By any account, Prospect probably shouldn’t exist at all as a film, and certainly has no right to be as good as it is in today’s filmmaking climate. But the state of independent cinema just won’t be kept down in 2018.  Somehow, directors Zeek Earl and Christopher Caldwell bring to life an original science-fiction story not based on any pre-existing intellectual property. Even more impressive, they did it without major studio financing. For the coup-de-grâce, Earl and Caldwell’s latest looks and sounds every bit as amazing as a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster. Until I get further clarification, I’m going to assume these men are either wizards or they prospected enough dinosaur amber alien eggs to travel back in time.

Prospect offers a gorgeous steampunk aesthetic

Prospect offers a gorgeous steampunk aesthetic, combined with an aggressive outer-space opening sequence. But once our main characters reach an alien moon, the cinematography goes next level. Gorgeously lit forest sequences and expansive prairies adorn the majority of the film as our characters explore the landscape. Meanwhile, these shots blend seamlessly with alien skies in a way that doesn’t seem possible without studio financing or witchcraft.

The story, meanwhile, follows a teenage girl and her widower father, played by Sophie Thatcher and Jay Duplass, as they leave the safety of their space station to try to strike it rich on an alien moon. On their way, they encounter a shifty fellow prospector, Ezra, played by Pedro Pascal (Game of ThronesKingsman: The Golden Circle). Naturally, things do not go as planned, and our characters soon find themselves at the mercy of a cadre of sinister forces and racing against time, lest they find themselves stranded on the surface. While Duplass and Pascal exude the natural charm you’d expect from such veterans, it’s Thatcher who steals the spotlight.

like a serious version of Firefly

The dialogue, however, is another matter altogether. Prospect comes complete with it’s own peculiar dialect, rhythm, and vocabulary, coming across almost like a serious version of Firefly. Some if it you’ll pick up, but some if it you won’t. In addition, large chunks of runtime are spent wearing spacesuits, purposefully rendering the dialogue muffled. Ultimately, a number of scenes feel more tedious than not as characters engage in garbled arguments using unfamiliar technobabble. Overall, though, the tone of the film remains faithful and consistent throughout, so if you can get onboard, you should be able to stay there. In addition, with Thatcher occupying so much of the focus, the film’s pacing feels like more of a coming-of-age drama than a kinetic sci-fi thriller.

[Sophie] Thatcher … steals the spotlight

Finally, if there’s one place where the film shows its budgetary limitations, it’s in the climax. While the majority of the film is bathed in a seemingly perpetual golden hour, the final set piece takes place entirely at night. While this most likely saved on the special-effects budget, it unfortunately stands out and ends the film on somewhat of a disappointing note.

Still, there is more than enough to enjoy, even without handicapping the experience by the plethora of issues it faces before a single frame rolls. If there is any justice in the world, fans will blow the doors off the box office to get a look at Prospect.

Prospect is the first feature film distributed by Gunpowder & Sky’s sci-fi label DUST, and premieres Nov. 2 in Regal theaters nationwide before getting a digital release on SingularDTV’s blockchain-enabled VOD platform in 2019.