Spectral Review – Bland Military vs. Bland Ghosts is Bland Experience

Spectral Review – Bland Military vs. Bland Ghosts is Bland Experience

Movies

If I told you that there was a movie out there about a group of soldiers in Eastern Europe teamed up with a plucky scientist against a horde of ghosts you would probably think it was either a really stupid idea or the kind of bonkers idea that makes for some truly entertaining popcorn fair. Unfortunately, Spectral is not the latter.

James Badge Dale plays as Dr. Scientist. Okay, his name is Dr. Mark Clyne but that doesn’t matter because you’ll be forgetting his name as soon as you hear it. Mark is a scientist who works for DARPA and is disillusioned by the fact that all of his inventions, gasp, are going to be weaponized. You would think a guy working for, you know, DARPA would be accustomed to such things but hey he can’t be a genius inventor and self aware.

Dr. Scientist is sent to Moldova to investigate why soldiers are being mysteriously frozen to death after seeing apparitions on a special pair of Spectral (Hey! That’s the title!) goggles that Dr. Scientist created. He’s sent in with a team and a special science light thing he’s created to see if they can spot whatever this mysterious force is while also fending off the current insurgents. The team inevitably spots the “apparitions” (because nobody in this movie has apparently heard of a ghost or is willing to actually use the word) and are swiftly attacked with most of their members killed. Long story short, Dr. Scientist does some science and creates a special light gun that kills the gho…I mean apparitions in their tracks. Whatever, you get the point.

Spectral is not a “bad” movie per se. It’s not good either. What it is, plain and simple, is bland. Now, a lot of this owes to the fact that the script is basically Aliens where instead there are ghosts. But a lot of it is also built around the fact that the characters have no personality at all and there is no real conflict between characters. Our main character, for example, is clearly a pacifist who wants no part in the actual warfare part of his job. And yet, when a soldier mocks him saying that he’s only a tourist if he’s not carrying an assault rifle he all too quickly offers to carry one. From then it’s a moot point. There’s no culture clash at all.

There’s no point in learning the names of any of the soldiers, either. That’s either because they get killed as soon as they are introduced or they simply have no real personality because the movie is so bogged down with the present situation that no real time is given for us getting to know them. There are no character moments to give us an idea of who these people are. For a movie that is so desperate to riff off Aliens it’s amazing that they at didn’t at least take a page out of the Bill Paxton school of comic relief (of which there is none in this movie).

 

Let’s compare Spectral with a movie that clearly influenced it, Live Die Repeat/Edge of Tomorrow. In Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise’s main character is clearly defined. He is a coward and will do anything to get out of active combat. We see him go through a clear and concise character arc in which he goes from coward to he with whom you do not screw on the battlefield. His fellow soldiers have character moments that endear them to the audience. We get to know them bit by bit as the film progresses. The secondary protagonist Rita is given her own story arc. The action isn’t generic because the film uses its premise to its fullest potential. Spectral does none of these things.

The film’s design is pretty awful as well. Weta Workshop is one of the gold standards in the film industry. They have an incredible team and they frequently knock out masterpiece after masterpiece of design…but either they dropped the ball here or they were instructed to create characters and props that were devoid of imagination. The ghosts look like every other generic gray blob antagonist you’ve seen in every blockbuster over the last 5+ years. The sci-fi weaponry looks marginally okay but nothing really stands out. The spectral gun that’s created has no personality. It doesn’t look cool. Think about the proton pack from the original Ghostbusters. You want a proton pack. I want a proton pack. Everyone wants a proton pack because the proton pack is cool and has personality. This things has none of that.

At the end of the day Spectral commits almost every cardinal sin of modern action and sci-fi films. It rests on the laurels of a decent idea and does nothing to actually use that premise to its full potential. It’s lazy, it’s bland, it’s poorly designed, and it borrows ideas from movies that are so much better. Spectral is a film with the personality and flair of a dead moth. It’s not scary, it’s not inventive, and it’s just not any fun.

Beauty and the Beast and the Problem With Photoshopped Movie Posters

Beauty and the Beast and the Problem With Photoshopped Movie Posters

Movies

The upcoming live action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is one of the most anticipated movies of the coming year. So far just about everything has been pitch perfect in terms of casting, set design, and music choices but if there is one area where I’m finding myself a bit disappointed it’s in the poster.

beauty-and-the-beast-poster

It’s not an ugly poster, not by any means. In fact I actually liked it at first glance. But it’s got some problems, some of which have less to do with the poster itself. First of all, I like the idea of the poster. It’s clearly meant to an homage to the John Alvin artwork for the original movie.

original-beauty-and-the-beast-poster

For Disney to have commissioned an homage to the original says that they really do want fans of the original to like this. But the problem is that, at a second glance, there is some laziness in the execution of their concept. First of all, the edges of the figures are too hard. They immediately make the image look photoshopped, which betrays the rest of the painterly qualities that they’ve clearly tried to give the image. That brings me to my next point: If you’re going to try and make a painterly image then why not simply have the image painted, be it digitally or traditionally? The artwork that we currently have here is a half measure. They want that classic Disney look but the execution looks lazy.

 

Speaking of classic Disney, and this is probably a minor gripe on my part, am I the only one who misses the “Walt Disney Pictures Presents” portion of the logo? It just adds that little bit of formality to the picture, like it’s a product they’ve crafted and put out with pride. Instead it literally seems like they’ve just slapped the Disney logo on it and put it out the door.

 

At the end of the day, it’s a poster. It’s not the film itself, but sometimes a movie’s marketing campaign can speak volumes to a company’s pride in their product. The original Beauty and the Beast is still the only animated film to have ever been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. Not Best Animated Picture, but Best Picture of any kind. That makes it important, so to see them fumble the ball with the poster makes me wonder just how seriously they’re taking it. Then again, I’m old school and they’re the ones who just made $5+ billion in the past year so what do I know?

Underworld Reboot Announced…For Some Reason

Underworld Reboot Announced…For Some Reason

Movies

Look, I get it: The Underworld movies have a following. I even enjoy them from time to time because they appeal to the basic needs of a movie buff to see vampires fight werewolves with guns because of reasons. But was there ever actually demand for a reboot? You know what, no, let me ask the more important question: Was there ever actually demand for another movie after the last one was just…not fun at all?

Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we? Len Wiseman just isn’t that good of a director and at this point Hollywood knows it. Die Hard was a well thought of franchise before he came along and decided that the thing the fourth Die Hard movie needed was a blue filter thrown on every friggin’ shot. The blue filter looks great on Underworld…not on John McClain. He’s not that creative, either. This guy clearly just took everything he liked about The Matrix, threw in some vampires and werewolves and came up with every 13 year old boy’s dream action franchise.

Here’s the thing about reboots, and why Hollywood’s reboot spree is almost entirely pointless in my opinion (with exception to a select few properties) : You should really only reboot something that lends itself to such. There’s a reason why we see Batman, Spider-Man, Frankenstein, and so many other iconic characters rebooted again and again. That reason is because those are characters with premises that are simple enough to sum up in one to two sentences and can be interpreted to death. You can walk away for twenty seconds and immediately come up with a new take on them that makes you go “Aha! Here’s a new way to present it that honors what came before while breaking new ground!” Underworld is a franchise that was designed for its specific moment and doesn’t really reach beyond that moment. Selene is a wooden character and her romance with Michael is exactly the same.

It’s hard to argue that Underworld is an “original” property. It would be easy to say that a reboot could probably be an improvement on the series and possibly even bring some depth. But why would Hollywood want to waste the time and effort on reinventing a franchise that wasn’t that original to begin with?