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Sometimes you know a movie is “made for you” by the intro alone. I recently experienced this with Prospect—a sci-fi western that is currently streaming on Netflix. When I had the chance to review it I immediately stepped up to watch.
Set in an indeterminate future where settlers travel between far-flung planets on giant conveyer ships, teenage Cee and her drug-snorting father are on a mission to an alien moon. With her mother long dead and her father teaching her the ropes, Cee is bitter and resentful towards the “career” that has been handed down to her by her parents. When her father tells her they need to make one last run in order to collect some highly valuable gems, Cee is not thrilled.
Her lack of enthusiasm only increases when they reach the planet’s surface and they run into Ezra: a fellow settler and petty criminal played by Pedro Pascal. Their situation goes from bad to worse.
Premiering in March 2018 at the South by Southwest Film Festival, Prospect is a lush, futuristic romp with a high concept plot that absolutely knows its genre.
If you’re looking for a movie that revels in space opera aesthetics, Prospect will be up your alley based on the visuals alone. This is especially true if you’re a fan of the long-defunct Firefly or Star Wars’ Tatooine, where everyone’s searching for their fortune with a blaster ready. Prospect also draws on the blue-collar working vibe that infuses the Alien franchise, and the ship that transports Cee and her father to this moon is incredible: high-tech, but also tangible. It felt lived in.
One of my favorite things about Prospect was the moon. Instead of a desert landscape, the viewer is treated to a planetary body that’s so thick with vegetation that it’s simply known as “The Green.” The drawback to this beautiful moon is that it’s toxic to humans: the pollen in the air is so poisonous that if people breathe it in they’ll choke to death. They constantly require spacesuits in order to operate in this environment.
Another reason why I was personally excited to see this film was the inclusion of Pedro Pascal as Ezra. I’ve seen Pascal in multiple productions by now, ranging from Game of Thrones to Narcos. Each time I’ve absolutely loved his performance and in Prospect I was equally impressed.
Here, Pascal plays a grizzled, jaded prospector who is wise to the ways of the frontier. Sophie Thatcher’s Cee was also engaging, and she really held her own as a disaffected youth in a way that never comes across as shallow.
Cee’s mother is dead, and all she has for company until Ezra comes along is her drug-toting father. In order to cope with this life of petty crime, Cee has started writing books and building headphones in order to listen to old music. Truly, she’s a character any woman with a love for the written word can relate to, and her sulky, rightfully-angry-at-her-situation behaviour reminds me of my own youth.
A final shoutout for this film goes to the concept, which basically boiled down to “gold rush in space.” Like Beyond White Space’s “Moby Dick,” Prospect’s idea is catchy enough to keep you watching. Its handling of this high concept plot was much better, however—enough that I think I’d watch the film again.
While this movie is extremely enjoyable and I appreciate how character-driven it was, Prospect does get slow at parts and they could have upped the stakes in some of the action scenes.
I’d also say that I’m getting burnt out by the repeated inclusion of murderous cults, because they seem to be popping up in almost everything I’m watching these days, regardless of genre. However this might be the luck of the draw, and I don’t want to hold an entire trope against the film—especially in the context of my regular viewing habits.
The idea of a space-based gold rush is becoming a reality, and The Guardian recently reported on how scientists “have called for more than 85% of the solar system to be placed off-limits to human development.” This is in the hope that they can protect it from strip-mining.