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Film / Prospect

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"Listen, I know well the allure of vengeance. I myself have frequently indulged, and I have not often found regret. But in this moment, right here, I'm afraid for both our sakes, I must riposte. I say, we go to your mercs, I play the prospector, and together we ravage the Queen."

Prospect is a 2018 Space Western/sci-fi film directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, and starring Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal and Jay Duplass.

The story follows a teen girl, Cee (Thatcher), living on a space ship who joins her father, Damon (Duplass), on a prospecting venture to a verdant but inhospitable moon in search of precious gemstones. Cee and her father are on a tight clock to find the rumored Queen's Lair mother lode and return to their ship in time for extraction. Along the way, they encounter a smooth-talking prospector, Ezra (Pascal), and learn that they aren't the only ones seeking a fast fortune and a secure ride home.

Based on a short film of the same name, the film premiered at the 2018 South by Southwest film festival. Reviews were positive, and Regal Cinema gave it a limited run in theaters in November 2018. Lucasfilm executives privately screened it, then approved the casting of Pascal and Thatcher for Star Wars TV shows.

This film provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Cee is good at using a gun, and also escapes ably from pursuit. In a non-combat example, she also pretty matter of factly amputates Ezra's arm, and he seems mildly perturbed by her attitude while doing it.
  • Affably Evil: Ezra is a bandit, but also very friendly to the person he's robbing.
  • Alien Sky: Shown to great effect, complete with views of the gas giant, when characters reach the edge of the forest.
  • All for Nothing: The great motherload is left untouched, while all three attempts to get at least a single gem out of it fail. Ultimately, most of the hatchery is outright destroyed when Cee and Ezra make a run for their lives. Even once the mercs are dealt with, there is simply no time to try to harvest whatever is still left.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Ezra's final fate and potential survival are left hanging.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Ezra's arm gets infected after he's wounded. After they can't get some “juice” to heal it, Cee amputes his arm at Ezra's instruction.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The "juice" created by the locals apparently heals infection caused by the dust in the atmosphere, at least to a certain degree. What it is, where it comes from or what exactly it does all remain a mystery.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Ezra and Cee become this over time, since he's a hardened prospector experienced with the local environment, while she's just a child, even if a determined one. They swap their respective roles after Cee has to improvise the amputation of Ezra's arm, rendering him mostly harmless, while she has to step up into the badass role.
  • BFG: Ezra's first partner has a gun the size of a bazooka.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Cee's father is murdered and she misses out on a huge payday, but she manages to return to her ship. Meanwhile, Ezra has lost an arm and is critically wounded, but he's redeemed himself somewhat. If he survives, they will presumably continue their partnership.
  • Blatant Lies: When the locals insist on playing a dreary song on a concertina-like device before trading, Ezra glances awkwardly around the tent waiting for the song to end, then states earnestly, "That was beautiful!"
  • Cabin Fever: It's barely populated fringe world with a toxic atmosphere that's near impossible to leave, so it's a given:
    • Ezra spent unspecified time on the surface, with his only company being a mute partner - so in turn he's extremely chatty to cope. Other than his crummy suit to get outside the Death World, he only has a tiny, barely-lit shack with an air filter, with absolutely nothing to do when staying inside.
    • Heavily implied with the members of the Cult Colony, as they have been living in similar conditions for generations, being clearly unhinged and operating on Blue-and-Orange Morality.
    • The mercs waiting for Damon and Cee are just eager to shoot anyone that shows up, having nothing but a tiny shuttle as their sleeping place and absolutely nothing to do during their wait. It's uncertain if they had to wait there for a few days or weeks.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: A recurring theme
    • Damon doesn't kill Ezra and his partner outright, even if he easily could. He wants to steal from them first - which ends horribly for him.
    • Ezra successfully talks Cee out of killing him over You Killed My Father, by pointing out she simply needs a second partner to fulfill the contract with the mercs (not to mention an adult supervisor) and there is a fortune to be made, so why not make it together, rather than Dying Alone?
    • In the end, the mercs get convinced to let Ezra harvest for them and then take him and Cee out of the moon they are on, by simply pointing out they are the only people with the proper prospecting skills.
  • Cassette Futurism: The film features advanced, space-faring technology that has a design aesthetic from the 1970s and 1980s. Most portable devices are bulky and blocky, the protagonists use paper maps and notepads, and their spaceship features analog switches, keypads, tiny monochrome monitors and a general beige and earthtone color scheme.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: To a point. Big ships easily ferry drop pods to and from various planets but getting up and down the gravity well, and back to the shipping lane on time for pickup, is left up to the individual mining teams.
