What could be cooler than the military kicking ghosts spectral asses? Nothing. That's why when SPECTRAL was announced several years ago, I was beside myself with joy. I love this kind of stuff.
Hellboy was awesome, as it featured monsters working for the government fighting other monsters--with a supernatural bent. And of course, the Winchesters also fight the supernatural weekly on their show. But what has always bothered me is the lack of fiction with military heroes.
When you think about it, it would only make sense for the military to fight supernatural threats. The military has fought nazis, communists, and terrorists. In the movies, they've defended make believe citizens from giant monsters, giant robots, aliens, mutants, and extra dimensional invaders. Why wouldn't the military fight an army of spirits?!
Unfortunately, despite some amazing visual effects, SPECTRAL takes a nose dive in the third act when we learn that --SPOILER-- those disembodied specters that can fly through walls and are only seen with special, high tech headset cameras are, wait for it.. NOT GHOSTS.
Oh, my god. It's Shutter Island all over again...
Our story starts with this DARPA scientists who's invented those super vision headsets for Spec Ops types. They do more than see in the dark, they reveal all kinds of things--like non-solid entities that can kill with a touch.
Science guy (thankfully not a science geek) is flown around the orld to try and figure out what's being seen. He brings an amped up, more powerful super camera, mounting it on a vehicle to help see the mostly-invisible enemy better.
A team goes out and everything goes pear-shaped in spooky redo of the Colonial Marines' defeat in Aliens. Science guy and his surviving Delta Force buddies have to fight their way across the city, improvising weapons when they observe that the spookies are effected by some things. Things like IRON powder.
Now, at this point, any fan of Supernatural cheers. Of course iron affects the spectral beings. Iron messes up ghosts.
Alas, like studio execs, our characters refuse to use the word ghosts, and try coming up with alternative origin theories.
Action ensues, and the heroes eventually escape to a last refuge in the war-torn country now invaded by spookies. In this fortified steel-and-concrete shelter, science guy announces he's figured out the mystery of the spookies... their condensate. No, not water formed from water vapor. Rather, it's supposedly an artificial state of matter Einstein predicted.
From here, the story just goes right into the crapper. But the action and effects remain top notch. By the end of the movie, while thoroughly disgusted that once again I've been cheated out of ghosts, I'm at least not as bummed out by the depressing ends of military flicks like Black Hawk Down or Tears of the the Sun.
All in all, I'd say SPECTRAL is a good flick, worthy of 4 stars. But since they lied about the ghosts, I'll deduct a half star and say 3.5.
Check it out--just don't expect any actual ghosts.