Titan has an atmosphere higher in nitrogen and lower in oxygen than humans can survive, deadly hydrocarbon lakes, and is far, far too cold. Enter: science! Instead of trying to terraform this moon, it's decided that the human species is what should be changed. Tom Wilkinson leads a project attempting to give evolution a generous nudge in Titan's direction, and Rick (Sam Worthington) is one of the volunteer guinea pigs.
|We're going to live in space, kids! And you know what that means: we have to turn ourselves into aliens first!|
Here is the most consistent problem with Netflix Original films: they aren't advertised accurately. Watching the trailer for this film, I was under the impression it would be a scifi horror film -- with a slow build-up, and on the heavily dramatic side, but still. What this movie is, is a scifi drama, plain and simple. Rick wants to make a better future for his son (Noah Jupe of A Quiet Place) and jumps into the risky, life-altering program, his wife Abi (Taylor Schilling) in full support; and their faith and expectations are challenged.
Our expectations are challenged too. Once the plot got going I adjusted my perception filter to fit "scifi drama" but even then, the trailer messed up my viewing experience. They showed some of what he looked like after he transforms or evolves or whatever, so I knew how drastic it would be. Apparently, none of the characters did. It plays out in the film as if the physical transformation was the big twist, but I thought it was the premise. Even as the film itself sets up the premise, the implication of the experiment involves physical change. The word "superhuman" and phrases such as "you, but better" and "fly on Titan" were used.
|So I'm not exactly gonna be amazed to see someone sprout wings.|
And when subjects can stay underwater for over thirty minutes, it's no surprise that they're developing gills. But a surprise or not, this kind of stuff is pretty cool in a straightforward scifi way. It takes some suspension of disbelief and ignoring of some nonsense, but this scifi testing and training is the best element the film has going. It reminded me a little of the Dauntless training in Divergent, with new strange things happening every day, and people dropping dead in regular intervals.
But even with belief suspended, there was a lot of inconsistency within the scifi side of things, that comes down to plot convenience. At first, I wondered how the subjects would survive on Earth if they evolve to Titan standards, but it's more like their survival abilities are expanded rather than altered. (Titan's not too cold anymore but that doesn't mean Earth is too hot.) That makes sense, but then the superfluous changes divert from that idea. Eventually Rick can't speak anymore, and he communicates through touch and at some inaudible frequency.
|Also, his middle fingers fuse together. Seems more like de-evolution to me...|
But why can't he do both? He shouldn't have lost his vocal cords, and he definitely still has a mouth. It seems like from that, the idea was to create a wholly new species that can only really live properly on Titan; the movie just had to allow him to survive Earth's climate and atmosphere because the story couldn't exist if he couldn't. The whole story is bent into its shape that way, and it actually gets worse as the film ends, not ever answering some logistical questions I had at the start.
More amusingly, the premise centers on an enormously overpopulated Earth, with catastrophic climate problems. Yet, all we ever see is sleek, expansive, and expensive futuristic housing and research facilities situated comfortably in the middle of a thriving nowhere. Rick and Abi go on a run and stand looking out over a lush valley and green wooded mountains, comment on how nice it is, and then bemoan the fact that they can't save it -- while I was under the impression that Earth was already so far gone that places like that didn't exist anymore.
|Whatever, I'm sure they were just trying to make a point about global warming or whatever it is these days.|
What they should've been doing was focusing on making a good story. I can forgive lapses in logic if only the story and the characters are worth the investment. These characters weren't fundamentally bad, but the movie didn't really seem to know what to do with them. First, we focus on Rick as he gets his treatments; later focus shifts to Abi as she deals with his changes. Then it tries to flip-flop, but the result is an emotional disconnect because they always seem to make the wrong choice about whose viewpoint should be shown.
Overall the story could've been much more effective from Abi's view only, but it was more entertaining from Rick's. Neither the science fiction nor the character drama is fully thought-through, and if they had been, the logical process would have worked the story out of existence. With a couple of neat ideas, and filmmaking of good technical quality, The Titan reached the absolute height of its potential -- but that's not saying much at all.