Legendary Pictures isn’t exactly hurting for lucrative productions in recent years. It has Kong: Skull Island on the horizon, and also produced recent blockbusters like Jurassic World, Man of Steel, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But Spectral, the long-completed project by first-time director Nic Mathieu, is one of the company’s upcoming productions that will not see a wide release under Legendary direction.
Months after being acquired by Chinese conglomerate The Wanda Group, Legendary Pictures pulled Spectral from its planned August release date. The move came just days after the release of Warcraft, a Legendary production that bombed at the North American box office but performed well in China. Spectral, a sci-fi thriller which has been described as a cross between Ghostbusters and Black Hawk Down, will finally be released through a familiar and popular medium: Netflix.
Deadline is reporting that the streaming giant has acquired the distribution rights to Spectral and set it for worldwide release on Dec. 9. The movie concerns a scientist from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) who leads a groups of special ops soldiers into battle against supernatural forces code-named “Spectrals." Though Netflix already has a wealth of original programming, Spectral is just the fourth feature-length movie that it has acquired from another company for international distribution.
Spectral stars James Badge Dale, Clayne Crawford, Emily Mortimer, Max Martini and Bruce Greenwood, and is based on a story by Ian Fried and Mathieu. It was largely shot on location in Budapest, Hungary. Despite the presence of supernatural beings, Spectral was produced mainly by “relying extensively on practical effects and locations for an authentic, gritty atmosphere firmly planted in reality,” according to Deadline. Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop and Weta Digital are credited with creating the movie’s props and visual effects. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie has been completed for over a year after shooting began in August 2014.
There is a lot to like about Spectral based on the people involved. It boasts a solid cast of veteran actors and Weta is one of the most accomplished companies in recent history when it comes to creating dazzling visual and practical effects, most notably in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, Avatar, and more recently, Deadpool. Any story involving ghosts is also timely with the revival of the Ghostbusters franchise, although Spectral appears to be a much darker affair.
The concerns with Spectral, however, are glaringly obvious. It remains to be seen whether Legendary Pictures’ decision to pull it from theatrical release entirely is a reflection on the quality of the movie itself, or a reaction to the company’s sale or the weak performance of other recent productions. But Netflix isn’t exactly known for distributing low-quality original programming and wouldn’t have made Spectral just the fourth movie to be acquired for an exclusive release if it didn’t feel it would reach a large audience. With an interesting concept and the likelihood of cutting-edge visuals, Spectral will certainly have plenty of sci-fi fans intrigued to see what it has to offer.
Spectral debuts on Netflix December 9th, 2016.