  • Cherry Tapping: The female merc is killed by repeatedly stabbing her with a tiny, automatic knife that Ezra uses for harvesting the gems. It takes over a dozen stabs right into the neck to finally kill her.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Cee's father mentions a few pointers on how to extract the alien gems, which establishes that making a mistake will destroy the gem. Cee tries to do it herself in the end but fails, destroying the gem. He also mentions that if the chemical agent used to clean the gem touches alien meat, it will cause a tremendous explosion, which is used by Cee to blow away a few mercenaries at the climax.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • When the mercenaries over on the Queen's Lair are first mentioned by Damon, it looks like he's bluffing in order to draw Ezra and his silent associate into a trap, but it turns out that they are real.
    • The prisoner being executed by the mercenaries breaks free during the climax and kills the last remaining mercenary.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Cee is a prospector's daughter and has spent her entire life so far visiting fringe worlds and harvesting all kinds of materials, including cutting out tissues while inside the body cavities of alien creatures. As she points out, taking man's arm is "pretty straight compared to that".
  • Conlang: Cultists have their own language, and even when speaking English (assuming that's the language of the main characters), it has very weird syntax. The mercs communicate with each other in another made-up language. Neither is translated.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: A prisoner has been brought to an alien planet, all for the sake of being placed in a box and slowly suffocated to death. The impracticality of this is lampshaded by several characters, but there was good money offered for hauling the prisoner to his final destination.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The lead merc gets his Achilles tendon cut, dragged into the pit with the motherload lair and gets his head pushed straight into a sack full of acid.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: Characters often refer to fictional places and things in familiar terms without explaining them.
  • Cult Colony: A very tiny one has learned how to survive in the moon's toxic atmosphere.
  • Cyborg: Implied about Number Two, given his weird, robotic suit, improbable strength and competely concealed faceplate of his helmet.
  • Dark Action Girl: The female merc, who is an outright case of Psycho for Hire, clearly sadistic and enjoys watching others suffer just for the sake of it.
  • Death by Materialism:
    • Damon could just leave. But he decided to rob Ezra and his partner, getting shot over this. Ezra bluntly reminds Cee of this when they are negotiating later.
    • Ezra tries to use this to explain why the leader of the mercs is dead, as he was supposedly too curious about the extraction process and accidentally fell into the pit. It doesn't work after the other mercs spot a cut wound on their boss.
  • Death World: The moon has breathable air, but it's saturated with poisonous dust that will quickly kill anyone breathing it or getting it it inside of them. Prospectors need to wear full-body suits and breathe through filters.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Damon, Cee's father, is one of the only two characters in the opening act of the film, but he dies and is replaced by Ezra for the remainder of the film.
  • Do You Want to Haggle?: Both the mercs and Ezra end up haggling for a very long time over hitching a ride to the mothership, with each side delivering a hard bargain - all while the prospectors are held at gunpoint and the mercs are ready to just blast them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The Prisoner escapes his confinement and brains one of the mercs with a rock.
  • Double Entendre: Ezra refers to his right hand as his best friend and primary weapon, to whom no love was too...intimidating.
  • Drop Ship: Used to travel from interplanetary ferry ships to the surface and back. Cee learns the hard way that surviving a landing is only half the journey; going back up is a lot harder.
  • Easily Forgiven: Cee pretty easily gets over the fact that Ezra murdered her dad, making a deal with him to get the gems and also not abandoning him later when he urges her to after he's been wounded. It helps that Ezra didn't pull the trigger, and he successfully argues that Damon was about to steal his own harvest of gems when Number Two took the shot. At the end of the film it's implied they'll even stay as partners.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Cee is first seen listening to wild music, gazing out of a window and scribbling in her notebook while sitting in an otherwise stark room, establishing her need for escape from her present surroundings. She later confirms that she writes in her notebook as a means of escape.
    • Damon takes drugs and drunkenly relates holding Cee in his hand when she was born, establishing him as a loving but flawed father.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The band of mercs doesn't care much for race or gender - their leader is black and the most vicious of them is an Ambiguously Brown woman.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Three cycles and the mothership on the orbit will depart, leaving everyone on the surface stranded for the next decade. Cee spends the entire film constantly checking the clock to avoid such fate. She and Ezra make it in the final hour or so.
  • The Faceless:
    • Ezra's first partner is only seen with an opaque mask on. Because the character never speaks, it's not even clear what gender they are.
    • The Sater later also wear masks when outside that cover their entire faces.
    • The merc who lost his hand to acid prior to prospectors' arrival also has his face concealed.
