So today (the day that I am typing this article about Spectral) is December 9th, 2016. There have been a great many events that have transpired since I last wrote and article for the Movie Guys site. A number of celebrities, musicians, and famous people in general have passed, and a new president has been elected. I’ll admit, I’ve been focused mostly on the podcast side of Movieguys for quite some time. However, there was a certain film release recently that was of some importance to me. It must have been, because an alarm went off on my phone today to remind me of it, and in this day and age anything that our cellular devices call to our attention must trump anything that is happening in the real world.
Today while I was at work today, my phone popped up some sort of alert that I hadn’t seen before. It simply said “Spectral Netflix”. I’ll admit I was a bit flummoxed. What the heck does that mean? Okay, time to whip out my detective hat and……..ahhhh. Thanks YouTube. Turns out Spectral is a Netflix original movie. Watching the trailer for it, I recall that I was quite interested in this particular film. Apparently, Josh from the past thought current Josh would really be into this movie. And watching the trailer again, present Josh has to agree with past Josh. Spectral looks friggin’ sweet! Good work past Josh!
And here is where I’ll throw out a **SPOILER ALERT** for anyone that hasn’t seen the movie yet. I’m getting ready to put my thoughts and feelings out there about what I just experienced. You see, deep down I’ve been excited for this movie for some time, and there are parts of it that met my expectations, and there are parts that….ummm….well, you’ll see. So from here on out if you haven’t seen the movie Spectral yet and you don’t want anything ruined, go watch the damn movie and then come read this!
Alright, so here is my take on this movie that really caught my attention sometime ago. My first impression from watching the trailer to refresh my remembery are that this looks like a mashup of Blackhawk Down, and Ghostbusters. In fact, I think I recall reading an article about how this was sort of a darker, more realistic version of Ghostbusters. I mean, right there you have a war movie where the enemy is clearly some sort of ghost. That sounds awesome. I’m hooked. Show me what you’ve got.
Now my interest is re-peaked. I’m back to where I was however many months ago when I first saw the trailer. I fire up my Netflix app on the ol’ TV and hope that Spectral will be everything I hope it will be…..
Right from the start they make sure you know that this is going to be a movie about ghosts. There is a soldier who appears to be behind enemy lines, trying to get to some sort of objective by himself. He’s separated from the rest of his team, but he can’t wait for backup! This is war dammit! There’s no time! And I do like how this movie skips back a generation to when the enemy of America was in the former USSR and not the middle east. Something about that really spoke to my inner child. And something I want to get out of the way right at the beginning, we never ever see the enemy that our soldiers are actually here to fight. Not a single one of them.
Anyway, so he moves on like a good soldier would. After encountering a few mysterious dead bodies this poor fellow gets got himself. Clearly by a ghost. And the plot point here being that he can only see this “ghost” through a special set of futuristic battle goggles, but not without them. Keep that in mind. It’s important.
Okay, so now we’re in a lab where a smart dude melts some ice with a laser. I think we can all agree lasers are awesome. And I mean, this is a laser, and it totally melts ice. And these government guys show up and are like “Can you melt people with it” and the scientist dude is like “I dunno. We can try. Any of you dicks wanna volunteer lol?” And then the scientist dude (I’ll admit I don’t recall his name) had a talk with his boss about some weird crap that some solders were seeing through these special goggles that he invented. And now he has to go to the front lines to check it out.
I sort of gloss over the first act of the movie because I wasn’t sure what was important. It does show who the enemy is going to be, and who the main character is, but that’s about it. You really think this laser is going to be important in the end, but it’s not. It mainly shows that our hero is smart. And don’t get me wrong! At this point I’m fully invested in this movie! It’s got potential for sure. I’ve seen ghost. I’ve seen lasers….
Moving right along our hero heads out to the front lines to try and figure out what these soldiers are up against. He meets up with the roughest and tumblest group of soldiers, Delta Force. We’ve got the best of the best here. These are the dudes that got Bin Laden for crying out loud! So this is where the movie starts to fall apart a bit for me. In order to get a better look at these “hyper-spectral anomalies”, Dr. Clyne (I went back and looked up his name) slaps a big ol’ all seeing camera on top of an MRAP vehicle and rolls it into combat. For those of you not in the know, MRAP stands for Military…..Reconnaissance And……Patrol…probably. This sets up a trend where Dr. Clyne can just take anything and slap it on to anything else and voila! You’ve got something better! I can overlook a lot of ridiculous things in movies, but this is sort of a pet peeve of mine. I find it hard to accept that someone can take a highly specialized piece of hardware, bang a few tools against it, and all of a sudden it works with another piece of hardware that it’s never been designed to work with. Yeah yeah yeah. I know it’s a movie about soldiers fighting ghost, but it’s not the first time this will show up in this movie.
