J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Prospect: Claim-Jumpers in Space

Eventually, everything in space will be just as shabby as most of the Earth. It really will not take long, due to the cramped spaces and closed systems. Such is the case with the patched together space vessel piloted by Cee and her father Damon. When it breaks down, they find themselves literally in a world of hurt. The claim-jumping bad guys will also be a problem in Christopher Caldwell & Zeek Earl’s space western Prospect (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Cee would really prefer to put down roots and lead a normal life, but her father, an itinerant space miner and trader insists on pursuing one dubious claim after another. He might actually have a line on something big this time, but they will be cutting it close. They will only have a limited time to harvest a fabled gem deposit before rendezvousing with the final interstellar transit servicing these parts. Unfortunately, their crash-landing sets them behind schedule. A fatal encounter with a couple of outlaws will be even costlier.

Despite her reluctance, Cee must work together with the surviving outlaw Ezra, if she wants to get back to human civilization. He is no boy scout that’s for sure—talkative too—but there are even more dangerous people at large on the planet.

Prospect is definitely playing with the archetypes of two beloved genres. Think of it as the Heinlein juvenile version of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but in space, there are no stinking badges. Yet, it never feels like a gimmick. Instead, there is a tragic inevitability to Caldwell & Earl’s narrative, which pays off in a major way.

Somehow, as Cee, Sophie Thatcher seems to mature before our eyes over the course of the film. Pedro Pascal does some of his best work ever as the morally ambiguous Ezra. They are both terrific together, totally selling the subtle evolution of their shotgun partnership. Unfortunately, we can hardly see the space-helmeted Sheila Vand portraying one of the third act mercs, but she still definitely came to play. Andre Royo is also all kinds of creepy as a survivor who has gone slightly nuts, in a Heart of Darkness kind of way.

This is also a great looking film, from the ominously pollen-heavy atmosphere to the scruffy space ship decor, which brings to mind John Carpenter’s Dark Star, Roger Corman’s enjoyable rip-off Space Raiders, and even classic, un-digitally-enhanced Star Wars interiors. Earl’s cinematography and the craftsmanship of the design team are all wonderfully evocative. Frustratingly, the science fiction press tends to ignore indie upstarts like this, but in a few years, this will a favorite of nearly every fan at Comic-Con. Very highly recommended for genre enthusiasts and mainstream audiences alike, Prospect opens this Friday (11/2) in New York, at the Regal Union Square.

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