stranger Things 3 has most of the right ingredients to keep you enthralled - be it with its visuals, character bonding moments and some pretty good scares. Even if it loses some of the charm from the first season in the process. A pretty much binge-worthy season that you should start watching now, if you haven't already!