Blu-Ray Review: “Prospect”

Featured image: Sophie Thatcher as Cee in Prospect. (Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.)

Review

The film is a drama sci-fi thriller about a young girl, Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father, Damon (Jay Duplass). They travel to an alien moon hoping to strike it rich in mines “leftover from the rush,” on contract there to harvest gems in a Holy Grail of gems, the almost mythical Queen’s Lair. However, there are other dangerous inhabitants in this wilderness – like Ezra (Pedro Pascal) – where Cee must deal with the greed of man and fight to survive.

It’s neat that Prospect is almost a treasure hunt but with a science fiction twist. They’re on an alien moon, evidently, but take the gems themselves for example: Harvesters truly have to work for the treasure, going through icky, dangerous creatures to secure the gems. This is what makes the harvest such a difficult job and where Damon comes into play. He’s talented; but flawed.

Prospect - Jay, Sophie
Jay Duplass as Damon and Sophie Thatcher as Cee in Prospect. (Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.)

The Western vibe to the film is also welcome, as the moralities of the film’s characters take centre stage. The hostile dynamic between stars Sophie Thatcher as Cee and Pedro Pascal as Ezra and how they are forced together is what keeps Prospect intriguing throughout, even as it is lite on the story. I believe that’s because co-writers and co-directors Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl are so tapped into their world building that an actual plot isn’t always well-defined; it’s just the character’s journey that feels drives the film, more so than any substantial narrative that truly dives deep.

Not a terrible amount happens in the film, but the performances and their dynamic keep things moving. In character, Cee is interesting especially as we learn about her rewriting her favourite novel because she’s lost her only copy of it. Knowing a story so well to rewrite it scene by scene is a neat sentiment.

As well, the way their alliance develops over the film is fascinating, and also tense as they come across other survivors and mercenaries, and the way Caldwell and Earl handle the writing in these moments is creative. This is especially true with music blaring over their communications to make things more unpredictable.

About the world building, Caldwell and Earl really sell that they’re on an alien moon. This is the benefit of them shooting on location in Hoh Rainforest in Washington State, as the rainforest looks otherworldly and is neat to know that this planet could be a long road trip away.

The visuals are fantastic, as is the attention to detail with the dust that’s almost always on screen and how layered it makes the film look. It’s all well-shot by Zeek Earl who also does the cinematography, and I think it is that dusty haze that makes this feel like another planet. The set design, costume design and props all shine, too, to convince that this world is legitimate.

Score: 75/100

Prospect, Ezra
Pedro Pascal as Ezra in Prospect. (Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.)

Background

At the end of May, Vinegar Syndrome released an exclusive 4K Ultra HD version of Prospect, released by Gunpowder & Sky. I was able to review one of the Blu-Rays (thanks, Vinegar Syndrome!), and watched the Blu-Ray (I won’t get to enjoy the actual Ultra HD Blu-Ray just yet because I don’t have a 4K player).

The film’s in a clean black case, but the actual artwork on the discs – especially the Blu-Ray disc – is great. It’s complete with drawings of a helmet and a med kit, to name a few things on it, and unique designs on discs like this is one of the many reasons why I still love physical media.

As for the technical specs, I’m unable to watch this on the Ultra HD 4K like intended, but if the Blu-Ray is gorgeous, I can only imagine how much better it would look in 4K. For the audio, the score sounds great even though it seemed to compete with the dialogue at times. I always use subtitles anyway, though it seems harder to hear because of the helmets (and that’s the case in one of the deleted scenes).

Cee, Prospect
Sophie Thatcher as Cee in Prospect. (Courtesy of Gunpowder & Sky.)

Special Features

Here are the Special Features included on the Blu-Ray for this release of Prospect, also including audio commentary on both discs:

  • Region Free 4K Ultra HD / Blu-ray Set
    • 4k UHD presented in High-Dynamic-Range in a brand new higher bitrate encode (exclusive to this release)
    • 2021 Retrospective Interview with Filmmakers Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl
    • Aurelac Prospecting – collectable booklet/manual (exclusive to the Limited Edition)
    • Commentary track with the filmmakers
    • “Prospect” – short film version from 2014
    • Behind the scenes featurette
    • Deleted Scene: Channel Rat
    • Deleted Scene: Leroy
    • Inside Prospect: Helmets of Prospect
    • Inside Prospect: The Drop Pod
    • Scene Analysis with Costume Designer Aidan Vitti – Merc Camp
    • Scene Analysis with Visual Effects Supervisor Ian Hubert – Dust VFX
    • Scene Analysis with Visual Effects Supervisor Ian Hubert – Spaceship VFX
    • Scene Analysis with Production Designer Matt Acosta – Cee Pod Interior
    • Scene Analysis with Production Designer Matt Acosta – Ezra Arrival
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Filmmaker teaser trailer
    • Multiple spots & bumpers
    • Reversible cover artwork
    • English SDH subtitles

I was able to check out (most) of the special features as a part of this release, starting with the short film Prospect from 2014. You can completely see the groundwork laid out for the feature film, especially with Zeek Earl’s cinematography, as they use the same filming location for the short and the feature. It’s intriguing seeing what was altered for the feature; and cool to see how this short film ends and see where they were inspired to create some of the main sub-plots in the feature film.

It’s also fascinating for a fan like me watching the Inside Prospect videos as they go into the design of the helmets and the design of Damon and Cee’s space pod. If you know that I do interviews, these are the kinds of questions I love asking with this type of science fiction; about the world building and learning more about the props of the film, especially for a film of a smaller budget.

rsz_1prospect_blu-ray
The Blu-Ray case for the 4K Blu-Ray Vinegar Syndrome release of Prospect. (Courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome.)

The Scene-by-Scene Breakdowns are also real treats, as they’re sort-of mini commentaries over scenes, like by costume designer Aidan Vitti as we learn details about costumes that really show how these costumes have their own backstories; and it’s awesome learning about the use of miniatures and how the VFX work was done, especially for the dust and haze on the film.

That contrast clear in the deleted scene, Channel Rat, and since it’s an unfinished scene, we don’t see the dust VFX over top of it. It looks different and really shows the amount of work that went into every exterior scene by VFX supervisor Ian Hubert and his team as they added additional layers.

The 2021 Retrospective Interview with Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl has some great tidbits, as well, as we learn about their inspirations for the world building and learning that they’re always looking at fan art for the film.

I’m looking forward to rewatching the film with the audio commentary, as I’m sure there’s a lot more interesting things to learn about Prospect and what went into making it.

The Gunpowder & Sky 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray is available for purchase right here.

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