Prospect (2018)

Directed by: Christopher Caldwell & Zeek Earl

Written by: Christopher Caldwell & Zeek Earl

Starring: Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass

Hello! Welcome to what I’ve regretfully called Discount Robots and Time Machines. I’m Dave. Make yourself at home. There are biscuits on the table.

We’re here to talk about independent science-fiction and fantasy films. Don’t get me wrong; I love big, tent-pole blockbusters where everything on-screen is reduced to its component atoms. But I have a soft spot for films whose budgets wouldn’t cover hiring Chris Hemsworth’s personal trainer. That’s where I think you’ll find the interesting stories filled with new ideas. 

Normally I stumble across them mentioned in articles, or if I’ve disappeared down a lunchtime Wikipedia rabbit hole where I’ve been trying to find that actor who was in that thing, y’know? Yeah, I lead a pretty exciting life. And now’s never been a better time to watch them. As with indies of other genres, they’re much more accessible now they’re distributed on streaming services and the DVDs are available to buy online.

So, let’s get cracking, shall we? Our first film is Prospect, the 2018 debut feature from Christopher Caldwell & Zeek Earl starring Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher and Jay Duplass. Here’s the blurb on the back of the DVD case:

A teenage girl and her father travel to a remote alien moon, aiming to strike it rich. They’ve secured a contract to harvest a large deposit of the elusive gems hidden in the depths of the moon’s toxic forest. But there are others roving the wilderness and the job quickly devolves into a fight to survive. Forced to contend not only with the forest’s other ruthless inhabitants but with her own father’s greed-addled judgment, the girl finds she must carve her own path to escape.

The future will not be silver jumpsuits, protein pills and sleek starships. It’ll be dirty and dangerous, with spacecraft cobbled together by welding two crashed ones together. 

There are no Skywalkers or Kirks in Prospect. These are characters who are struggling to just get by. Nomad prospector Damon (Jay Duplass) can’t even afford a spaceship. He and his daughter, Cee (Sophie Thatcher), hitch a ride on the interstellar equivalent of a Megabus.

As they descend to the moon’s surface in a lander, operational instructions read from dog-eared manuals, we feel the grime tarring the switches and the grease smeared over helmet visors. The attention to detail, along with snippets of dialogue, hints at a wider universe these people exist on the fringes of.  

Once on the surface, Ezra (Pedro Pascal) turns up and things go south pretty quickly. Pascal is a great actor – let’s face it – he’s a man who can give a nuanced dramatic performance while wearing a metal bucket on his head in The Mandalorian. But Thatcher does a lot of the emotional heavy lifting, starting a wide-eyed, terrified child and gradually showing the steely resolve that lies beneath the surface.

As with The Mandalorian, Prospect gives off a space-western vibe. The rich, lyrical dialogue Pascal is given makes him sound like a Forty-Niner during the California Gold Rush. Rather than any science-fiction films, I was reminded of the Coen Brother’s version of True Grit.   

 

And all this was done on a budget of less than $4 million. Before production began Caldwell and Earl set up a workshop of designers, carpenters, mechanics and cosplayers to build the props and costumes needed to create a slice of this future-world that feels lived in. 

Since the film’s release, the two director/writers have struck a deal with Amazon Studios to create a sci-fi series. It’ll be interesting to see whether they expand the Prospect universe or go with something new. 

Anyway, was it worth watching? Yes, indeed. It’s not an action-packed laser-fest, but it draws you into a new universe for 90 minutes. And isn’t that what you’d want from sci-fi? 

I guess I need some kind of rating system. I hadn’t thought about that. How about 4 Robots out of 5? There. 

🤖  🤖  🤖  🤖 

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[Edit: I’ve just found out that All4 has put it up to stream. So, if you’re in the UK, you’ve got a few days to watch it there for free.]

You can buy Prospect from Amazon on DVD or Prime Video:

6 thoughts on “Prospect (2018)

  1. Have you got any fig rolls or ginger biscuits?
    Well, you’ve tempted me, I’ll give Prospect a go at the weekend on All4 👍

    As always, love your books!

    1. Fig rolls? Bleugh! Always happy to have ginger biscuits in the house, though. Yeah, give the film a crack. It’s only 90 minutes so you’ll still have most of the evening left if you don’t like it 🙂
      Thank you for the lovely words about the books!

  2. Love Pedro Pascal, and will definitely check it out! I recently rewatched Alien (1979- Ridley Scott), and was struck by how grubby and cobbled together everything was. And everyone looked sweaty. All the time. I am now convinced- Space must be stinky.

    1. Yeah, I re-watched it a few weeks ago too. Wires hanging everywhere, chains and steam. Think George Lucas called the look “used future” when making Star Wars, where he wanted all the Rebel ships to be scuffed and taped back together because they wouldn’t have the resources to buy new.

  3. I’ve been wanting to see this for a while now, So thanks for the all4 heads up. Pedro Pascal is a brilliant actor (don’t get me started on how good The Mandalorian is) Also, I’m reading Serious Moonlight at the moment and loving it!

    1. LOVE The Mandalorian. Half way through season 2, but it’s been a while since I watched an episode, so I think that might be this weekend’s job. Really glad you’re enjoying Serious Moonlight!

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