DirectorZeek Earl, Chris Caldwell
Release Date(s)2018 (March 8, 2019)
Studio(s)Depth of Field/The Realm/Ground Control/DUST (Gunpowder & Sky)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father Damon (Jay Duplass) are harvesters. They’ve rented passage on a sling ship to the Green Moon, orbiting a gas giant in a distant star system, where they have a contract to collect aurelac gems (think pearls, cut from alien oysters). But when their drop pod malfunctions and crashes off course, they must trek through a toxic jungle in spacesuits to reach the job site. And when they encounter a pair of bandits (led by Pedro Pascal), things go badly wrong, and Cee is forced to make tough decisions in order to survive.
Produced for just $3.9 million, Prospect is one of the more remarkable examples of indie cinema in recent years. From its script and production design, to the costumes and props, even the ethereal and edgy score (by Daniel L.K. Caldwell), the film renders a believable and hand-crafted science fiction world from start to finish. This is a character-driven story, shot mostly on location in Washington’s Hoh Rainforest, so the visual effects are minimal. They’re also extremely well done, particularly the spacecraft footage early on. Most importantly, though, the performances are terrific. You may recognize Duplass and Pascal (from Amazon’s Transparent and HBO’s Game of Thrones), but young Sophie Thatcher is a revelation. She carries the film well indeed; even with just a glance, you get the sense that her gears are always in motion.
Prospect was captured digitally using the Red Dragon (6K) and the Red Epic-W Helium (8K). It’s included on Gunpowder & Sky’s MOD Blu-ray in full 1080p at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The fact that this is a small batch release isn’t a problem, but while the video quality is generally good, with nice detail overall, the blacks are a little too gray for the image to really shine. This is partly due to the use of practical and digitally-added atmospherics, but the color grade seems off too. The image isn’t bad by any means. You just get the sense that it could look better.
Audio is included in an excellent English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that’s mostly front and center, but with nice directionality and spaciousness, and robust low end. Dialogue is clean at all times, though you may wish to use the optional English subtitles occasionally, given the in-world slang and terminology. Again, the score is fantastic—not just the orchestral music but also the surprising use of 1960s Asian pop tunes (including Rita Chao & The Quests’ Crying in the Storm, which opens the film perfectly).
The disc includes just a few special features, the best of which is a feature-length audio commentary with writers/directors Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell. This is a good listen, not just for fans of the film but for anyone interested in the indie cinema world. You also get a quick behind-the-scenes featurette (which runs about 4 minutes and shows how the filmmakers built the sets and props in a Seattle warehouse, then moved the production into the wild) and a pair of deleted scenes (about 7 minutes in all). It’s not a lot of material, but you’ll be glad it’s all there. You do miss some kind of production design gallery though and the trailer would have been nice too.
Prospect is a great little science fiction film that, despite its low budget, reveals ambition, a grand vision, and genuine talent. Squint and you could almost imagine that this film takes place in the same universe as Alien or Blade Runner, or at least a neighboring one. But I must say, I’d love to see this film released on 4K Ultra HD (note that a 4K disc is planned for release in Germany, but not currently in the States, though it is available in 4K on iTunes), as a proper high dynamic range grade and a wider color gamut would really help the image. In any case, this MOD disc is only $20. And if you love this genre, it’s well worth your time. [Editor’s Note: The German 4K Ultra HD release has now been reviewed here at The Bits.]
- Bill Hunt