The movie is an ambitious attempt at capturing a classic tale from yesteryear, in the context of a realistic sci-fi environment. It’s a cowboy story that would have been happy with John Wayne and some natives in the Wild West. It’s True Grit if the dad died in the first act.

I hit play on Prospect nearly immediately, or as immediately as a millennial on a streaming service can decide on something to watch for the first time. It has astronauts, space planets, Pedro Pascal. I mean it’s essentially just the Mandalorian without the Disney budget.

The practical effects are very convincing, and the effort put into the world building is absolutely stunning. It relies on gorgeous shots of nature, a light computer-aided filter applied for its dust, and a series of excellent costumes.

Pascal is fantastic, as everything else he’s in. There’s flashes of this quick, clever, poetic charm to the way he speaks, but it only comes up a few times. His costar, Sophie Thatcher, was a fantastic choice for her character. She appears small, fragile, childish, but through her actions she proves to the audience that there’s nothing too challenging for her. She’s no mary sue, but she’s no damsel in distress either.
The flaws in this film begin revealing themselves fairly late in the game, late enough that you’ve spent enough time with the movie that you can’t turn it off yet. Thatcher spends most of her time glaring at someone or another, but she does it well. It’s not nearly her fault that that’s the entirety of the responses her character could have. Pascal’s dialogue turns bland, masquerading as something snazzy. It’s enough to tease you, but not enough to convince you.

The dialogue is forgivable, but it’s frustrating to see when they choose to employ dialogue, and what’s said. Spaghetti westerns relied on the characters’ actions and inactions to define who they were. Choosing to ignore a rowdy bar patron, or sharing his food with the starving child were their actions that revealed his priorities. There’s no reason to have him open his mouth until it’s impossible to show, and you must tell. In a movie as quiet as Prospect, the choice to have Pascal and Thatcher begin a deeper character discussion when they did felt forced and unnecessary. There’s a prolonged scene of the two casually but stiffly discussing Cee’s hobbies and her feelings regarding her father. Both developments that did not need the exposition, as Cee had already been established as an artistic, sensitive individual in the first act. Her feelings towards her father before and after his death had already been established. So why have these two talk at all at this point, so close to the climax, which involves no discussion, and all action?

There’s entirely too much time spent pointing a gun at another individual, holding them hostage. It’s fine and dandy in a western, but it turns into a crutch. I’ve always had a pet peeve about guns and their capability to hold characters in place, into inactivity, so that a discussion can happen. Consider Michael Scott in his improv class and how often he’d use guns as a lazy crutch. I’m not saying guns shouldn’t be used, nor am I saying that guns pointed at people have oversaturated films. It feels lazy as a storytelling technique to have this cliche employed, especially as often as it was in this movie. From start to finish, someone has a gun pointed at them and they’re forced to stand and talk.

My final issue with the film is the flitting and inconsistent use of sci-fi elements to heighten the tension in a story that draws inspiration from a western. The isolation, the gold rush, natives and outlaws. Gunshots causing significant injury and repercussions, food, water and medical supplies being a scarce resource, camping in the woods. Then they introduce a watch, counting down the time until the last time a ship will leave the planet, effectively stranding the father and daughter if they fail to complete their mission on time. This countdown presents itself multiple times through the first and second acts, but remains a nonpoint in the final act, and there’s no resolution of them having made it in time or just in time. The tension deflates as the credits roll. There are spare, forgotten shots of Cee realizing her filter was saturated, or a throwaway regarding Ezra’s filter failing and needing help. These seem like forgotten points, clumsily edited out for pacing or brevity. The efforts to mix the two genres begins to form cracks when they realize that a sci-fi climax is mechanically different than a spaghetti climax.

I’m not saying that Prospect was a bad movie, because it’s certainly a refreshing film with an incredibly high quality finish. It creates something gorgeous without the scale, so it does not suffer from needing a bloated budget or extravagant CGI. 6/10. This movie is basically Mandalorian but if Pascal spoke more, and if baby yoda shot people in the face.

Released 2018, Prospect is available on Vudu, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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