Saturday, December 01, 2018


First things first: If Gunpowder & Sky doesn't use the fantastic poster art for the Blu-ray release, instead going with some bland photoshopped thing, I don't buy the movie. I realize this is harsh, but I suspect it's unlikely - the introductory bit before the main titles was kind of charmingly eccentric; I kind of hope that Dust/Gunpowder & Sky makes that a thing and other distributors copy it; it's a fun little bit that connects you with the people involved more than the "thanks for coming here, to the theater, and not pirating this movie" intros you see in the multiplexes on occasion.

I will admit - I was not necessarily hugely enthused about seeing this from the previews. "Space Western" kind of makes me twitch by now (just make a Western if that's what you really want to do!), and my sense from watching the preview was that it was the sort of thing that plays the Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival and which I wind up hating myself for hating because my admiration for people who make movies with few resources doesn't often translate to me liking the final product. I'd seen a lot like this before.

Of course, as it turns out, I'd actually seen the original short version of this film before, too - midway through Fantasia 2014. And I liked that one, for many of the same reasons I like the new version. The filmmakers may have recast, but they nevertheless recaptured a lot of what made it work the first time around. I don't know if I can rightly say there was a specific sense of familiarity as I watched it that could necessarily be separated from "I've seen a lot of movies like this", but a lot of connections did kind of hit me once I went to look up whether I had actually seen the first one at some festival.

Anyway, here's hoping that G&S includes the short on the movie's physical release. It just hit me that a scene where Cee talks about re-writing a book she read over and over from memory, and occasionally inserting new scenes because she had an idea about what had happened in between, is probably talking about the process of remaking and expanding a short into a feature. Clever. Now I'm even more tempted to spend fifteen minutes seeing how much comes directly from the original and how much was rearranged.

Original "Prospect" on Vimeo, for those curious.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 30 November 2018 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

A lot of independent science fiction films like Prospect hit the genre film festival circuit - mostly as shorts, but sometimes as features - and truth be told, many aren't very good despite the clear love for the genre and impressive effort put into creating a world with what they can find and build. What makes this one stand out is the same as what made the short version pop four years ago - not just being a notch better at creating a dingy analog future, but finding an impressive cast and building some tension there.

It opens on a spaceship making the last scheduled trip around the moon Bakhroma Green; Damon (Jay Duplass) and his daughter Cee (Sophie Thatcher) will be dropped in a pod with the hopes of finding enough aurelac crystals over the next few days that when they rejoin the ship on its return voyage, they'll be able to set themselves up comfortably for the first time in Cee's life - quite possible, if Damon's claim to know where the legendary "Queen's Lair" is. It's a dangerous satellite, with poisonous dust in the air and the crystals themselves formed in burning organic pods. That's before the eloquent but stranded Ezra (Pedro Pascal) gets the drop on them, and the alliance forged at the point of a gun is just as unstable as you might expect.

It's a fool's errand more often than not to try and guess how filmmakers created a shot, but sometimes the way filmmakers use effects is worth pondering. There's a moment early in the movie, when the audience has thus far only strayed as far from the cramped pod as a nearby passageway, when the camera pans up from that dingy, practical, analog environment to show a ship that may not be CGI but has a different sort of detail, and which in addition to moving away seems to be spinning enough to simulate gravity. It's a quietly fancy shot that cements how much Damon and Cee are grasping, helping later scenes which might choke on sci-fi details land. There's a similar feel on the moon, where some modest effects work reminds a viewer that it's an alien world but letting the feel that it could swallow people whole come from the location they chose.

Full review at EFC.

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