A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Spectral is a 2016 military-themed science fiction film about mysterious apparitions taking the lives of soldiers in war-torn Chisinau, Moldova. Unsurprisingly, there's frequent battle violence in this Netflix Original -- soldiers fire machine guns, shoot rockets. Numerous soldiers, as well as a young child, are killed by these fast-moving spirits -- they are killed by getting knocked to the ground (no blood). Cursing includes "s--t." While it's a movie more of interest to tech-savvy military enthusiasts, the action is more than enough to keep everyone else entertained, and its deeper themes of the role of advanced technology used either for peace or war should also resonate and inspire discussion among families.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Dr. Mark Clyne (James Badge Dale) is flown to a US military base near Chisinau, Moldova, where a civil war is taking place. Clyne is the inventor of highly advanced imaging goggles that the troops have been wearing in battle. He meets with US military and intelligence officers, who show him video footage transmitted by a soldier who appears to have been killed by a fast-moving translucent humanoid apparition. With state-of-the-art, cutting-edge camera tracking devices, he is sent with Delta Force soldiers to locate a squad of soldiers who went missing the day before and suspected to have confronted these mysterious apparitions. Upon discovering the bodies of the missing squad, Clyne and the troops are ambushed by the apparitions, and find refuge in an abandoned factory, where they discover that the apparitions, after not being stopped by all the ammunition at the Delta Force's disposal, are stopped by iron shavings. Upon this discovery, and the discovery of two children hiding out in the factory, Clyne and the soldiers must find a way to develop weaponry that utilizes iron shavings, get back to base, and stop these beings that seem to have some relation to the ghosts of wars past.
Is it any good?
Once the action gets going, SPECTRALl is nonstop action. The battle scenes are frenzied with edge-of-your-seat excitement, and unlike so many other war-themed movies, no clear-cut direction pointing to just how this movie will end. It's an interesting concept explored as fully as the technological details of much of the equipment used to fight the battle.
Where it falls short are the scenes before the action takes hold. The pacing gets bogged down with unnecessary interpersonal conflicts, overexplanations of character backstory, the technology on hand to fight the war, the reasons for the civil war in Moldova, and a debate about technology being used to better humankind or to line the pockets of defense contractors. All of this is presented with intrusive direction -- cameras constantly move, hop, and spin, almost as if the cameras themselves are as eager to get to real conflicts as the audience. Such aspects make this best for fans of sci-fi military movies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about war and battle-themed sci-fi movies. How are these movies different from war movies in general? How are they similar?
How did the movie convey soldiers in the thick of battle? Despite the sci-fi/otherworldly connotations, did the battle scenes seem realistic? Why or why not?
Why do you think war and warmongers are an endless source of fascination for some? Why, for instance, are there always numerous documentaries on Hitler and Stalin, but fewer about, say, Gandhi or Mother Teresa?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love science fiction
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch