- What it’s Like to Be Best Friends with Spider-Man
- ‘Stranger Things’: The Movie Influences of 1985
- How Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘Stranger Songs’ Fits Into the Stranger Things Narrative
Posted: 01 Jul 2019 02:03 PM PDT
Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has a lot to deal with in his life, which means having a friend he can truly trust in and count on is crucial. That's where Ned (Jacob Batalon) comes in, as Peter's classmate and secret identity-keeper is there for him whenever he needs it, whether he's wearing his Spider-Man mask or not.
The newest Spidey film, Spider-Man: Far From Home finds Peter, Ned, and their classmates going on a European trip – though trouble soon follows, as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) recruits Peter to fight alongside new hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) against a ferocious new threat called the Elementals.
Fandom spoke to Jacob Batalon to find out more about Ned's perspective on life as a superhero BFF.
Everyone knows Peter Parker believes that with great power comes great responsibility, but what does Ned think are his responsibilities?
Batalon explained that when Far From Home begins, and Peter and Ned embark on an oversees trip with their classmates, "I feel like Ned’s priority is to make sure Peter has a good time in Europe. The whole thing is trying to get his mind off MJ and be a bachelor. It's kind of a funny, bro thing to do for him but really he's just being his best sidekick and making sure he has the best things going for him."
On the other hand, Batalon stressed that at the end of the day, when it comes to Peter's potential, "Ned believes in Peter with all his heart. He definitely believes in Peter's abilities. He knows that he's fought all these monsters and knows what to do."
NED IN DANGER (AND LOVE)
Being Spider-Man comes with plenty of danger, but Batalon notes, "In [Spider-Man: Homecoming], it wasn't really affecting anyone besides Peter. Ned was just excited about the idea of helping Peter beat the bad guy.”
So how does Ned react as things get much more precarious right in front of him in Far From Home? Said Batalon, "He's genuinely afraid of dying so I think the idea of him actually being in the middle of all the action really does terrify him. He really wants to make sure none of their friends die and Peter doesn't die. It's a really scary thing for Ned in this one."
The actor noted that as things escalate, "It's all literally happening around him and he's like 'This is maybe not what I signed up for.'"
While Ned may worry about those battles, Batalon stressed they are very exciting to shoot, remarking, "It's really fun to be part of those sequences. This is such a level up from Homecoming. Everything is so much bigger and crazier. Just being part of making these special effects happen and on practical sets is really, really fun."
In Far From Home, we also see Ned began a romance with classmate Betty Brant (Angourie Rice), which Batalon described as, "A really sweet, cute relationship. It's a really nice side plot in the movie that people get to enjoy as well as the action. Ned and Betty are so adorable together. They're both really young and being very cutesy and gooey."
DEALING WITH THE AFTERSNAP
Spider-Man: Far From Home very notably picks up after Ned, Peter, and many of their classmates have returned following Thanos' infamous snap in Avengers: Infinity War and the Avengers successfully bringing everyone back five years later in Avengers: Endgame.
Batalon said that for Ned and his friends, "It's something they are sort of in denial about. As teenagers, they don't know how to deal with the idea of them being dead for five years. The beginning of the film is really them getting on with their lives, getting on with their new friends. I think Ned uses the trip as another thing to look forward to after all the bad things that have happened to them."
Far From Home deals with the situation with pointed humor, and Batalon acknowledges that if you dig deep, "It's really, really devastating. I think it's such a deep, crazy thing about life that kids that age shouldn't be dealing with and the fact that they've gone through it and realized five years have passed and they didn't feel it pass, that's just mind-blowingly crazy. That's a really intense way to introduce death to young kids. It's a really heavy subject, I think, and I think we deal with it in a good, mature way."
