Spectral (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, January 2017) Now here is an oddity: A big-budget Science Fiction/Action film produced by a big studio, but unceremoniously removed from theatrical exhibition schedules and essentially sold to Netlifx as an exclusive streaming release. Other than The Interview, there haven’t been many of those yet … but chances are that it will become more and more frequent. So: Is it because the film sucks? Actually, no: Watching Spectral, we’re reminded that while the film is not anywhere near a classic, it’s not that bad—there’s been considerably worse in theatres on a regular basis. While the story isn’t particularly refined (i.e.: undead entities killing US soldiers, set in an Eastern Europe city destroyed by combats) and borrow rather heavily from a mixture of Black Hawk Down, Aliens and Battle: Los Angeles, Spectral does have its strengths. The most noteworthy aspect of the film has to be the special effects, nicely executed and used copiously—for a supernatural war story with sprinklings of scientific justification (that is to say: blaming Bose Einstein condensates), Spectral does have a certain kick to its action sequences and for the novelty value of its concepts. A few clever sequences make things interesting, and the finale literally brings out the Big Guns for a spirited envoi. Writer/Director Nic Mathieu is more interested in delivering a big-screen videogame walkthrough, and the film does succeed as such. For Netflix, Spectral counts as a solid hit: a slick special-effects heavy action movie that delivers just enough to make its audience happy. Hopefully it sets a precedent for other similar deals between major studios and Netflix in the future.

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