Prospect was the feature debut for writer-director team Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl and proved to be an ambitious masterclass in simplistic worldbuilding. It began as a humble Kickstarter funded short film which debuted at SXSW in 2014 and grew into a 4 million dollar feature film starring Pedro Pascal. The film proves that the sci-fi genre doesn't have to consist of large budget, CGI-heavy stories with overwrought plots.
Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher. CREDIT: Depth of Field
Jay Duplass plays Damon, an interplanetary prospector, who travels from world-to-world with his teenage daughter Cee (played by Sophie Thatcher) trying to make a profit off the rare materials they harvest. While venturing onto an alien moon in search for their next harvest, disaster strikes the farther-daughter duo when they encounter Pedro Pascal's charismatic Ezra and Damon is killed. The film doesn't get distracted with unnecessary expose, while Ezra and Cee go their separate ways on several occasions, they are drawn back together in their pursuit to get off the toxic planet. Cee and Ezra make for an infinitely more interesting father-daughter style duo than Damon did, though that may be due in part to the charm of Ezra's character.
As I watched I couldn't help but wonder if the creatives behind The Mandalorian had used this film as their deciding factor in casting Pedro Pascal. He is effortless in his portrayal of Ezra, making the best of his dialogue and love-to-hate persona. Cee and Ezra have to rely upon and trust one another in order to get off the moon and the undercurrent of 'found family' is interesting to watch.
Sophie Thatcher as Cee. CREDIT: Depth of Field
The film doesn't concern itself with explaining when it is set, though given the spaceship that Damon and Cee live on and the somewhat dire post-apocalyptic feeling society, one could believe that it's set sometime in the not-so-distant future. The writers utilized clever subliminal dialogue about the film's universe, which managed to invite the audience in without bogging them down with inane details. It provided just enough details to make the world believable and unique. What resonates is that the filmmakers are grounded in the reality of the world they've created and they are able to share that security with the audience. It was a small window into a larger world that felt real and strangely familiar.
Caldwell and Earl's straightforward approach to sci-fi storytelling has the potential to spark a new generation of storytellers, borrowing from the classic 1970s-vibe of films like Star Wars. If the story is good and the world is believable you don't need massive budgets to create an engaging movie. Prospect isn't a thought-provoking movie, but it is 100 minutes of interesting storytelling, simplistic sets and costumes, and a masterclass on how good science fiction can be when its at its best.