Film Review | The Titan (2018)

Netflix’s latest Original, The Titan, is a criminally drab slab of science-fiction that sees a lifeless military man subjected to genetic experimentation. Directed by Lennart Ruff in his feature debut, The Titan stars Sam Worthington and Taylor Schilling, and was released on Netflix on March 30, 2018.

When your film stars Sam Worthington, subjecting him to shady government experiments probably seems like a good idea. The ones in The Titan cause his hair to fall out in clumps and his skin to slough away like dried-up fruit peels. They also keep him mercifully quiet for the latter half of the film. This, if you ask me, is an improvement. The Australian actor might be handsome, but he’s such a vacuous charisma trap that I’ve even heard Kellan Lutz ask who the **** he is.

The dastardly eugenics experiment gone awry is hackneyed sci-fi screenwriting 101 – a handy way of avoiding any awkward questions about how one might actually go about colonizing a moon, which is the vague objective of the genomic meddling in The Titan. In the future, thanks to overpopulation and a nebulous nuclear event that left Los Angeles a smoldering husk, humanity is eyeing up real estate on Titan, the only moon in the solar system to boast a human-accommodating, nitrogen-heavy atmosphere. According to a state-sanctioned scientist played menacingly by Tom Wilkinson, the goal is to “evolve humanity into the stars.”

What this means, functionally, is that it’s cheaper and easier to film a government corruption story in a coastal NATO mansion than it is to actually set a sci-fi story in space. So, here we are, with a premise thoroughly wasted, and 90 minutes of toothless body-horror to endure as Worthington gradually transforms into what looks like a plastic recreation of a naked Lord Voldemort. Even imbued with bat DNA, Worthington still doesn’t manage to summon a single expression, so determined is he to not display a single shred of interest in any script he’s handed.

Not that the script for The Titan is worth getting excited about. Written by Max Hurwitz, it sees Worthington as former Air Force pilot Rick Janssen, who, along with his wife, Abigail (Schilling), and their young son, is relocated to a Department of Defence-funded seaside base. The various injections and military-style training that he and other servicemen and women are subjected to quickly cause them to sprout additional appendages, go blind, mutate, and suffer frenzied steroidal meltdowns.

If The Titan reminds me of anything, it’s probably The Cloverfield Paradox, another science-y Netflix offering that always seemed destined for the “Because you watched…” thumbnails, and spent an hour and a half setting up a more interesting story that you never got to see. The Titan has the same problem – the only time you want to see what happens next is at the very end – but also another, related one; it skips past all the stuff that would have given what we actually do see any kind of relatable context or emotional heft. Rick is a bland do-gooder, the generically put-upon noble husband, and we never get a sense of him being anything but that. His wife is burdened with convincing us of a love between them that feels second-hand. The Titan begins with the family having already made the decision to participate. How are we supposed to feel sympathy for their plight when, as far as we’re concerned, they’re getting what they signed up for?

The Titan often mistakes gobbledygook about adaptation and evolution for some kind of drama, but unless you’ve got a degree in bullshit, it’ll do little to distract you from how profoundly uninteresting everything beyond the premise actually is. Other test subjects are wheeled out to be fraternized with, and things get said – none of them remotely interesting. Abigail, consigned to the role of suspicious wife, mostly watches from afar, steadily beginning to regret the endeavor. At one point she even wails at Wilkinson’s doctor character about being lied to, and it occurred to me then that we didn’t even get to hear the original pitch. Lied to how? About what?

I knew I was in trouble with The Titan when I imagined the lead being recast as a more compelling, charismatic actor – Michael Fassbender sprang to mind – and realized it wouldn’t make much difference. It’s a film about a nigh-emotionless alien-amphibian crossbreed even before the experiments begin, but it’s also a tired series of missed opportunities, with a slavish devotion to genre tropes that languishes on fatty, uninspired material until it’s too gluttonous to drag itself in an interesting direction. Luckily, by tomorrow I’ll have forgotten all about it. I’ll see it sat there on Sam Worthington’s Wikipedia page the next time I’m Googling his filmography to properly slander his latest project, and I’ll think to myself, “Huh, The Titan. I really should get around to watching that one day.” And I never will.

Jonathon Wilson

Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.

4 thoughts on “Film Review | The Titan (2018)

  • March 31, 2018 at 11:27 am
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    Ha ha, excellent review of Sam Worthington. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment on that, but it sounds like it’s shamelessly ripped off Frederik Pohl’s novel Man Plus.

    Reply
    • March 31, 2018 at 6:42 pm
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      I’m not familiar with the novel, but I just turned to good old Wikipedia and… yep, seems just like that, to an almost lawsuit-worthy degree.

      Reply
  • April 5, 2018 at 12:00 am
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    **SPOILER ALERT** First time ever that I looked for somewhere to post a review on a film. This movie, in several places, but the fictive bubble for me. A fictive bubble is the world created around a character in a story, and when the dialogue or actions of a character stretch the boundaries of belief it leaves the viewer scratching their head in disbelief.

    Within the first ninety seconds we are introduced to a world collapsing and soon all humanity will be wiped out and our blue marble a barren wasteland. Yet, twice in dialogue our main character’s wife has with others asking about why they are doing this mission… you get two answers that are totally out of touch with the main plot point – a world coming to an end. Person one – to get a promotion and to be able to pick his posting as a marine. Duh… posting anywhere… the world is coming to an end! Person two – to get the whole astronaut ‘thing’ out of her system… and come back to what? Neither reason dealt with the fact that according to the plot – nothing was going to be left and this was man’s only option.

    Next, our main character is undergoing a massive DNA change to make him compatible for life on Titan… and yet his wife and child – whom he loves and is ‘doing this for’ cannot come and will never be able to be with him again. Twenty or so candidates and only one survived – doesn’t look like good odds for the wife and kid.

    So these candidates are worth over 300 million each and are undergoing a very unique set of genetic alterations and yet are allowed every night to walk home to their families and drink, smoke or screw without regard to how this could be affecting them or their families? Too stupid. What would have been believable would be a formal goodbye to loved ones three months prior – and then being taken away for the treatments and then the mission.
    The phycological aspect of this family interaction throughout the forced evolution taking place was ludicrous and unnecessary.

    So it falls to the wife to administer an injection that wipes out his memory before they send him off?! Are you kidding me? A highly trained astronaut is getting a lobotomy prior to sending him to another planet? Unreal. So she is presented with a drawer of viles to select from and for some unbelievable reason… they have a selection of saline solutions to pick from too? Seriously? Why would saline even be there?

    Now if you have made it this far and you still watched it … the ending is classic ridiculous. Our hero/alien/human pioneer is standing buck naked on Titan… apparently there is no army/navy store there. He is alone, without food and in fact is a castaway. Isolated. Alone. And yet we are expected to believe that he will survive? This was so bad in so many ways. The actors are great, the effects OK… the concept… mankind must evolve to equip themselves for a brave new world… decent. But the epic fail in writing was proof that when we pound out shows a dime a dozen the stinkers will always float to the top.

    Don’t waste your time. A re-run of Buck Rogers in the 21st Century would be a better use of your time.

    Reply
    • April 5, 2018 at 12:02 am
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      ‘burst’ the fictive bubble…. not but. lol I blame the writer.

      Reply

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