After we are introduced to the rest of our Delta Force team, we get the first real battle with these hyper-spectrals. And it plays out pretty much as one would expect. The team of soldiers have no real idea what they are up against. The ghosts can move through walls, and kill just by touching the soldiers. It’s a really good battle scene. Again, I can’t say anything bad about how the movie looks at this point. The set and costume design are top notch. It’s really just sort of difficult to envision a war movie where the enemy is paranormal. But they have an idea what this new enemy might be, and it sort of makes sense if you are thinking about it logically. And I think that helps suspend disbelief.
At this point we get into a Blackhawk Down situation. The team’s vehicles are disabled, and they get pinned down in a factory with some refugee kids. This is where they discover the hyper-spectral’s weakness, iron! That’s right, their enemy can’t cross a line of iron shavings. This is a serious problem for me. If these things can’t walk across a bit of iron sprinkled on the ground, our heros should be safe in a tank (which shows up in a few minutes, and is battered to pieces by a hyers-pectral) or really they could all put on iron hula-hoops. I mean, these things can’t even just hop over this bit of metal on the ground. And also for some science reason, ceramic? Again Dr. Clyne jury rigs his camera. This time he reverses the polarity of some components to turn it into a spotlight that makes the hyper-spectrals visible. Because science.
So mostly everyone escapes this factory. We’re now in a civilian refugee bunker. Delta Team finds out that their home base has been overrun, and only a few dudes escaped. They bring all the gear they could grab, and bring it to the team. Delta Team! Regroup! I think if I saw what looked like a bunch of ghosts coming through the walls and murdering everyone, I’d hightail it on out of that hemisphere, but whatever.
Here is the big revelation. The good Doctor figures out what these hyper-spectral anomalies are! Duh! They’re Bose Einstein Condensates! Because like, ceramic and cold and they kill on contact and stuff! Yeah doc! After all this time where you’re definitely sure they are ghost busting, they’re all “GOTCHA! You idiot! You really believe in ghosts? There’s a perfectly good scientific explanation for all this.” Also, I got this feeling at this point of the movie. It was a feeling that someone handed a note to the director that said “Yo. We’re running out of time and money. You should start thinking about wrapping it up.” It was weird how the whole scene was edited together where the Doc explains what the hyper-spectrals are. There were a lot of sudden cuts, and obvious voice overs. But whatever man. Do your thing with the gadgets and stuff Doc!
This is really the only issue I’ve got with this movie. The Doctor just builds an arsenal from parts and scraps he finds in this civilian bunker, along with a few crates of conventional weapons that the rest of the team managed to bring along. I swear at one point he is using a hot glue gun as a drill! He is just jamming it into a gun or something and it’s making a “VRRRRRRRR VRRRRRRR” sound! And it’s a full arsenal he puts together overnight! It’s not just a few guns that can destroy the hyper-spectrals. It’s a whole new set of battle gear for like 10-20 soldiers. They already had these special goggles that they could see the hyper-spectrals with, but now they have been completely redesigned with the addition of some sort of oxygen masks? All this equipment would take years of R&D to develop, and Mr. Dr. Clyne whips it all together overnight. And there is absolutely no explanation for the masks. What are they protecting against? Do these non-ghost have really terrible breath or something? You know what? At this point it doesn’t really matter. They really do look bad ass. It all still looks really awesome.
The plot starts to get a little wonky with how these scientist transformed people into Bose Einstein Condensates. They were all in containment when something went wrong and the scientist tried to stop it, but failed terribly. It really goes full futuristic sci-fi at this point, and I am really loving everything that is happening! There is a big final hurrah, and the Doctor and crew save the day by pulling the plug on the science machine. If you know anything about science, you’d understand. I totally got it.
In conclusion, Spectral was part Ghostbusters, and part Blackhawk Down, with a bit of Edge of Tomorrow and The Darkest Hour. It had ghosts. It was a war movie where our team of soldiers was in peril. It was futuristic like Edge of Tomorrow. And the setting reminded me a lot of The Darkest Hour, as well as the ghostly entities and their weakness. Do I think Spectral was an awesome movie? Maybe not. Do I think it was awful? Definitely not! I’d say it’s somewhere in between. Closer to the awesome end of the spectrum. It is a really cool concept that felt rushed towards the end. Visually, it was really good. Some of the weapons and junk were pretty cool. The story on the other hand, I think needed a little more hashing out. Overall it met my expectations for a Netflix original movie. Have you watched it yet? Fire away in the comments with your thoughts and feels!