Early in Netflix‘s The Titan, there is an exposition dump that sets up the whole story. We’ve seen enough of these to know what’s coming: The planet is dying and we’re down to our last resort. It’s 2048 and global warming and overpopulation have brought Earth to its breaking point. But there is hope. One of Saturn’s moons, Titan, is just hospitable enough for humans to try living there. Wait, actually, Titan isn’t habitable. But maybe humans can be adapted to fit Titan’s harsh environment. Thus, the story shifts from Interstellar to Innerstellar. And The Titan charts a bumpy, but interesting path forward.
The Titan, directed by Lennart Ruff with a screenplay by Max Hurwitz, is captivating because inside the macro themes there’s an intimate film. At the heart of the story are Lt. Rick Janssen (Sam Worthington) and Dr. Abigail Janssen (Taylor Schilling). Rick has been chosen to participate in an experiment to genetically enhance the human body to survive Titan’s conditions. As an actor, Worthington never really got a fair shake from audiences. Between Terminator Salvation and Avatar he was anointed as the next big thing and it didn’t stick. He’s solid here: It’s a role predicated on physicality, and Worthington sells it well.
The experiment, which is run by Professor Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson), works. Too well, it turns out. Rick and the other participants evolve into their superhuman Titan form ahead of schedule. Things turn violent and before long Rick and Abigail are fighting to keep their family together.
The Titan is at its best in the scenes between Rick and Abigail, as their relationship powers the film. What holds the film back is the undercurrent of science fiction cliches that runs through the film. For each spark of originality, there is a predictable twist. In the end, it keeps the movie from ever taking off. Even if it doesn’t always work, The Titan is interesting enough to make it worth watching. In the Netflix science fiction canon, it slots in alongside The Cloverfield Paradox and Mute. Considering Netflix’s quantity-over-quality ethos, The Titan counts as a minor victory.
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