December 13, 2016


Nic Mathieu, 2016
At first glance Spectral looks as if it's another one of the many 2016 Netflix original offerings that may just slip between the cracks, because of the dozens of films queued up that you feel you will never get through. But actually it was originally produced by Universal Pictures and was pulled from schedule presumably due to fears that it wouldn't perform well at the box office. Netflix stepped in and purchased the distribution rights, giving them the ability to release it in their system. Which is a nice save, because it could have been just another film that sat and collected dust and never saw the light of day. It's more than that, and worth a look if you are a fan of the sci-fi genre. If you are a fan of the sci-fi genre, it means that you are also willing to go into a movie like this with a grain of salt. Because Spectral, while pretty entertaining, definitely fits into a formulaic molding. You need to go into this knowing that you aren't getting a Blade Runner. Hell, you aren't even getting a Starship Troopers which is a better version of a Sci-Fi action movie where soldiers attempt to overcome a seemingly undefeatable enemy force. I read somewhere that it was to be marketed as a "supernatural Black Hawk Down". Which is actually a pretty accurate quick description to throw on it. Black Hawk Down had a group of soldiers attempting to rescue two lieutenants in a completely explosive landscape. The landscape is similar here, as well-trained soldiers attempt to reveal what is behind this mysterious enemy that is taking down scores of their men in the battlefield. Early speculation has them believing it's some kind of enemy cloaking device.

While the production design doesn't feel cheap, there are elements of the story that certainly do. Spectral falls victim to some of the typical action-genre tropes. One glaring annoyance is when engineer Clyne (James Badge Dale) determines that the creatures must be made from Bose-Einstein concentrate because of their chemical properties. Well, they need to fight them with plasma cannons and it just so happens that they have everything they need to equip themselves with these weapons right in the bunker that they have hunkered down in. There are a lot of convienent things that are done with the various forms of technology they have. Because of this, at first the enemy force seems undefeatable but that quickly changes in the second half of the film when it seems like Clyne just needs to sit down and stare into space for about 30 seconds and then he can figure everything out.

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