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Missing The Last of Us? Watch Prospect, Pedro Pascal’s Acclaimed Indie Sci-Fi Flick
Grizzled old dude? Check! Cagey orphaned girl? Also check! Just don’t expect a Joel & Ellie outcome.
If you thought Pedro Pascal earned his merit badge in tackling misplaced daddy/daughter issues as Joel in The Last of Us, just wait ’til you’ve seen him go at it from the villainous end of a high-tech miner's pick in Prospect. Streaming here on Peacock, it’s a 2018 indie sci-fi flick that, like TLOU, pairs Pascal’s character with an orphaned young woman and then tests their trust as a duo against almost-impossible odds. Thanks to its tiny theatrical footprint, it’s also still awaiting its well-deserved chance to find a wider audience.
In a fortuitous bit of shared-universe casting, Pascal’s Prospect costar is Sophie Thatcher, better known these days not only for Yellowjackets, but for her 2022 turn in The Book of Boba Fett as Drash — the chief cyborg urban enforcer drafted by Boba to help him tame the mean Mos Espa streets. Thatcher was still three years (and change) away from dipping her toe in the Star Wars galaxy when Prospect wowed the SXSW crowd ahead of its modest late-2018 theatrical release — even as Pascal himself, by the time Thatcher joined Boba’s ranks, was already two seasons deep into The Mandalorian as its stoic, nearly-faceless hero.
Though Pascal’s also fully helmeted through much of Prospect, his face gets plenty of screen time (thanks, glass visor!) as he and Thatcher come together as a pair of awfully unfortunate fortune-seekers stranded on a strange and distant planet. The genius of the duo’s ward-protector dynamic is baked into their very first meeting: Without spoiling anything (and it would be a major spoiler), Ezra — Pascal’s character — commits a necessary but grave injustice, which compels young Cee (Thatcher) to grudgingly accept his help.
Those daddy-daughter dynamics: Prospect flips The Last of Us on its head
Unlike The Last of Us, though, Prospect isn’t interested in throwing Thatcher into an Ellie-emulating role as Cee, nor in elevating Ezra’s brutal ethic of amoral survivalism in some kind of noble, Joel-esque anti-hero story arc. In fact, the movie’s story essentially reverses those roles by the end, with Cee reaching out to rescue her mismatched companion despite the ocean of bad blood that offers every reason to distance them.
If you haven’t guessed yet, it’s tough to discuss Prospect in narrative detail without giving the whole game away. In part, that’s because the plot and its pivotal moments are pretty austere, leaving little story fluff to latch onto for context. Written and directed by fresh-from-film school buddies Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, the movie unfolds with the deliberate (and budget-friendly) pacing of a stage play, preferring to let its impressively hand-crafted set design, its genuinely otherworldly atmosphere, and (of course) its gifted actors paint a sci-fi picture that bleeds a sense of lived-in authenticity to the very corners of its dark and dangerous canvas.
If giving Prospect’s audience something real to invest in was their mission, then Pascal and Thatcher (alongside Jay Duplass, who plays Cee’s father Damon) strike paydirt — or, in this case, they strike “aurelac,” the rare and valuable space substance that brings Cee and her fortune-finding father down to mine the hostile planet’s surface in the first place. There’s a neat (and icky) trick to obtaining the stuff that’ll likely have David Cronenberg fans nodding in oozy approval, but the real prize is watching the way Thatcher and Pascal create their hardscrabble characters and, once that’s established, stay true to their innate natures until the end.
In superficial teenage terms, Cee is, in fact, not so different from Ellie. Dealt a cruel hand by fate, she’s still a typical kid, consuming the latest wonky-sounding space music while revering her favorite space-novel like some geeky high school Catcher in the Rye disciple. But when tough human choices must be made and there’s no one else to make them, Cee follows her inner moral blueprint to find answers that most of the film’s adults lack the courage and conviction to choose.
As for Pascal, he imbues Ezra with a personality so distinctive that it probably rates up there with Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow for sheer originality. Sure, Ezra’s a scummy space brigand on the surface, but Pascal plays the guy like there’s way more to his backstory than could possibly meet the eye. In equal parts, he’s a Mark Twain-style homespun philosopher, a loquacious riverboat hustler, and a savagely bloody-knuckled pragmatist — and, as the story deepens, perhaps a crusty old loner who’s never run with an outfit where anybody actually cared about each other.
Yep, expect to hear Pascal’s not-so-hate-able sci-fi scumbag utter elegantly off-kilter phrases like “A good partnership is only made so by candid discourse,” or thoughtfully negotiate past a “toilsome marathon of carnage” — and to do it with a rustically peculiar accent that enticingly hints at something mysterious and fascinating about his offscreen past. Like Daniel Craig’s gentleman detective Benoit Blanc, Ezra’s a fella embroiled in a deeply dirty business… but at least he has a poet’s perspective about it.
You can also expect Prospect to stick around in your head long after the credits have rolled — not so much for any Earth-shaking originality to its (admittedly clever) story, mind you; but because its setting, its people, and their very specific problems all feel like fully-realized science fiction creations. Under-the-radar indie films like this one almost never get a second act, and in Prospect’s case, that’s a real shame. With sci-fi world-building that leaps off the screen like a true labor of love and actors who completely commit to living inside it, it’s the kind of space place that might’ve sustained a much bigger story-verse… had only the planets aligned differently.
Catch Pascal and Thatcher staking out some common sci-fi ground together in Prospect, streaming on Peacock here.