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New feature-length sci-fi film Prospect is written and directed by Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl and is based on their 2014 short film of the same name. Featuring some familiar faces from TV (Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass), it focuses on a father-daughter scavenging mission to another Earth-like planet with a toxic atmosphere. However, trouble arises when the pair encounter two other hunters with hostile intentions.
This plot is difficult to find a way into. The dialogue is filled with sci-fi jargon and hurried speech from the actors doesn’t help with audience engagement. Duplass also plays father Damon as reserved and only ever quietly frustrated which also makes connecting with the supposed seriousness of the situation difficult. What does serve the film well is its aesthetic. With analogue equipment and a dated 70s feel to the spaceship interior, Prospect‘s look is more akin to Moon or Alien than a present-day J.J. Abrams-style sci-fi movie. The film even begins to feel more like a Western the further we progress, with its quick-draws, shootouts, treasure hunting, villain-chasing and prisoner-taking.
There are ebbs and flows in the tension but it’s never really gripping or visceral enough to make the audience care. It ends up feeling more like a patchwork of scenes from some mid-series episodes of Lost than a cohesive crescendo leading to a satisfactory climax. The final act features a bizarre mish-mash of characters with no engaging relationships among them. Everyone in the film is hostile and violent which makes it difficult to root for any of them. Even protagonist Cee (Sophie Thatcher) doesn’t seem particularly upset about the tragic events that befall her.
The imperfect costume and production design are one of the key draws here. But Prospect lacks in emotional engagement and genuine thrills and ends up leaving us questioning if perhaps it should have remained a short film.