PART OF THE MCU
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become, in just over a decade, one of the most successful and beloved film franchises ever. When it came to having a role in it, Batalon remarked, "It's honestly crazy to think about. It's unbelievable to know you're part of something so much bigger than yourself. I think most of the time, you don't ever think about the impact you have on other people. You think you're just some other character on some other movie. But it's also part of this bigger universe that everyone loves. Sometimes it's unbelievable to have fans tell you you're great or funny or inspiring or something like that. Because you don't think about other people when you're doing your job. You just do your job. It's truly an honor being a part of this."
As for what character in the MCU Batalon would love to to see Ned encounter, the actor went for a deep cut – and, we're guessing, a personal favorite actress – when he brought up Natalie Dormer's pre-Game of Thrones role as Private Lorraine in the World War II-set Captain America: The First Avenger.
When it was pointed out that there likely would need to be some time travel shenanigans involved for Ned to possibly meet Lorraine, Batalon said, with a laugh, "If I can somehow find Natalie Dormer, that would be amazing!"
Spider-Man: Far From Home opens Tuesday, July 2nd.
Posted: 01 Jul 2019 10:41 AM PDT
The Stranger Things squad is back — returning to Netflix for Season 3 on July 4 — and this time the unlikely heroes of Hawkins, Indiana are headed into the summer of 1985, hitting the downtown mall, enjoying the local carnival, and doing their damndest to stop more Demogorgons from decimating their world.
Stranger Things frequently reflects 1980s pop culture history, while also being heavily influenced as a show by said pop culture, containing both moments that directly reference actual movies, TV shows, and games from the past and scenes that act as loving homages. So while the boys are dressing up like Ghostbusters and naming the Upside Down creatures after D&D monsters, the show itself is also constantly calling back to the '80s – even with several of its very purposefully cast adult characters.
Given this, we're looking back at what some of the biggest properties in 1985 were – various stories and sagas that not only would have likely have made huge impressions on the characters from the show, but possibly influenced Season 3's blueprint to boot. Will the kids bring up any of these films? Will they dress up like any new heroes? Let's travel back to the summer of '85 and check out what was big.
Richard Donner's awesome '80s adventure about wise-cracking kids trying to save their seaside Oregon neighborhood from Mind-Flaying – er – real estate developers, is nostalgic royalty and Stranger Things is overflowing with Goonies-influenced antics and chemistry, including Season 2's inclusion of Goonies star Sean Astin as Joyce's ill-fated boyfriend, Bob.
As of June 1985, the Stranger teens would have had a chance to actually see The Goonies in theaters and perhaps think, "Hey, that ragtag ensemble of children in the movie may be hunting treasure and not interdimensional demons – but the similarities are still striking! And that main kid looks like the kid version of our dead buddy, Bob!"
RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II
Gun-toting, buffed-out action stars were just reaching their pumped-up peak in 1985 – particularly Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. With Arnold landing The Terminator in '84, and then Commando in '85 (granted, in October), he was just breaking into true super-stardom.
Meanwhile, Stallone floored fans with both Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV in 1985. Since it's the summer, these kids would have only seen Rambo though, and – honestly – if we're talking "one-man-army carves through his enemies like a hot knife through butter" then there's no one more '80s iconic than John Rambo, his red headband, and his massacring M60.
In fact, even though the story-so-far has taken place before Rambo and Commando, there have been nods (Lucas' headband, gearing up montages, etc) to both films.
BACK TO THE FUTURE
It certainly wouldn't be Summer '85 without Robert Zemeckis' pitch perfect time-travel tale, Back to the Future – an exemplary blend of sci-fi, humor, and heart. Depending on what part of the summer Season 3 begins in (BTTF came out July 3, and the trailers make it clear the 4th of July is included), the Stranger squad could either be flying in McFly afterglow or eagerly trying to see the movie.
If they do watch it though, will one of them try and come up with a time travel solve for Hawkins' latest Upside Down debacle? Could this series, given the extent of Eleven's powers and the implications of crossing through a mirror dimension, start to dabble in space/time manipulation? By this point, not just with Back to the Future but also with The Terminator, time travel was on the frontlines of pop culture.
