Nov 2, 2020

A fine sci-fi filled with humanity and not overburdened with tech.


Grade: A-

Director: Christopher Caldwell, Zeek Earl

Screenplay: Caldwell, Earl

Cast: Sophie Thatcher (The Tomorrow Man), Jay Duplass (Horse Girl)

Runtime: 1h 40m

Rating: R

By: John DeSando

"Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life." H. G. Wells

The title of this unusually smart and humane Sci-Fi called Prospect echoes the wild West of American lore. It is about mining for valuable gems in the forest of a distant moon at the edge of the galaxy. A young woman, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is sidekick for her dad, Damon (Jay Duplass) as they land to do some contract mining. Not all goes as planned because, like the old West, bad critters abound.

While she ends up in a survival adventure with a rogue mercenary, Ezra (Pedro Pascal), debut writer/directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl hammer out a thriller Butch and Sundance would have approved but without humor. There are other mercenaries looking to mine for the gem, and the struggle gets tough without the gore, say, of Alien. This is lo-fi with little dazzling hardware and much human weakness.

Because Prospect is more fiction than science, the growing trust between Cee and her “new” dad is the magnetizing foundation of the drama, a deftly drawn relationship that sees for Cee survival as a mature reliance on sympathy and trust rather than cynicism and conflict. The arc is slow for her after she bridles her survival instincts—just the right tempo to learn about her and Ezra’s characters.

Besides being a fascinating amalgam of roughness and insight, Ezra speaks in a smoothly stilted style evocative of an Eton don or an Elizabethan business man. The film is worth seeing just to listen to his high-toned sentences that are yet basic common sense. He would have been a perfect companion to the prospectors of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

What makes science fiction such a valuable part of our culture is that it can traffic in all kinds of imaginative tricks and dreams and still give valuable insight into the human psyche. In Prospect, the real prospect or future wealth, if you will, is in cooperation devoid of greed, or rather just the smallest amount of avarice to give energy to the proceedings.

Prospect can stand alongside my favorite Sci-Fi’s like 2001 and Forbidden Planet, maybe not as majestic but just as insightful into human ambition and humanity. Christopher Nolan and Ridley Scott would approve.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at