Spectral-2016-232x323Spectral is a recently released movie in which a DARPA engineer is sent to a eastern-European conflict zone to investigate a new and deadly weapon system that is decimating special-ops troops. Set in the near future, it is not immediately clear that the story is science fiction rather than stock standard military fiction, and could easily have been a simple spec-ops mission movie. The sci-fi aspect is a nice twist away from that trope, providing a hook to hold even the most tired civilian mind – as I was when I saw it. Additionally, most, if not all, of the background scientific theories check out, and are introduced with enough focus of the facts to truly provide the feeling that the portrayed events might indeed, one day, happen.

I am writing this review, however, as in looking up the science, I chanced across a number of whining reviews that purely pissed me off. Many of these reviews derided the underlying tale as having been ripped off from other movies, so this is my response to those reviewers.

“Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” – T.S. Eliot.

Spectral is an impressive theft of an age-old story: how do the hero & the fierce warrior companions defeat the untouchable/mystic adversary. Other reviews liken this tale to Ghostbusters or Alien, yet I’ve seen this same base tale in Hellboy, Ash vs Evil Dead, The Last Witch Hunter, Michael Crichton’s book Eaters of the Dead (movie: The 13th Warrior), Larry Corriea’s Monster Hunter series; back to classics like the tale of Dracula, Beowulf, even the Odyssey.

It is a nice change, however, to see the shift from magic to science in a believable context – I would classify superheroes and transformers as non-believable. The scientific theories check out, and are introduced in such a way – by both script and acting – as to be plausible. The acting is better than found in generic fantasy/science fiction battle movies, and the directing appears to have allowed a genuine soldier/civilian interaction to develop in a way that many movies don’t. In essence, the film is not in any way stilted, the storyline flows, and the plot is plausible in the futuristic tense.

A good watch and a fine achievement by Netflix.