Sometimes, a movie has the ability to predict a career. Just as Marilyn Monroe played a star on the rise in All About Eve before becoming one herself, pitch-perfect casting can take on the whiff of prophecy. This movie, a low-budget space thriller released in 2018, not only predicted the meteoric rise of one of its stars, but also is a down-to-earth science fiction story in its own right.
Prospect's title doesn't mean what you think. It's not about prospective astronaut candidates being run through the gauntlet to see if they have "the right stuff." In this case, "prospect" is defined by its much more old-fashioned term—the verb meaning "to search for mineral deposits in a place, especially by means of experimental drilling and excavation." That alone sets the tone for this down-and-dirty thriller which combines the "seeking your fortune" trope from stories told about the Gold Rush with space-age imagery and a lot of heart.
Prospect follows Cee (newcomer Sophie Thatcher) and her dad Damon (Jay Duplass, one half of the Duplass Brothers) as they land on a forest moon and, without much preamble, begin hunting for gems. Damon coaches Cee through the process, explaining to her — and the audience — how dangerous it is, and how precious the gems are.
The story doesn't truly kick off until they encounter a rogue outlaw who throws their initial plans out the window. This character, Ezra, speaks with a Southern drawl, and makes for the perfect suspicious stranger in this space western. Also, he's played by Pedro Pascal — as in, The Mandalorian's eponymous star Pedro Pascal.
This movie feels very reminiscent of The Mandalorian. It's like a spinoff movie focused on the mining collective Cobb Vanth kicked out of Mos Pelgo. Cee and Ezra have a sort of True Grit relationship, where they're each skeptical of the other and don't share much respect, but come together when needed in order to seek their collective goal.
Far and away, the most interesting part of the movie is how it looks. While modern sci-fi films often fall in the trap of displaying futurism with virtual reality user interfaces and floating images, the spaceships in Prospect are entirely analog, full of heavy switches and dials that each make satisfying clunks. Every piece of technology looks lived-in to the point where it's grimy. This isn't the chrome-covered future you see in Hollywood. This is the future of the poverty line.
Prospect is the grungy sci-fi movie Star Wars fans need to see. Yes, because of Pedro Pascal's masterful acting proving he can master a character regardless of whether or not his helmet is transparent. But also because it completely stays in the setting Star Wars would sweep its protagonists away from. There's no planet-hopping, and that's all for the better. Sometimes, the most epic sci-fi stories are also the most restricted.
Prospect is now streaming on Netflix.