Starring Avatar’s Sam Worthington, Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling, and Batman Begins’ Tom Wilkinson, The Titan is a mild sci-fi offering that feels perfectly designed to nest and reside within Netflix’s “Because You Watched…” scroll.
The Titan, from writer Max Hurwitz and director Lennart Ruff, isn’t a bad film, it just never pops. And it spends the bulk of its body focusing on the wrong story. By the time the tale ends, you feel like you’ve just finally reached something interesting because the hour and a half leading you there contained a ton of filler and unnecessary fat. If we’re talking Netflix Original sci-fi flicks, The Cloverfield Paradox immediately springs to mind here, as it too felt like an unnecessarily reverse-engineered backwards race toward a much more interesting story happening elsewhere.
The Titan never springs to life, though it’d have you believe it’s all about saving lives. Everyone’s life in fact, as our world in 2060 has become a death trap of starvation and strife. Worthington, perhaps feeling at home in another space saga about a man transforming in order to assimilate to an alien world, plays a former Air Force pilot, Rick, who volunteers to alter his DNA so that he, and ipso facto future generations, can leave Earth and live on Saturn’s moon, Titan. But Rick is such a dreary do-gooder, so unfortunately blank and dull, that you’re never able to grasp onto his full reasoning for basically agreeing to “Tusk” himself.
Schilling, as Rick’s wife Abigail, is tasked with the burden of the emotional work here, trying her best to make us believe in a love we’re never really privy to, since the film starts with the two of them, and their young son, being brought onto the secret NATO/NASA base for the first round of Rick’s DNA altering. They’ve already had the hard talk and made the tough decisions before the fist frame flashes. Again, it’s an example of the story showing us a ton of stuff we don’t need to see instead of vital moments that would make a huge difference.
Yup, you’re going to get a lot of tests and trials and science-y gobbledygook about the ways humans need to change in order to survive Titan, none of it adding up to real drama. You’ll be introduced to the other people selected for the project, who also live on the compound, but you’ll never really get to know any of them as real characters. Even the rare dinner parties, during the initial phases of the treatment (when the subjects start being able to hold their breath longer and withstand freezing temperatures), are the type of get-togethers where the women hang out inside and the men congregate abound the backyard grill and no one says anything remotely interesting. Everything feels muted from a stakes standpoint.
As Rick begins to transform from mellow platitude-filled frontman to an all-but emotionless humanoid…thing, Abigail begins to regret the entire endeavor and panic. It’s at this point you’ll wish we could have seen their life beforehand and their intimate, serious conversations about agreeing to this process. Because there can be no real sympathy if we feel like they’re getting, essentially, what they bargained for. She even screams at Wilkinson’s Dr. Collingwood about being lied to, but we never got to hear the original pitch. Too many crucial things happened off-screen.