THE BREAKFAST CLUB
By 1985, many moviegoers knew who John Hughes was, in the wake of the filmmaker penning National Lampoon's Vacation and writing and directing Sixteen Candles, but The Breakfast Club, which came out that February, mirrors the Hawkins gang the most, telling the story of high school students from different walks of life finding common ground, and friendship, during a day of detention.
Most notably, you'll find Breakfast Club elements in Steve, the popular rich kid, now being good friends with the likes of Dustin and the other "losers." Normally, this type of character would have devolved into a villain by now, but they chose to redeem Steve at the end of Season 1 and then also not have him not be a vile idiot in Season 2 after being dumped by Nancy. Steve is definitely living his best Breakfast Club life.
ROMANCING THE STONE / JEWEL OF THE NILE
Stranger Things creators, the Duffer Brothers, already handed EW a list of movies that greatly influenced Season 3, and they're all over the place. Some come from earlier in the '80s, some later. Some even from the '90s.
But mixed in with Fast Times at Ridgemont High (there is a prominent shopping mall in Season 3) and grotesque horror classics like The Thing and films from David Cronenberg's cult catalog is Romancing the Stone – which came out in '84. The rushed, and nowhere near as good, sequel, Jewel of the Nile premiered in '85 though. So how do these these swashbuckling rom-coms figure into Season 3's tapestry?
Well, there are quite a few love connections in Stranger Things. From Mike and Eleven to Nancy and John to Lucas and Max (and maybe even Hopper and Joyce), Season 3 definitely seems to be about everyone growing up, moving on, and trying to leave the past behind. Especially since that past is quantifiably terrifying.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
A holdover from Fall of '84 (it opened in November of that year, after the brunt of Season 2's events, minus the Snow Ball) A Nightmare on Elm Street's idea of deadly dream invasions intersects with a lot of Stranger Things story elements – from Eleven's cross-dimensional trips to Will's tragic connection to the Upside Down and the visions he's constantly cursed with.
Plus, we know how much the O.G. Things quartet loves Halloween so this film would have been right up their alley and we wouldn't be surprised if one of them made more than a few Freddy Krueger references.
Summer of '85 sci-fi flick D.A.R.Y.L. (which stands for Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform) never reached "classic" status or remained within our popular lexicon, but it's all about secret government projects and people trying to help out an outcast kid (in this case, a robot) fit in/find a family/achieve a goal.
It smacks not only of Eleven and the MKUltra Project, but also Will's side effects from the Upside Down and how he's never really been the same since being trapped there in Season 1.
Stranger Things 3 premieres July 4th on Netflix.
Posted: 01 Jul 2019 07:13 AM PDT
In a career that dates back to 2005, the musician and songwriter Ingrid Michaelson has released nine albums – including two which have reached the Billboard Top 10. When it came to her latest project, she wanted to approach songwriting in a different way. Which resulted in Stranger Songs, an album inspired by the characters, events and emotions depicted in Stranger Things.
Naturally, Eleven is the subject of many of the songs, but their scope extends from the show's key players right through to those on the periphery of the story. Musically, it leans towards vibrant electro-pop and elegant ballads, but their contemporary style is influenced by some 1980s-flavoured sonics. Much like Stranger Things itself, Stranger Songs has a clear love and respect for the era, but it could only have been made in the present day.
We spoke to Ingrid to explore how each song was informed by the world of Stranger Things, and how they fit into a timeline of the show's narrative.
This feature contains spoilers for the first two seasons of Stranger Things.
Track 1: “Freak Show”
Place in timeline: S1 / EP 1 / 13:10
Freak Show's opening synth beckons the listener into the Stranger Songs fold by echoing the show's opening title sequence before it takes a contemporary electro-pop direction.
