Jack’s Bad Movies: Spectral (2016)

IMDB’s description:

A sci-fi/thriller story centered on a special-ops team that is dispatched to fight supernatural beings.

Nettflix’s description:

When an otherworldly force wreaks havoc on a war-torn European city, an engineer teams up with an elite Special Ops unit to stop it.

This movie opens with a special ops team clearing a bombed out building in some Eastern European country (Moldova). They find a few bodies, and then one of them separates from the group (like all good special ops teams, they fight alone). He is wearing special goggles and there is some anomaly on his display. This thing promptly kills him.

Back in the US, Dr. Mark Clyne (James Badge Dale) has just finished demonstrating his amazing laser-ish weapon. I can’t remember the details, but is sounded similar to the device that was stolen in Batman Begins. He works for DARPA, and then is horrified to learn his bosses are interested in weaponizing his laser weapon. Perhaps he isn’t clear on his job description. He also designed the special goggles the special forces are using in Moldova, so they insist on flying them there to explain what is happening.

According to CIA operative Fran Madison (Emily Mortimer) and General Orland (Bruce Greenwood) what is happening is this, the goggles keep seeing these weird humanoid anomalies, and then people are killed. Clyne can’t explain these, but as a random stroke of good luck, he brought a huge version of his goggles (which looks and behaviors like a TV Camera) in order to hopefully get a better look at these things. He promptly installs this onto a APC. It is at point he meets the elite members of Delta Force, Capt. Sessions (Max Martini), Sgt. Toll (Clayne Crawford), as well as bunch of other people who don’t matter, because they are essentially walking corpses.

Once the TV Camera is installed, the team assembles and Clyne and Madison head out in search of the missing Utah team (whom I suspect they will find paired off, knocking on doors, trying to talk to people about Jesus). Utah team was the group we saw at the beginning of the movie. They search a large five story building and discover one survivor of the team (Ryan Robbins), hiding under a cast iron tub, the rest of the team all died from the apparitions.

Then the rescue team gets attacked, and seemingly the whole team is killed (at least the ones who entered the building). Only the two important ones (Capt. Sessions and Sgt. Toll) make it out. Everyone left (meaning those lucky enough to be outside) jump into the APCs and they try to escape, but they are being pursued by the impervious to bullets ghosts. This is a war-torn region (as the people are in revolt or something) and the APCs hit a bunch of landmines. With their vehicles inoperative, they flee the street and enter a large factory, only to discover the ghosts can’t follow them there. They find two kids, and the kids tell them their father put down iron filings to stop the monsters. That is why the guy earlier was able to hide under the cast iron tub. It isn’t clear to me why this works, but whatever. The ghosts themselves look fine, that’s the advantage of making non-corporeal beings for your special effects, they don’t have to look like they interact with anything.

They spend what feels like a long time at this factory (really this movie is a series of short action scenes separated by long boring parts where nothing relevant happens). Clyne salvaged his TV Camera from the APC wreckage, and turns it into a ghost spotlight. He also comes up with a plan to make IEDs using conventional grenades and the iron filings. I guess it doesn’t matter to them that grenades already have iron around them, that is what their casing is made out of, and their bullets are potentially jacketed with steel. They make a lot of jar bombs, but are also inexplicably able to adapt 40mm grenades (used in launchers) with augmented iron filings. The lot of good it does them, these new weapons just seem to slow the enemy down a little.

The team leaves the factory, and are immediately ambushed by the ghosts, they stumble upon a rescue party (which all but immediately gets destroyed by the ghosts) and the few remaining survivors (Clyne, CIA woman, the two soldiers who get names, and one of the kids) get picked up a helicopter and are told the Army base is gone, and they are taken to a local militia base where General Orland is. A lot of time (meaning literal time, for the viewer) is wasted here.

They decide Moldova must have been doing a lot of advanced weapons research, and figured out a way to create these terrible creatures. Clyne then pulls a Tony Stark all nighter and makes a bunch of energy weapons that will work against the ghosts with a bunch of junk that is in this war torn militia base. Remember how Cylen was all bent out of shape about making weapons for the military? So much for the moral high-ground. At the beginning of the movie they showed him salvaging a battery from a junk yard, in those first few seconds, I thought this movie was set in a post-apocalyptic future, but no, this guy just loves to collect garbage, like a hoarder.

More is more when it comes to gun accessories.

They decide the only place these things can be coming from is a nuclear power plant. The soldiers use their new weapons with apparent success, while Clyne and Madison sneak into the power plant looking for the source of these monsters and discover a lab full of them. Above ground, initially these new weapons seem to work, but then the ghosts start to recover, and eventually they form some giant massive creature, many Bothans (and soldiers) died to bring us this information.

Down below, a somewhat pointless and not nail-biting scene plays out where Clyne has to turn off the nuclear reactor before all the creatures break out of their cages. I’m not sure how this plant is magically remotely powering all these creatures, but turn it off they do, and stop them it does. Now a little more sleuthing reveals all the creatures were scanned and 3D-printed into ghosts, and their brains and organs were kept in vats, alive, to control the ghosts. So they unplug everyone, Dr. Clyne could just as easily be called Dr. Kevorkian. At the end of this Clyne returns home while the US military is scooping up this new tech, no doubt to use it themselves someday (Spectral 2: The Spectraling)

In short, this movie was long and boring. The action scenes weren’t great but the special effects were generally fine. I didn’t care for it, but the reviews seem to be about split, so maybe I’m only half right. As I was writing this up it struck me that this movie is just a bad version of Predator (or Aliens). A special ops team disappears, and another is sent in to figure out what happened and they discover some previously unknown creature is hunting them for sport (for sure those ghosts were not killing for food), and nearly everyone is killed. Game over man, game over!


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