  • Fantastic Drug: Damon administers narcotic eyedrops to himself before bed. He also chews some kind of narcotic gum, which Cee eventually finds and samples.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Cee and Ezra. Ezra kills Cee's father, but their fates are bound together, and by the end, Cee rescues him when she could have simply left him behind.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: The only solid food that's not consumed via straw through the movie is a candy bar.
  • Gold Fever: A surprising number of people are willing to risk toxic atmosphere, acidic alien life and betrayal by other miners in pursuit of the alien "gems," not to mention being stranded forever on an inhospitable moon if the extraction window closes. It's never explained what the gems actually are or whether they have any practical function.
  • Greed:
    • Against his better judgment and being on his way to a massive, confirmed motherload, Damon decides to steal from Ezra a small case of gems - something that he could harvest on site within a few minutes. He gets shot for his trouble.
    • Before the events of the film, one of the mercs tried to harvest the gems on his own. Knowing their value, but having no clue how to do it, he lost his hand after putting it inside a sack full of acid. This convinced the rest of the outfit they need professionals to do the job and thus contracting Damon.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Ezra goes from villain to second protagonist.
  • Hidden Depths: The lead merc. When Ezra and then Cee try to bargain for their ticket to the orbit and list various things that the drop ship could lose to decrease weight, the merc points out they were already taken out and there really is no space for the two of them, rather than him being a dick just for the sake of it.
  • Hired Guns: The mercenaries who initially found the Queen's Lair but lack the expertise to extract the gems.
  • Honor Among Thieves: Ezra is surprising cordial and keeps up all his bargains, despite putting down Cee's father and being a smarmy, ruthless prospector. This further constrasts with his openly cynical outlook on life and prospecting on fringe worlds in general, as he in the same time is as friendly as possible.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Ezra hits and kills a man using a pistol from about 30 meters away. Not so tough? He does so in complete darkness, after a Quick Draw and with his left hand, as he got his dominant, right arm, amputated. Which means he was probably also not using his dominant eye to line that shot, which alone by itsef makes it improbable.
  • Indy Ploy: Ezra kills the lead merc before he can execute him and Cee over being useless as prospectors. This still leaves them to face the rest of the band.
    Cee: What now?
    Ezra: I have no idea.
  • Injun Country: The moon has its own natives called Sater, who live in isolated societies and have a completely distinct culture from visiting prospectors. When Ezra and Cee stumble into their territory, Ezra's behavior is to walk on eggshells, but the natives are also open to trade.
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: When Ezra is badly wounded in the final encounter, he tells Cee to go on without him.
  • Lack of Empathy: The mercs are incredibly callous and non-caring. It takes a whole lot of open threats that they will end up empty-handed and an additional bribe for their leader to even consider the option to offer Cee and Ezra a hitch to the orbit.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: After being grazed by Cee's shot, Ezra's arm gets infected, and eventually necrotic, forcing an improvised amputation.
  • Life Will Kill You: Despite suffering what appears to be Only a Flesh Wound, Ezra's arm gets infected, eventually getting so bad, it has to be taken off or he will simply die out of sepsis. As a result, for the most of the film he is struggling and is in a progressively worse state.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Since Damon is shot dead and Cee flees for her life to their landing pod, she's able to find out the thing is busted way ahead of time. Should everything go smoothly instead, they would only find out after returning to the site after a successful harvest, stranding them on the surface of the moon with fortune they can't use.
  • Loud of War: The female merc blasts music over open radio channels to harrass and confuse other characters.
  • Mercy Kill: Ezra delivers the final blow to Damon. When Cee accuses Ezra of killing him, Ezra says that she is "technically" correct, suggesting that he views the action as a mercy kill.
  • Mushroom Samba: Downplayed. Out of sheer desperation, Cee gets high on her father's stash of drugs. Next shot, she's stoned out of her mind, listening to loud music and throwing around used-up urine containers.
  • Mutual Kill:
    • Damon and Number Two manage to blow each other away.
    • The female merc and Ezra stab each other to death. While it is implied Ezra will make it, his ultimate fate is left ambigious.
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: There is a neat trail-of-breadcrumbs setup through the film to make viewers expect Cee learns enough about extracting the gems to do it later on successfully. But when she has to do it in the finale, she fails in a spectacular way, prompting the merc holding her at gunpoint to declare both Cee and Ezra useless and prepare to kill them. The actual goal of the setup is to provide Cee with the knowledge of how to cause the gem sacks to explode with corrosive mucus.
  • No Name Given: Number Two is all we got on Ezra partner's.
  • Noodle Incident: Various bits and pieces from Cee's past are only mentioned in the most vague way. All we learn for sure from those is that she has been prospecting since very early childhood.
