When it comes to science fiction films, there are a plethora of avenues that can be taken; aliens, the need to find a new planet, deep space exploration and so on. However, it often seems rare that the audience is involved in a system that has already adapted and is consistently evolving to a life that involves space travel (unless of course, we are considering Star Wars). Directors Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, known for their previous short film In The Pines, present us with Prospect; a sci-fi film that focuses on relationships, characters and how making a living in outer space has far more dangers than any job confined to Earth alone.
Damon, played by Jay Duplass, is a prospector, who spends his life looking for invaluable gems on planets in order to sell them and make money. His daughter Cee, played by Sophie Thatcher, accompanies him as his partner as they go from planet to moon searching for the next batch of gems that will pay for their life. The pair are living on the breadline, however, Damon has teamed up with a group of mercenaries to dig up a large amount of gems that would solve all their money problems and pay off their debts. Whilst prospecting the alien moon they run into Ezra, played by Pedro Pascal, and his nameless partner, who seem less than keen to let Damon cultivate the landscape. The situation quickly escalates into something sinister, leaving Cee to work alongside Ezra in order to complete the mission and leave the moon.
Sci-fi movies are usually left alone by independent filmmakers because there is a misconception that in order to do this you need a large budget for CGI and effects, but that’s not always true. Just look at 2004’s Primer from Shane Carruth; without the use of effects or anything pompous Carruth delivered fans of the fiction a film that is considered as one of the greats and continues to hold up against many others that have been made. Why? It’s concise and it’s effective. Prospect has the same tone to it, where it’s not designed for a big budget because it focuses on character development and using readily available resources to give the audience that feeling that we’re looking at a location set in space.
The film looks sharp and how we would imagine an alien moon to potentially look with venom dust particles eerily yet beautifully dancing through the air. The vegetation is thriving and lush, which could be due to the fact humans cannot inhabit and destroy this luscious location. There are small creatures that although are similar to those found on Earth have some small differences in appearance. Even though these are all minor aspects to the atmosphere of an alien place, they are impactful enough to get the audience submerged in this fictional world. The look is paired with music by Daniel L.K.Caldwell, which encompasses the mood of every scene perfectly. Many of the notes heard throughout felt reminiscent of the scores throughout TV sci-fi show Westworld, which is stunning yet always laced with undertones of something more sinister.
The problem with Prospect essentially comes down to it being slightly over simple for my personal tastes. Although a fan of character-driven plots and films, there is something lacking in Prospect which could have propelled it to another dimension, and laid down a landmark for a notable indie sci-fi film. Even though we become gradually invested in each character and the path laid out for them, their narratives culminate in a simple case of nothing really happening. It’s this aspect of nothingness combined with often confusing terminology that makes the film tedious and hard to follow in places. The dialogue has sections droning on about gems, cultivation and digging, however the audience aren’t completely up to speed about any of these aspects. Regardless, we sit through this fact in the hopes that something will happen in the third act but this expected drama never arises.
As a slow-burn character focused film, there is one aspect that really drives the entire movie and that’s Sophie Thatcher as Cee. As her first feature film debut, she is perfect as the coming of age daughter who quickly needs to understand how to survive on her own, and when she should go against her moral compass to make choices for the future. She is relatable and can quickly interchange between a young woman with a strong head on her shoulders to just a girl that loves the make-believe and indulging in her own fantasies. She bounces off Pedro Pascal throughout the film, but it really is Thatcher that keeps us watching.
Much more could have been done with this film if only Caldwell and Earl had simply given the audience something more intriguing in the last act. Prospect is visually and audibly dazzling, with compelling character development but crash lands into an over-stylised and simplistic storyline.
Signature Entertainment presents Prospect on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD from Monday 22nd April 2019
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