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  Prospect Righteous Gemstones
Year: 2018
Director: Christopher Caldwell, Zeek Earl
Stars: Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass, Andre Royo, Anwan Glover, Sheila Vand, Alex McCauley, Doug Dawson, Krista Johnson, Brian Gunter, Trick Danneker, Christopher Morrison, Ben Little, Arthur Deranlaeau, Shepheard Earl
Genre: Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is a teenage girl who is very far from her origins, as she has been taken out into deep space by her father Damon (Jay Duplass) where there is a chance he can make big money as a prospector on a moon of one of the large gas giant planets to be found orbiting a distant star. She is, it has to be said, not too thrilled at this, and is more interested in returning to a place she can call home than she is to be travelling in cramped conditions on a spaceship, but her father is convinced he can generate a fortune for them, so she dutifully goes along. They do not have too much time before their star transport leaves, so time is of the essence...

Thus begins one of them thar space Westerns, where the conventions of the cowboy flick were adopted into the trappings of the science fiction adventure, this one based on a fifteen-minute short from writers and directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl which they had expanded into feature length (the ultimate goal of many a short maker). The results, while not at breakthrough runaway blockbuster levels of success, quickly became a cult movie as fans of the genre responded favourably to what was at heart a prospector, Gold Rush in the Klondike piece, but was skilfully crafted into something with wider appeal, complete with a lived-in appearance and characters.

Thatcher was highly effective as the fast-learning girl who convinces throughout that she is someone who has been through hardship, and this is another damn day of her trials and tribulations so she is not going to allow it to overwhelm her: Cee was an easy character to support. Once she and Damon are on that moon, he sets about finding the gemstones that will be their ticket to a better life, which it turns out are harvested by arcane means, much like everything else in this pleasingly analogue universe, from the spacesuits that must be worn at practically all times to the technology that gets the cast into space in the first place - even the guns are rickety and prone to malfunction.

The fact they need guns was a mark of two things, well, cowboys in Westerns have their pistols and rifles, so why should this be any different? And also, there's a lot of people out there in this galactic frontier who will have no qualms about doing you harm, so you had better be prepared to defend yourself should talking fail you and push came to shove. It was worth noting Duplass was not really the leading man, as that role was taken by Pedro Pascal, who presumably moved from this to The Mandalorian with ease since there was little difference in the costuming requirements in what appears to be less than hospitable conditions, here a humid set of locations on the forest moon, a more believably alien one than the Ewoks lived on in Return of the Jedi.

Indeed, if you were appreciative of world-building, you could have a grand old time here simply drinking in the care and attention that went into putting its imagery on the screen, not simply relying on the CGI wizards (though there was some neat wizardry, effects-wise). This extended to the dialogue, which was "futuristic" in the way pidgin English is supposed to be the language of the future, they didn't go that far, but it took a little while to get used to the way the actors spoke. Overall, resilience was the order of the day, asking us what it takes to endure various setbacks, large, small and small turning into large, as Cee encounters weird religious types, other prospectors, and many out to enquire what, exactly, can you do for me? And even, are you better off to me dead? It wasn't going to change the world, but as a directors' calling card it should provide a chance for these two, if there were any justice in the universe. The final shot of Prospect suggests there is. Music by Daniel L.K. Caldwell (and an intriguing choice of what these future folk consider pop classics).

[Signature Entertainment presents Prospect on Amazon Prime Video 27th August 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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