At first, the comparisons come quick and easy: The sparse, plasticine, retrospace aesthetic of Duncan Jones’ Moon; the winking, twisting, faux-western dialogue of Joss Whedon’s Firefly; the low-key, day-to-day, here’s-how-everyday-humans-will-actually-live-in-space vibe of Fullbright’s video game Tacoma. But soon enough, the indie sci-fi western Prospect stirs these things together to concoct its own unique, lo-fi vision of a grimy, grungy future.
Prospect has parts for Jay Duplass and The Wire’s Anwan Glover, but it spends most of its time with the young Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and the cynical Ezra (Pedro Pascal), two strangers stuck on an overgrown and lethal moon. Buried beneath the mossy soil and poisoned air are gross, weird stones—stones that hold immense value, and have drawn people, most of them disreputable creeps, to seek their fortunes. Prospect is kind of a western, kind of a sci-fi movie, and kind of a thriller, but mostly it’s a coming-of-age story, as Cee learns who she is and what she’ll stand for—even as she’s encased in a ratty old spacesuit, and even as she trudges through a dark, humid forest that’s trying to kill her.
Directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl are clearly working with a low budget here; that’s evident not so much in the film’s clever visuals, which are suitably inventive and transportive, but in the intense, intentional focus on character over spectacle—an increasing rarity when genre films are more popular than ever before, but also more... well, more than ever before. (Earl will be in Portland for Prospect’s 7:20 pm show on Saturday, November 10 at Fox Tower 10.) Prospect’s solid, propulsive story is front and center, and it’s anchored by strong performances from Thatcher and Pascal (who, as on Game of Thrones, steals every scene he’s in). Intense, strange, and cleverly imagined, Prospect tells an old-school frontier story—albeit one set in a frontier that’s unlike any we have yet to discover.