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Saturday, March 31, 2018

On Netflix: THE TITAN (2018)


THE TITAN
(US/UK/Spain/Germany - 2018)

Directed by Lennart Ruff. Written by Max Hurwitz. Cast: Sam Worthington, Taylor Schilling, Tom Wilkinson, Agyness Deyn, Nathalie Emmanuel, Noah Jupe, Corey Johnson, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Diego Boneta, Aaron Heffernan, Alex Lanipecun, Naomi Battrick, Steven Cree, Nathalie Poza, Francesc Garrido, Kyle Soller. (Unrated, 97 mins)

It's another week and another dud Netflix acquisition with the sci-fi/horror outing THE TITAN, a potentially interesting sort-of reverse MARTIAN with hints of the underrated and sort-of forgotten SPLICE. It looks great and benefits from some beautiful Spain and Canary Islands location work, but its intriguing concepts are rendered moot by lax execution and a typically bland performance from AVATAR's Sam Worthington, who they're apparently still trying to make a thing. Completed in 2016, THE TITAN is set in a post-apocalyptic 2048 where the west coast is uninhabitable due to nuclear fallout and huge sections of the US and much of the world are turning into overpopulated, war-ravaged hellholes. As NASA scientist Dr. Martin Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson) explains, "Time is running out and we've outgrown our world." His plan? Populate Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. Its atmosphere is largely methane and nitrogen and thus impossible for humans to live, but Collingwood's multi-billion project involves using US soldiers in an experimental program to alter their DNA and biological structure to adapt to Titan's atmosphere, explaining that "Humans must adapt rather than reshape planets in our image." One test subject is Air Force Lt. Rick Janssen (Worthington), who moves his family--doctor wife Abi (Taylor Schilling of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) and young son Lucas (Noah Jupe)--to a top-secret NATO base on a remote island in the Atlantic Ocean. Collingwood promises Rick and the other test subjects that they'll be enhanced, superior versions of themselves. "You'll be you, but better." Clearly, they've never seen a body-horror movie with a deranged scientist before.






Things go smoothly at first, with Rick's biological enhancements allowing him to swim at high speeds and stay underwater for over 40 minutes. But then the trouble starts: mood swings, clumps of hair falling out, a bad reaction to surgery intended to alter the aperture of his eyes to allow him to see through darkness but instead leaving him temporarily blind and bleeding from his eyes. Then scaly masses start forming on his skin. Abi, whose career as a doctor is mentioned often but never called upon in a story capacity, breaks into Collingwood's office (well, he leaves the door unlocked for maximum plot convenience) and looks at his notes: past experiments have found him blending human DNA with amphibians and bats to allow test subjects to sprout gills and potentially fly. He's even labeled them "Homo Titanus" in his intent to create the next stage of evolution. In time, Rick's human appearance morphs into a combination of the later, redesigned Gill Man from 1956's THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US, a human-sized Dr. Manhattan from WATCHMEN, and "Dren" from SPLICE, as Abi desperately tries to save her husband from what Collingwood has done. It's hard to believe he gets away with what he's been doing, especially after a video conference call with an enraged NASA official where we learn Collingwood has gone rogue and completely veered away from his original assignment, and is revealed to be a quack with dubious theories on evolution. It seems like NASA or the President or somebody from NATO would head to this base and maybe relieve Collingwood of his duties since he's turning soldiers into bat/Gill Man-hybrids. Schilling takes this a lot more seriously than she should, Worthington is too dull to make this his version of Jeff Goldblum in THE FLY, and Wilkinson just seems to be amusing himself on his Canary Islands vacation by choosing odd ways to pronounce words like "methane" and "Pentagon." German director Lennart Ruff, making his feature debut, has a good eye for shot compositions and the film certainly looks more expensive than it likely is, a good indication that he'll be getting journeyman gigs on big-budget Hollywood movies soon enough. But at the end of the day, THE TITAN is an intriguing idea that just gets sillier and dumber as it trudges along to its unsatisfying conclusion.


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