The Sci-Fi Gold Rush Gets Dark and Dirty in the Latest Prospect Trailer

Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher don their most retro space suits in our latest look at Prospect.
Pedro Pascal and Sophie Thatcher don their most retro space suits in our latest look at Prospect.
Image: Dust
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The baffling yet intriguingly old-school visuals that we’ve seen for upcoming sci-film film Prospect are part of why we’ve been hooked every time we’ve seen bits of it. But this latest trailer emphasizes the grim and grimy Wild West undertones even more.

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Based on the short film of the same name (and directed by the same duo, Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell), Prospect follows a young girl named Cee (Sophie Thatcher) and her father (Jay Duplass) as they venture out onto an alien moon, hoping to find raw materials to strike space-gold with. What they find instead is a bandit (Pedro Pascal), who turns their trip upside down and sets Cee on a dire path for her own survival out in the uncharted frontier.

Basically, it’s a very grim, old-west tale that just happens to feature people in charmingly retro astronaut suits instead of ten-gallon hats. The look and tone of the whole thing strikes a heady balance between the kitchy vibes of the sci-fi design elements (all those weird, angular guns are especially lovely) and the grit of the Western genre Prospect so clearly embraces. After a great showing at SXSW earlier this year, this latest glimpse only has us more excited for its release. Prospect hits theaters November 2.

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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

This appears to exhibit an essential lack of understanding of Sci-Fi. The fictional science must be an essential part of the plot or character dynamic so that, if removed, the story could not occur the way it does. Otherwise, it’s what Piers Anthony coined ‘Bat Barston and the BEMs’, hopping in his spaceship to head off furriners at the horse-head nebula. Yee-haw.

Some movies like Outland (High Noon) have tried this unimaginatively while others like Battle Beyond the Stars (Magnificent Seven, itself from Seven Samurai) have tried to bring imagination to the characters if not actual science to the story. The number of failures too unworthy to remember is legion.

Perhaps the successful example most will think of immediately is Firefly. While the show does have science we cannot achieve, and thus fictional, like terraforming, artificial gravity, laser weapons, space travel, and genetic engineering, these are generally presented in ‘stock’ fashion and applied in ways to normalize space environments so the characters can move around freely. The science-fiction only brings people back to more rustic and less technically advanced environments. Planets are towns and gunfights occur with blasters. Some elements of Firefly are more fantastic, like mind-control, but are rarely plot essential. Even River’s extraordinary abilities are little different from a kung-fu movie hero, at least as far as plot is concerned.

Westerns are not the only such trope. Ray Bradbury is revered as a great Science-fiction writer, yet there is almost no essential science in any of his books. Farenheit 451 is a social metaphor where ‘technology’ in general leads humanity away from knowledge rather than to greater understanding. Martian chronicles is on mars and weird shit happens, but none of it for sciency reasons, just aliens trying to make an impression. This is not to say Ray Bradbury was not a terrific writer, just that what he wrote was mostly social science. And I will admit that Rachel Bloom’s “F**k me, Ray Bradbury” is perhaps the finest tribute to any writer ever made.

At its best, science-fiction allows characters to reach concepts and dilemmas not possible in conventional drama, pose social and philosophical questions that can only exist hypothetically, if we can only accept the ‘what if...’ part of the story.