We first see Mike and the gang playing Dungeons & Dragons in his parents' basement – a regular setting for four 12-year-olds. But it's immediately clear that they're perceived differently when they're first shown at Hawkins Middle School.
"Step right up and get your tickets for the freak show," mocks the bully, Troy.
"I grabbed onto that language," begins Ingrid. "It's something we all feel or have felt in our lifetime – like we're the outsiders and we don't belong. I wanted to tell people that it's ok to feel that way."
Despite the initial reluctance of Lucas and Dustin, Mike embraces the mysterious Eleven and builds a hide-out in his basement to protect her. He's effectively welcoming her to the group – a "freak show" to some, but friends with a close-knit bond.
"Eleven falls into that category of somebody who doesn't know where she belongs," Ingrid continues. Mike's also out of place, albeit socially rather than physically. "In my mind, he's saying, 'Welcome to our world, welcome to being a weirdo, welcome to being different.' And who wants to be normal anyway?"
Track 2: “Young And In Love”
Place in timeline: S2 / E9 / 57:53
By the time season two comes to a close, most of the young characters are young, free and in love. Nancy and Jonathan's relationship seems steady, while romance blossoms at Hawkins Middle School's Snow Ball dance for both Eleven and Mike, and Max and Lucas. They're blissfully unaware that the Mind Flayer still looms in the Upside Down. The Police's stalker-themed Every Breath You Take is surely a deliberately foreboding soundtrack.
“Young And In Love” is arguably the most immediately uplifting track on Stranger Songs, and Ingrid was inspired by all of the show's young couples.
"It pertains to everybody who's crossing that level of friendship to something more," she summarises. "This is a more broad song that makes you feel – especially as someone that's not fifteen – like you remember what it's like to be young, somewhat free from the shackles of being an adult and all that comes with it. Obviously, they have their responsibilities of saving the world from the Demogorgon…"
Maybe the mundane adult life of work and bills is an easier challenge than battling a malevolent force, but that makes sense.
Ingrid continues, "I want to capture that feeling of long summer nights, being young and falling in love with someone."
Track 3: “Hey Kid”
Place in timeline: S2 / E9 / 36:53
It's almost impossible to think of police chief Hopper without hearing his gruff, near-catchphrase: "Hey, kid." After the death of his daughter, Sara, Hopper sees Eleven as almost a surrogate child – reminding him of his loss yet also giving him a reason to carry on.
"Hopper blunders in that he suffocates Eleven because he's so worried about losing a second child. And I think he sees her as a child in many ways," explains Ingrid. "He's holding on too tightly to this little person that he wants to protect, because he couldn't stop his daughter from passing away."
Yet, a bit like Lisa Simpson describing God as "a force bigger than Mom and Dad put together," Hopper sees that Eleven possesses a power far greater than the Hawkins Police Department.
"He can protect Eleven in some ways, but she can protect herself, and I think he realises that at the end," says Ingrid.
That's exactly what we see when Eleven uses her powers to close the Gate, with Hopper tackling the donkey work of shooting at waves of predators. "You did good, kid," he weeps afterwards, the biggest understatement of the entire show.
The lyrics ("I can't protect you when you're shooting like a star", "I need you more than you need me") also echo an emotionally charged scene from earlier in the episode. Hopper opens up to Eleven about the mistakes he has made when trying to protect her and the loss of his daughter. Possibly the show's tenderest moment ends with some typical Eleven sass. "Bitchin'," they both say to each other, with smiles as wide as canyons.
Track 4: “Hate You”
Place in timeline: S2 / E2 / 43:22
In the bridge to “Hate You”, Ingrid sings, "I don't hate that you called our love bullshit / When you were drunk that night / I don't hate how much I love you / I don't hate that I cry."
This is a song which looks at Steve and Nancy's relationship from his point of view. "If someone said that to you and they break up with you and start seeing somebody else, why would you still hang around? I feel like if I was in his position I'd hate it – why can't I just separate myself from you? It's wrong that he can't, but he still loves her."
