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Pedro Pascal Plays a Rugged Space Explorer in This Vibey Sci-Fi Gem

Watch 2018's Prospect for the story, of course, but also for the impeccable aesthetic.

Monisha Ravisetti Former Science Writer
Monisha Ravisetti was a science writer at CNET. She covered climate change, space rockets, mathematical puzzles, dinosaur bones, black holes, supernovas, and sometimes, the drama of philosophical thought experiments. Previously, she was a science reporter with a startup publication called The Academic Times, and before that, was an immunology researcher at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York. She graduated from New York University in 2018 with a B.A. in philosophy, physics and chemistry. When she's not at her desk, she's trying (and failing) to raise her online chess rating. Her favorite movies are Dunkirk and Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.
Monisha Ravisetti
3 min read
Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher are shown together in a dense, green forest.
Gunpowder and Sky (via IMDB)

I vaguely remember the first time I watched Prospect. I'd scrolled down a list of indie sci-fi films, forced my boyfriend to sit through maybe seven trailers, then waited for him to eventually settle on this gem from 2018. We watched it. We loved it. Jay Duplass was charming as always, and I was delightfully surprised when Pedro Pascal showed up in a burnt orange spacesuit. All in all, I had fond memories of this film. I even recall wondering why it wasn't super famous.

So... I rewatched Prospect on Hulu.

My god, I knew it was good. But I had forgotten how absolutely incredible this movie is.

First of all, if you're like me and adore when films are visually and aurally pleasing, this is the one for you. About 10 seconds in, you're already inside a sort of rundown, but obviously functional, spacecraft. The color grading has a vintage aesthetic. A peppy, niche '60s pop song croons in the background to represent what one of the craft's inhabitants, played by Yellowjackets' Sophie Thatcher, is listening to on her bulky, aqua headphones.

Her father, played by Duplass, is nearby. His prickly wit is contrasted with a rather boyish and chilled out demeanor. Still, he clearly seems stressed, constantly chewing on what you soon learn is a stimulant drug, despite his daughter's passive disapproval. 

Through a window, you catch glimpses of a turquoise orb covered in lacelike clouds. It appears awfully realistic considering the movie's conservative budget.

Basically, these two are on a mission to land on this alien moon, cut into a bunch of disgusting slimy eggs and harvest the rare extraterrestrial gemstones stuck inside that are worth a fortune. On landing, they run into Pascal's character, who throws a wrench in the plan. I won't give away too much more because a lot of weird, unexpected and twisty stuff starts to happen from then on, and it's probably best to go in unprimed. 

However, I will point out why the father-daughter duo has embarked on this difficult mission. It's essentially because they have some major loans to pay off.

I bring up this detail because it's crucial to what makes Prospect's setting especially intriguing.

Prospect doesn't represent the classic elite space-traveling situation you're often met with in sci-fi dramas. There are no sterile white walls, no ultra expensive AI bots and no green CGI aliens. Nope. In this futuristic dystopia, going to different planets and moons is so inexpensively commercialized that even people struggling to make ends meet can do it. 

The two main characters' spaceship is put together with spare parts and makes alarming noises during its descent. Their nonmatching spacesuits look like they're from a thrift shop. And yes, there's such a thing as a "good filter," as Duplass' character calls one of two breathing devices he has. He probably uses a less-good filter to cut costs. 

Plus, though the surface of the moon that the team visits doesn't seem all that different from a beautiful Earth-based forest -- probably due to budget constraints -- this doesn't hamper the story at all. In fact, Prospect was originally made as a short film with a mere $21,000 budget (and a different set of actors). Then, that went viral on Vimeo. So, directors Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl pitched it to studios as a feature film, secured a few million and gave us the masterpiece we have now. And I'm so glad they did.

Beyond its unique story, the environment of Prospect feels intentional and refreshing, every second. It almost reminds me of a walking simulator video game at times, like Gone Home, where the world is so meticulously built that each and every corner has something special to admire.

This is a side of sci-fi films in general I wish I could see more of. 

A desolate, but still green, forest is seen. In the sky, there is the faint outline of a dull red planet.
Gunpowder and Sky (via IMDB)

It feels like we're getting a peek into the lives of "normal" citizens in a space opera instead of high-level explorers and wealthy admin as we usually do. You hear about the favorite novel of Thatcher's character, see her writing in a standard notebook -- except in an unknown language made up of symbols -- and even watch her get high at one point just for fun, like any other teenager. (With more cool indie pop music to bob to, of course!)

TL;DR Prospect is a modest movie with a highly engaging story. But if you still aren't sold, watch it for the vibes. They're simply immaculate.