  • Nothing Personal: Ezra really didn't want to kill Damon, but ended up doing so as out of a combination of being double-crossed over his personal stash of gems and delivering a Mercy Kill. He is making it explicit to Cee that her father should known better, or else he had no place to even be on the fringe of the galaxy.
  • Parental Abandonment: Cee's mom is apparently dead, since she and her dad discuss her early on in the past tense while only the two of them live aboard their ship. Her dad is soon killed too.
  • Pet the Dog: The first indication that Ezra might not be completely irredeemable is when he tells Cee to blame him for the death of Damon rather than herself.
  • Psycho for Hire: The merc aren't the most stable bunch and Ezra implies that this is pretty normal in their trade, especially by the end of a tour. This is particularly notable with the female merc, as she is twitching to simply kill the prospectors (and her boredom) and just head home an hour earlier, loot or no loot.
  • Quick Draw: Ezra has one with a railgun "thrower" pistol.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: There is no translation whatsoever of the Conlang spoken by the cultists and the mercs - and they are implied to be two different languages, too.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Characters tend to have a slightly old-fashioned and flowery manner of speaking. Ezra's speech is grandiose even in comparison to the rest.
    Ezra : You are lucky I'm not immune to intrigue, but be careful you don't overplay this technique.
  • Scary Black Man: The lead merc - big, gruff, with a deep voice and utter contempt toward the fate of the prospectors working for him. Or his own men, for that matter. He further amps the image by making it clear he's the only leash preventing the female merc from simply killing the prospectors here and now.
  • Show, Don't Tell: The film features very little exposition to explain things, preferring to let viewers figure things out and fill in the gaps themselves.
  • Show Within a Show: Cee is a big fan of "The Streamer Girl" young adult novel. She lost her copy of the book but had read it so many times that she was able to write the storyline into her own journal.
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: While the process itself is out of frame, we hear every single second of the amputation of Ezra's arm. Particularly when the wrong setting of the medical tool is selected and it scrapes directly over the bone.
  • Space Western: Prospect takes its cues from the gold rush era of the American West, down to its grizzled miner Ezra's quick draw and drawl.
  • The Speechless: Ezra's first partner never speaks. When Ezra meets Damon, he says that it's good to meet someone who talks, implying that his partner is unable to speak.
  • The Stoic: Downplayed. Cee isn't very emotional, showing little reaction even at her dad's death, and gets over Ezra killing him pretty easily. She does show rational fear sometimes, but is mostly quite unflappable when faced with dangers.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Cee's dad comments that she looks just like her mom when they're in the ship early on now that she's grown into a young woman. Later we see a brief picture of her mom with Cee as a baby, which does appear to show her with similar looks.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Ezra put the final two bullets in Damon, Cee's father. Yet she and Ezra end up in a partnership, where they really don't trust each other until the final act. And when Damon was still alive, it was clear that Cee feels stuck with her father and needs a way out of their "family business".
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Ezra is understandably disturbed by teenage Cee's utterly calm demeanor as she amputates his infected arm with a bone saw.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Justified and enforced, since their comms are deliberately blocked by blasting very loud music over them, forcing Ezra and Cee to mostly improvise on spot. It's only after they get some distance that they can finally talk and plan ahead.
  • Used Future: On top of the Cassette Futurism, the retro technology seems to be somewhat old and dated even by the standards of the setting. Since we're dealing with cash-strapped people on a distant frontier, this is to be expected.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: The moon natives with whom Cee and Ezra try to trade ultimately contribute nothing to the plot save the opportunity for Ezra to refuse to sell Cee as a slave.
  • Wham Line:
    Cult Leader: This is our offer.
    [He opens a case with nine big gems in it]
    Ezra: I don't understand.
    Cult Leader: For the girl.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The ending is very open and doesn't resolve a number of things:
    • Damon's debt is still unpaid, so what will Cee do about that?
    • Ezra has been critically wounded. We don't know if he's going to survive on the spaceship.
    • What happened to the native family?
    • What's to become of the prisoner who broke free of the mercenaries?
  • Wild Wilderness: The green moon, with its lush but toxic forest, has triumphed over mining and colony efforts by the film's time period. The very few remaining inhabitants either desperately want to leave or desperately want to make someone else stay. Distant and deadly enough to be an option for ritual execution. Anyone living on the Olympic Peninsula might find it more familiar than foreboding.
  • You Killed My Father: Dropped verbatim by Cee when facing Ezra for the first time. She goes as far as using it as a bargain chip, pointing out she's very generous for leaving him alive.