As unsympathetic a character as Steve is early in the show, his character finds redemption when he puts his feelings to one side to battle the Demogorgon. "He's a good guy. He still loves Nancy and just because she doesn't love him, it doesn’t mean he's abandoning the whole crew. And I think there's something to be said of being able to do that."
Track 5: “Jealous”
Place in timeline: S2 / E3 / 43:17
Having been hidden away – or protected – for almost a year by Hopper, Eleven emerged to discover that there's a new girl hanging around with the gang. In fact, Eleven has been away for so long that the new girl, Max, doesn't even know who she is.
Unaware that Max and Mike had been arguing moments before, Eleven is immediately envious of their connection and uses her powers of telekinesis to flip Max from her skateboard. It's an oddly touching moment which proves that for all of her otherworldly qualities, Eleven experiences the same emotions as any other teenager. Eleven then looks crestfallen, immediately feeling guilty for that brief spark of jealousy.
Ingrid: "I love that scene! There are so many facets to her. Her vulnerability I thought would be a fun thing to write about. We all do sh*tty stuff when we're feeling jealous, whether it's in a relationship, whether it's with a colleague or whatever it is. It was fun to just admit that in the song – I do it too and f*ck up."
Track 6: “Missing You”
Place in timeline: S1 / E6 / 8:43
"This is a snapshot of a bunch of different moments that happen," says Ingrid, which makes placing the track in a specific moment a tricky task. "It's basically the story of Nancy being with Steve, but she really needs to and wants to be with Jonathan. They danced around all of this for, like, half of Season One and some of Season Two. We all wanted her to be with Jonathan. But once Steve turns out not to be a dick, everyone was like, well maybe he's okay!"
As with many of the tracks on Stranger Songs, Ingrid's songwriting on Missing You works on two levels: it reflects the emotions of a character, but it's also a common experience that people can relate to. It's all there in the dynamic hook, "I'm in his bed, feeling like a stranger / When he's kissing me, I'm missing you."
The second verse ("You lay beside me in my bedroom / Never made a move but I wanted to") addresses Nancy's complicated feelings for Jonathan that emerge in Season One shortly after they escape the Upside Down together. It's one to tell the grandkids. "How did you guys get together?" "It's a long story, but we had this incident involving a missing boy, an alternate dimension and MKUltra…"
Track 7: “Best Friend”
Place in timeline: S1 / E2 / 52:08
Barb is a fan-favourite cult character in Stranger Things, despite featuring so sparingly.
"People really just loved her and wanted more from her," agrees Ingrid. "I don't know if [the show’s creators] the Duffer Brothers expected that, because if you know an audience loves a character you want to keep them around."
Although it's not directly alluded to in the show, a popular fan theory argues that Barb's death is directly related to her unspoken love for Nancy. As Ingrid continues, "That's my theory, so I wrote a song and made up a whole thing with them having sleepovers, and Nancy wearing Barb's shirt to bed and stuff. There's a little bit of my own wishing for something to happen, but it's my record and I can do what I want!"
There are also moments which reflect Ingrid's own experiences. "Moments where you're sleeping in bed next to one of your best friends, and you're like, well, if I turn over, I could f*ck this whole thing up – so you don't." It's also inspired by a friend who had a crush on Ingrid in college. She kept it to herself until those feelings had passed. "When I played her the song, she was like, 'Oh my god! This is me in college!' This song might have a little more of my own life in it mixed with some fan theories."
Track 8: “Mother”
Place in timeline: S2 / E5 / 17:07
Like “Missing You”, “Mother“ ties into the show's wider themes rather than a specific moment.
"This is a bit of a mash-up of Eleven looking for her mother, Will being in the Upside Down and needing his mother, and about my own loss of mother," begins Ingrid. "Season One is so much about Joyce Byers trying to find her son, it's so mother heavy. I wanted there to be something that spoke about that love and that bond between a mother and a child."
