The area of Netflix’s original lineup that has been the most controversial is their science fiction content. While shows (Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Altered Carbon, Lost in Space) have received rave reviews, their feature films (The Cloverfield Paradox, Spectral, Bright, Mute) have been less than well-received. Could The Titan break that streak? (Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t).
Synopsis: In the near future, a military family is chosen to participate in a ground-breaking experiment to accelerate man’s genetic evolution in order to relocate humanity to another planet. (Netflix)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Taylor Schilling and Tom Wilkinson
Writer: Max Hurwitz
Director: Lennart Ruff
Running Time: 97mins
What could have been such an interesting premise ends up falling flat thanks to some terrible execution and storytelling. The story follows Rick Janssen (Worthington), a war pilot who survived for 3 days in the Syrian desert with no food or water, who is chosen to take part in an experimental research program that hopes to force human evolution that would allow the species to survive on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. His wife Abigail (Schilling) works on the research team spearheaded by Martin Collingwood (Wilkinson) who will do anything to make sure the project is a success.
The premise is a great high-concept science fiction that deals with some thought-provoking themes of morality, survival and adaptation. In turn, the story starts off rather promising as it focuses on the research program from both the perspective of the scientists and the subjects. However, unlike its more expensive and eerily similar counterpart Avatar (all the way down to the same lead actor, Sam Worthington), it loses traction and its attempt at a conclusion ruins any redeeming qualities the first half had.
The story is void of any context for these people and the audience is expected to invest in these characters and care about them while having absolutely no character development along the way. The beats are predictable and lack the emotional or thrilling impact needed for the themes it presents. In fact, the film ends up being mostly talking head filler scenes and opts to divulge all of its key moments offscreen. This is seen through the abrupt and confusing evolution that occurs destroying any momentum the film had been building. And of course this culminates into a truly enraging ending that leaves you not only questioning what you just watched but also why you watched it.
While the film falls apart in its storytelling and overall execution, there are a few things that do manage to keep you around for the film’s entire runtime. Worthington is a formidable and charismatic lead, despite his limited role and development. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Schilling who radiates the same lifeless persona as seen on Orange is the New Black. The best part of the film is the makeup and prosthetics that at least make the final product of this evolution look cool. And the score gives this film a great sci-fi vibe similar to Arrival and Annihilation.
Overall, The Titan is a disappointing science fiction drama that misfires on its interesting premise thanks to some poor direction and writing. While it boasts a charismatic lead performance and some sci-fi makeup and music, these elements cannot overcome the truly abysmal journey this narrative takes. It is a space exploration story with no space and nothing is ever really explored.
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