DirectorZeek Earl, Chris Caldwell
Release Date(s)2018 (July 26, 2019)
Studio(s)Depth of Field/The Realm/Ground Control/DUST (Capelight Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
[Editor’s Note: This is a German 4K UHD release available from Amazon.de. The 4K and Blu-ray included in the package are compatible with all regions, while the DVD is region coded and formatted for PAL displays.]
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 released in the US on MOD Blu-ray by Gunpowder & Sky (a disc reviewed here at The Bits), but the video quality was definitely lacking and no domestic 4K release has yet appeared. That’s a shame, but thanks to Capelight Pictures in Germany, there’s finally a better option for fans.
Prospect was captured digitally using the Red Dragon (6K) and the Red Epic-W Helium (8K). It was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 1.85:1 “flat” aspect ratio. For this Ultra HD release, the film has been graded for high dynamic range in HDR10. The resulting image is a massive improvement upon the MOD Blu-ray release. It’s not even close. The combination of the higher resolution image capture, combined with the native 4K finish, results in a huge increase in fine detail and much more refined texturing. You can actually make out the small print in the drop pod’s flight manual now (it’s not in English, but you can see it at least). There’s light grain texturing applied, which lends the image a lovely film-like appearance. The added resolution gives the image significantly greater depth and dimensionality. It’s also no longer washed with gray. The HDR deepens the blacks perfectly and makes the highlights genuinely eye-reactive. Occasionally, the brightest areas of the frame look hot, but this is by design—in space, sunlight is completely unfiltered, so the image is more true to reality. On the planet below, the occasional hotness enhances the alien feel of the jungle environment. The wider color gamut lends nuance and vibrance to the color palette too, but note that the palette is stylized by design on the planet’s surface, again reflecting the lush environment. But in interior spaces (like the drop pod cockpit), skin tones are very natural looking. This is a gorgeous image—not necessarily reference quality compared to the best the UHD format has to offer, but certainly reference quality for this film.
Audio is included here in the same fine English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was available on the US Blu-ray. Dialogue is front and center, but the mix offers lovely surround atmospherics, with nice directionality and spaciousness, and robust low end. Dialogue is clean at all times. 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). There’s also a German 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix available and optional German subtitles.
Like the US Blu-ray release, you get some nice special features here. But unlike the US Blu-ray, you actually get more content that’s only available here. Among the extras on the 4K disc itself are (all in HD but not graded for HDR):
- Audio commentary with Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell (with optional German subs)
- Prospect: Behind the Scenes (4:29)
- Deleted Scenes (2 scenes – 7:01 in all)
- Inside Prospect: Helmets of Prospect (1:11)
- Inside Prospect: The Drop Pod (1:13)
- Prospect: Scene Analysis – Ian Hubert: Spaceship VFX (4:40)
- Prospect: Scene Analysis – Matt Acosta: Ezra Arrival (5:11)
- Prospect: Scene Analysis – Matt Acosta: Cee Pod Interior (2:45)
- Prospect: Scene Analysis – Aidan Vitti: Merc Camp (7:06)
- Theatrical Trailer (1:00)
The feature-length audio commentary with the writers/directors is the best of this lot. It’s 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). All of that was on the US Blu-ray release, but here you also get 6 more featurettes that go into a bit more detail about various aspects of the production. It’s about 20 minutes of additional content. Plus you get the film’s theatrical trailer. And again, all of this is available on the actual 4K disc. The package also includes the film on Blu-ray and DVD, with the same extras. The Blu-ray is a BD-50, so it offers slightly better image quality than the US release, and it does not appear to be region locked. The DVD may be region locked and keep in mind that it’s also in PAL format. There’s no Digital code, obviously, but if you read our review of the US Blu-ray (available here) you’ll remember that I wished for some kind of a production design gallery. Capelight has you covered there too; the set comes in lovely Mediabook packaging that includes a 23-page booklet with liner notes (in German), some set photos, and design sketches for several of the spacesuit designs.
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. And I’m so glad to finally have this film on disc in 4K! If you love this genre, Prospect is well worth your time. And if you love Prospect, this German UHD package is well worth the import price. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt