STARRING: James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood, Clayne Crawford, Cory Hardrict, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Jimmy Akingbola, Dylan Smith, Philip Bulcock, Royce Pierreson, Ursula Parker and Mark O’Neal
Spectral is a sci-fi/action film that Netflix picked up the distribution rights for in the summer this year as Universal Pictures initially pulled it from its cinematic release that was aimed to drop back in August. From just watching the film it’s easy to see why it was pulled from Universal’s schedule.
First off, I’ll say that what pulled me in to check out Spectral was the premise in which the film was described as a supernatural spin of Black Hawk Dawn. Then there’s was the cast involved, from James Badge Dale (who’s had better luck in supporting roles than leading roles as of late, e.g Rubicon) to Emily Mortimer (Who I’ve enjoyed in The Newsroom) to Max Martini (who is destined to play a military role for the rest of his life) and even Clayne Crawford (who has been great viewing as of late in the Lethal Weapon series). For me everyone plays their roles fine for what was required from the studio. The key concentration of the film is that it focuses on the special effects and the action sequences. The effects of the apparitions are decently done and the action sequences are the films best selling point, from the initial group attack from the apparitions, to the ambush as they await extraction to the films big finale in which it goes all out and literally brings out the big guns. The cinematography work from Bojan Bazelli is good, the set designs from Judit Varga is solid and the score from Junkie XL which strengthens some of the films scenes, particularly in the final act.
The problem from the film is that Nic Mathieu’s directorial debut focuses primarily on the action/CGI and not alot on character development. Everyone exists primarily to move the story along, with Dale’s character Dr. Mark Clyne being the one to figure things out, while Mortimer’s Fran Madison there to be a potential curveball to Clyne’s views that fades into the background more as the film progresses and the so-called Moldovan War/insurgents seem to vanish as well as the film progresses. The script from George Nolfi (on the story penned by Nic Mathieu and Ian Fried) will come under some slack as well for certain scientific explanations and certain lines of dialogue (such as reversing the polarity of a camera into a searchlight). It’s with that then that this film could be too silly for some people. In the end, the film does at least tackle/at least question morality and ethics but is bogged down by all the action. I can see why Universal pulled it from a cinematic release as there’s noway this could’ve made a profit during the summer blockbuster season.
I’m not sure whether or not it could be taken as a compliment that Spectral is the best video game film adaptation we’ve never had, as the film progresses the story along but the action and CGI are given more focus over any character development. The film is absolutely flawed and riddled with chunky dialogue and paper-thin characters but the action/CGI is solid and the films key selling point and the cast do sell the situation that the characters find themselves in well. I’d definitely consider it a guilty pleasure for 2016. 6/10