While Will's disappearance and Joyce's grief ignited Season One's narrative, Eleven's quest to find her mother is the emotional heart of Season Two. She discovers that her mother is in a vegetative state following electroshock treatment.
"That part was so sad for me," adds Ingrid. "She's searching for a mother but she's also searching for a home. When she comes to that dead end and her mum has been ruined, she realised she had to go back to where her real home was. It's sad. Will gets his mum back, but Eleven doesn't get her mum back."
Track 9: “Christmas Lights”
Place in timeline: S1 / E3 / 40:20
Christmas Lights is full of subtle references to Joyce's "unravelling" as she becomes overwhelmed by the loss of Will. Although it seems as if she's losing her mind, she's adamant that they're somehow together: "I can still hear your call / Like a faraway, trapped inside of the wall."
"I love Christmas," says Ingrid. "That time of the year if very special to me and has always been very special to my family. I've lost my mother and father, so it's a very sad but beautiful time. All of these songs are about the show but they're also steeped in my own life."
Lyrically, it's a song that cleverly mixes specific references to Joyce's situation. What other song could need to state, "Until then, I will talk to you through the Christmas lights"? But other lines – "You're not here, but you're here", "Apart yet together" – capture the bittersweet emotions that many people experience at Christmas. The joy of the season tinged with the sorrow of loss.
Track 10: “Pretty”
Place in timeline: S1 / E4 / 18:30
Amidst Stranger Things' numerous '80s movie tropes, is there anything more of the era than a makeover scene? When the boys need to sneak Eleven (Lucas: "The weirdo…. I mean, look at her!") into school, their best plan is make-over complete with a blonde wig and a pink dress – the polar opposite of what you'd expect Eleven to choose for herself.
The makeover catches Mike by surprise, who quickly extends "pretty" into "pretty good" to mask his embarrassment.
Ingrid's lyrics focus on Eleven's badass nature, with the declaration "I gotta fight like a girl!" being an apt catchphrase should our heroine ever need her own version of "I'll be back!"
"Eleven is the most powerful character and in my opinion the most beautiful character in the whole show," explains Ingrid. "It got me thinking, what's meant to make someone pretty? Does long blonde hair and a pink dress make a woman pretty? That's where it started and it moved into how she evolves in the show, as she's so strong and powerful. That goes very deep into my own experiences of how people view me, and having self-confidence. When she moves the train in that abandoned junkyard, she has more power than she thinks she has. I love juxtaposing the idea of what being pretty means against the power that she has."
Track 11: “Take Me Home”
Place in timeline: Outside of it!
The opening verse of Ingrid's favourite song on the album moves from "Remember being young?" to "Boy, I had it good." It feels like the Stranger Things kids have grown up and are looking back on what they experienced, knowing that among the challenges there were good times that they can never return to.
In fact, says Ingrid, "Take Me Home is very much me. There's a line in the song that says, 'It breaks my heart to know I can't go back in time and feel those feelings forever.' It feeds into this never-ending well of nostalgia that's almost stifling at times. I wanted to end the record with a song that wasn't anything specific to the show, but my reasons for making the record."
It's a song that really captures the appeal of the show. If you lived through and remember some of the '80s, Stranger Things is like a flashback comfort blanket to the simpler times of childhood – much like Back To The Future was in the '80s for those who grew up in the '50s.
But there's an underlying sadness that you can't go back in time or return to the people that have been lost along the way. Yet Stranger Things offers a fleeting journey back in time, escapism wrapped up in drama in the best possible way.
Ingrid Michaelson’s Stranger Songs is available now. Season 3 of Stranger Things is available on Netflix from July 4.
The post How Ingrid Michaelson's ‘Stranger Songs’ Fits Into the Stranger Things Narrative appeared first on FANDOM.
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