★★★ / ★★★★
Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s sci-fi project “Prospect” may not be massive in scope, but it is filled to the brim with imagination. We are thrusted into its futuristic world with no explanation—narration and title cards are nowhere to be found—so we are required to pay close attention and attempt to grasp what’s at stake for the characters before venturing into the unknown. It is capable of being quiet and ruminative one minute, loud and tension-filled the next. From the beginning right to the very end, it presents viewers with possibilities.
Jay Duplass and Sophie Thatcher play Damon and Cee, father-daughter duo who land on Green Moon with hopes of striking it rich. The plan is to excavate gems referred to as “aurelac” which grow inside subterranean roots. Damon is made aware of a place where large deposits of these roots can be found. The larger the roots, the larger the gem. Thus, the larger the payload. But the moon, covered in trees, is filled with danger, from the toxic air to other humans who wish to swim in riches. Not to mention that time is of the essence. Should Damon and Cee miss the small window of returning to the main ship, they would be stranded on the moon indefinitely. It is an exciting debut, understated but curious nearly every step of the way.
The story’s structure likens that of a standard western: there is a place the characters must get to and obtain something valuable which could change the course of their lives. Naturally, things do not quite go according to plan. Unexpected partnerships form, strange groups are introduced, there is betrayal, natural elements prove unforgiving. We meet Cee as a teenage dreamer. She does not seem all that passionate about her father’s line of work. But the camera moves with purpose. Fixating on her eyes, we realize she’s a sharp observer, certainly a quick-learner. But she is more enthused about writing on her notebook—strange symbols that bear minimal resemblance to the English alphabet.
By the end of the story, Cee remains to be dreamer but her growth is readily apparent. We look forward to discovering what’s next for her but we are met with end credits. We feel in our gut that the story is complete, but we crave to know more. And what of the man named Ezra (Pedro Pascal), a rival prospector that Cee is forced to work with and trust? He, too, undergoes some growth, especially in how he sees the naive girl who is reluctant to kill but capable when absolutely necessary. There’s an interesting dynamic between the two; I enjoyed that how they get to know one another is not reliant on words. Their actions are far more telling. I admired that their relationship does not go down the expected father figure or big brother route.
I was mesmerized by the the Green Moon’s environment. Verdant trees and shrubs go as far as the eye can see. Bizarre pollen or dust fill the air. It is poisonous and so humans are required to wear a suit with a filter. When the suit is ruptured, it is pretty much game over. Better avoid sharp branches. I wished, however, that more living organisms were introduced. They need not be humanoid or sizable. For a moon that appears to be covered with life (it has water), I expected more oddities. But perhaps life on this moon is in its early stages.
I also appreciated its lived-in, lo-fi look and feel. Transport pods, computer dashboards, and controls do not look white and shiny. They look as though they’ve been used for decades. (They certainly sound as if they’re on the verge of decrepitude.) Such artistic decisions create an impression that this future is one that lacks opportunities for the working class. It suggests why Damon and Cee are willing to risk their lives in an alien place with the possibility of being stranded. And, yes, we meet a group that had been living on that moon… and see what they’ve become.