The Titan movie review: bad science, worse science fiction

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The Titan red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

The science is ludicrous, the story is almost entirely free of drama, and the finale descends into the hoariest, most ridiculous clichés of the genre. But the future smart-house porn is lovely.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m a big science fiction fan
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female coprotagonist
(learn more about this)

Oh, dear. Are we present at the birth of a new subgenre of science fiction films that might be dubbed Future House Porn? Because that’s what the feature debut of German filmmaker Lennart Ruff mostly looks like. (See also — or, really, don’t — Black Hollow Cage.) The Titan is ostensibly the story of a NATO experiment in the year 2048 to retrofit some astronauts so they can live on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan without any protective gear or even, as we later see, clothing of any kind. But honestly it’s just seems like nothing but an opportunity to visually slobber all over the gorgeous glass smart house that US military pilot Lt. Rick Janssen (Sam Worthington: Everest, The Keeping Room) and his family live in while the genetic tinkering is going on. (The movie was shot on Gran Canaria, which looks absolutely stunning. I’d love to visit: can I stay in that house?)

“A new life awaits you in the offworld colonies... as long as you let us poke around in your DNA a bit, no biggie.”
“A new life awaits you in the offworld colonies… as long as you let us poke around in your DNA a bit, no biggie.”

The science here is ludicrous. For starters, Titan is most certainly not the only other body in our solar system that has an atmosphere, so that undercuts the entire premise of the film, which is that the sort of dramatic alterations to the human body that Professor Martin Collingwood (Tom Wilkinson: This Beautiful Fantastic, Denial) and Dr. Freya Upton (Agyness Deyn: The White King, Electricity) are attempting to graft onto their would-be astronauts are vitally necessary for the survival of humanity, which needs to get off the dying planet Earth. But then the movie doesn’t do much with even this flawed setup! The first two-thirds of the story is entirely free of drama: the modifications to the astronauts bodies — also including ones played by Nathalie Emmanuel (Maze Runner: The Death Cure, The Fate of the Furious) and Diego Boneta (Rock of Ages) — go according to plan, which is pretty darn dull.

Maybe we could just build some domes on Titan instead of mucking around with folks’ fundamental humanity?

Some true conflict might have been ginned up by screenwriter Max Hurwitz (TV’s Hell on Wheels) and Arash Amel (Grace of Monaco) if, instead of requiring that Rick’s wife, Dr. Abi Janssen (Taylor Schilling: The Overnight, Argo), give up her non-Titan-related medical work to play a tedious supportive spouse, they’d cast her as an essential part of the project. I wouldn’t get rid of Agyness Deyn in anything, but if Abi had been the project’s doctor, the story could have been a whole heckuva lot more dynamic… and it could have introduced the moral dilemmas that the movie seems to think are already there in the presence of the Janssens’ son, Lucas (Noah Jupe: A Quiet Place, Wonder). We’re meant to think that Abi maybe isn’t quite so onboard when things with the project start to go bad, as of course they do, but wasn’t all this, risks included, supposed to be worth it if it meant a future for their son? What if Abi had been forced to choose between her son and her husband? Instead, she merely gets to shout at other people who seem to be making that choice for her.

People who live in glasses houses shouldn’t rent them out to serve as locations for sci-fi movie productions...
People who live in glasses houses shouldn’t rent them out to serve as locations for sci-fi movie productions…

Except this: it’s not entirely clear that anyone here realizes that if Titan is going to be humanity’s savior, then the idea is that everyone who heads out there is going to have to be modified like Rick is being modified. Or we could maybe just build some domes? Argh with this movie.

Any hope that The Titan might have been salvageable, though, goes out through one of those smart-home plate glass windows* in the finale, which descends into the hoariest, most ridiculous clichés of the genre: a lot of pointless violence, which isn’t even supported by the science supposedly going on, and some ominous warnings about Frankensteinian monster building, if you squint hard enough… which also isn’t supported by the supposed science, because would you become a different person if you could suddenly breathe air with less oxygen in it? I guess Sherpas aren’t human anymore, then…

*Or see Oblivion, also with a Saturn’s Titan connection.

‘The Titan’ is available to watch on Netflix in the US and Canada.

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Wed, Apr 18, 2018 9:32pm

this review is hilarious

Wed, Apr 18, 2018 10:01pm

Yeah, I groaned when I watched the trailer for this on Netflix. It just looks so bad.

Fri, Nov 18, 2022 3:55am

titan has 95% nitrogen and 5% methane and apparently no oxygen. It will be impossible to modify human being to function on no oxygen apparently nitrogen is really an inert gas and for our bodies to function oxygen is split and the energy is used to power powerful chemical cycles in the body, they would have to modify the human body to split methane, which I don’t believe any creature has been found that does that.