It takes at least an hour for the lab results to show up negative; the opening section of The Titan actually has a brisk, highly watchable quality. Against the backdrop of global upheaval and economic despair, screenwriter Max Hurwitz, working from a story by Grace of Monaco writer Arash Amel, takes us into a secluded military community that considers itself humanity's last hope. Former Air Force fighter pilot Rick Janssen (Worthington) gets recruited for a special assignment that will make him one of the first humans capable of living under the life-threatening atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. Tom Wilkinson's Professor Martin Collingwood, the resident labcoat-wearing-blowhard, explains that he's "evolving humanity into the stars." It's all very Michael Crichton-ey.
To begin this evolution, Rick undergoes some intense drug therapy that will remind Netflix junkies of the doping scenes in the company's Oscar winning documentary Icarus. (Worthington even gets a shot in the ass at one point.) Between his regiment of lectures, injections, and underwater breathing exercise, Rick also spends time with his concerned wife Abi, a pediatrician played by Orange is the New Black star Taylor Schilling, and his cute son Lucas, who likes to fire up up a fancy-looking solar system night light before he goes to bed every night. Despite the bleak state of the world, the domestic environment portrayed in these home scenes has a pleasant, Ikea catalog vibe. The whole movie feels like it's been dipped in an antiseptic.
Things must get a little smudged and dirty eventually, right? Don't hold your breath -- unless you've also developed Worthington's mutant skills. The Titan's slow-burn, artisanal approach to body horror would be admirable if Ruff had a stronger grasp on the tortured psychology of the characters and the pulpy demands of the genre. Specifically, the script lacks the sexual dimension that drives the best David Cronenberg works. There are hints of a steamier movie here -- during an intimate late night swim, Abi notices Rick's back is extra vein-ey -- but the pot never boils.