Prospect is a small movie with a lot of ambition. It starts off in the confines of a small spacecraft with Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father Damon (Jay Duplass, of the Duplass Brothers fame). They’ve docked at a space station before heading to a planet where they plan to start mining for a mineral called orlac.
Think of orlac as gold and Damon and Cee as prospectors. It sounds like an attempt at making a western. There’s even a claim jumper, Ezra, played by Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones and soon to be The Mandalorian). Damon and Ezra mention more than once the Queen’s Lair and the Rush. The Queen’s Lair is the mother lode of orlac and we are to assume the Rush was a time much like the Gold Rush on earth.
Some other reviews may emphasize a more western feel to the movie. There may be something to that argument. Like Mattie Ross in True Grit Cee’s father is killed by someone who is more than likely an outlaw. Though Mattie doesn’t seek revenge Ezra, like Rooster Cogburn, becomes some what of a surrogate father figure to her. Ezra even speaks like a character out of Deadwood, but the other trappings of a western are no where to be found and any argument that Prospect is a western is probably a stretch at best.
Instead, Prospect is a tight little movie about a girl whose father is killed and she’s forced to go things on her own. It was already established early in the movie Cee had to grow up quick. We’re not given too much details on the outside world beyond Cee and Damon’s spacecraft, but we can assume Cee likes the same things other girls her age would like- music, young adult novels.
Cee may like things other girls like, but things aren’t easy for the father and daughter. They’re struggling to make money and they owe others a lot of money. Their surroundings are also old, beaten, and battered. You could easily imagine if this universe had duct tape things inside the craft would be held together by rolls of it. As it happens, a component in the spacecraft explodes leaving the duo stranded on the planet.
If there’s a feel to the movie its more of a science fiction vibe from early science fiction movies and comic books. The suits Damon, Cee, Ezra wear resemble something from pulp science fiction magazines and movies from the 50s and 60s. The guns used by the characters for the most part are simple single shot guns and rifles not unlike the space guns found in early Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon serials.
What separates Prospect from other science fiction movies of the past few years is what directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl (a name so cool I’m thinking of naming my first born after him) managed to do as first time directors and with a small budget.
Prospect didn’t have a big budget. Compared to other science fiction movies that have come out in the past couple of years the 820 thousand design budget the two directors scraped together through a Kickstarter campaign and other means is microscopic. One special effects shot in Avengers: Infinity War cost more than Prospect‘s entire budget.
It’s amazing what Caldwell, Earl, and their team put together on what seemed like pure will and tenacity. What the team has managed to do is create an alien world in their own backyard. It’s a convincing world too. Things floating in the air make the world toxic to breathe which require all the characters to remain in suits while outside. At times the helmets make it difficult to understand what the actors are saying. Sometimes it’s okay, but when we can’t hear Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night) it’s frustrating.
You may find the story average and it may not break new ground, but you’ll find yourself easily immersed in this word. That’s something not a lot of high budget science fiction movies. Movies like Passengers, Life, and Gravity (as great of a movie as it is) are sleak and shiny. It’s easy to remember your watching a movie. Prospect is more, pardon the pun, down to earth. You can imagine yourself more in the world of Prospect than a multi-million dollar blockbuster. Prospect is more familiar to us and because it is more familiar you’ll be in this world along with Cee, Damon, and Ezra. It’s a movie any science fiction fan will enjoy.