Prospect is a small budget film from 2018 that just showed up on my Netflix queue, so I decided to give it a shot. It reminded me of a good episode of a science fiction anthology series, or an extra long episode of Firefly, with dialogue written by Elmore Leonard or David Milch. Prospect clearly falls into that Space Western sub-sub-genre.
No time is spent on explaining What is Happening and I’m fine with that. I prefer it, actually, to the omniscient, invisible narrator or a series of title cards that tell us what has happened/is happening when we drop in as viewers. I’m looking at you Highlander 2 and Chronicles of Riddick and literally dozens of other SF films produced since George Lucas broke all of our brains with his Space Wizards and Lazer Swords.
Relatively new actor Sophie Thatcher plays Cee, a interplanetary vagabond riding the rails with her widowed father, Damon, played by the perpetually boring Jay Duplass. She’s seeking escape from the itinerant life; he’s seeking an escape from life – full stop. The two are prospectors on a galactic hunt for valuable jewels that gestate in the bellies of acid fungi; sort of like flesh eating oysters.
When we get there, Cee is holed up in her own private corner of her father’s microscopic spaceship, a glorified steel drum with rockets and TI86 navigation computer, which is itself attached to a larger transport vessel that carriers them around the cosmos. Out the window is an unnamed, very green planet. Still, Cee is looking much father off into space to a place she’d rather be. Literally, anyplace.
Their plan is to make a quick stop planet-side to find one more killer jewel, a biggie, But that routine expedition starts to look like a suicide mission when Cee learns, over ship-wide PA, that the transport company is ending the route past the green planet; after one more orbit, the vessel will push off and never return. That is, if they don’t get off the planet before one complete orbit, Cee and her father will die on a sparsely inhabited planet where the everything (plants, animals, other humans, the air) is trying to kill you. That’s far too much risk for Cee.
But Damon is resolute. He’s an addict in debt. He implies that one last drop is their only chance to make it out of an endless cycle of subsistence and poverty. They can find a home. Reluctantly, Cee agrees.
Planetside, Damon addiction pushes him to make further reckless choices. He didn’t tell Cee the entire plan, of course, because he knew she would not agree to until she had no other option than to go along with his fool’s errand. Damon is a less charismatic version of Bogart’s character in Treasure of Sierra Madre, willing to sacrifice everything, including his own daughter, for the bigger score.
Pedro Pascal’s Ezra, a smooth talking scoundrel with a mute sidekick, comes along and gums up the work. Ezra sees Damon as an easy mark. And he is.
But Cee is not.
Even as his daughter begs him to leave it be, Damon’s greed predictably turns the situation pear shaped. He’s killed in a shootout with the mute. Cee is forced to rely on Ezra to help her get off the planet; Ezra eventually realizes he needs Cee just as much, if not more. They work together, like a real family.
I liked Pedro Pascal as Ezra. His language, jargon and slang, is really well written, like I mentioned earlier, right out of Deadwood, the kind of language one could believe that could come out of the mouth a prospector. There are gaps, words and concepts that aren’t clear at first. They’re not spelled out for you (he doesn’t call anything a “space shovel” or talk about “Andorian Brandy.”) Context clues fill in the gaps. If you’re watching, you will get it.
Like comments, I don’t read reviews, especially for genre films. Fanbois, trolls, professionals in big periodicals don’t seem to actually like movies. I’m not always sure what they look for in a film, but they don’t often appreciate character development, plot, relationships, ideas that touch on everyday experience. Explosions, maybe. What ever “production values” are. Soundtrack? Movies talking only about male experience?
So I still can’t rightly understand a 6.2 out of 10, especially when I consider:
So like a chump, I dug in.
The dozen 1-2 point reviews I read were remarkable in their consistency: there’s no plot, no story, no action, no character development, no special effects (or so they claim). Many questioning whether the film even qualifies for the science fiction label. They don’t seem to believe that a film that looks at desperation and a our desire to not just survive but prosper event at great personal risks are “worthy” subjects of a SF film.
No, Prospect is not a perfect film but its plot is certainly as well constructed as any superhero or Star Wars film that some of these guys get hard for. The story progressed logically and believably (considering future space world with air poisoned by gem-yielding fungus) from A to Z. Reading some of these reviews, I’m not sure some of these reviewers understand how stories work.
Women aren’t often main characters in SF films. If they are, like Ripley in Alien and Aliens or any movie with Milla Jovovich or ScarJo, they are conventionally attractive Western women who kick ass. It shows the limits of my film knowledge, but I can think of few other SF films with an introspective and resilient female character who used her wits to resolve the films conflicts, rather than violence. Amy Adams in Arrival, maybe, another film that discusses love and relationships and choices we make even if they will hurt us. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the lead character was a young woman – completely covered in a space suit, responsible for her own salvation – played a part in these relatively poor reviews from dudes.
For me, Prospect was successful and worth the watch. If you want to give it a preview, Prospect started its life as a short film. You can see it in it’s entirety here: