Man at His Best

Why You Should Watch Altered Carbon (Or Not)

Is the Netflix series a new breed of sci-fi?

BY Joy Ling | Mar 20, 2018 | Film & TV

Image from Vox

It’s 25th century, Bay City. There’s no looking back from the revolutionary technology that has changed the world. With everything else that man has been digitizing, the human consciousness has finally been included as one of them. Coded and stored on small, removable ‘stacks’, souls are eternal. Death is a thing of the past, and the human body nothing more than a ‘sleeve’. Central to the cyberpunk mess that is the future is rebel soldier Takeshi Kovacs, revived centuries later with a chance to live pardoned for his dark past. Only if he solves the murder of the nearly immortal, insanely rich Laurens Bancroft.

So why is it different from other sci-fi?

It’s adaptation from a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan and chemical noir landscapes draws immediate parallels to Blade Runner, and the concept of bodies as interchangeable hardware is hardly new. The praiseworthy difference lies in the diverse casting. Put aside the whitewashing backlash of casting Joel Kinnaman as lead, which makes little sense considering the context of body sleeves, and you’ll see strong female characters who are black, Asian and Hispanic. If Inclusion Rider advocate Frances McDormand were to watch this, she would give a standing ovation. Because there’s also a Muslim character whose race is not the focal point of his role. There are also plenty interracial and conceptually same-gender relationships. For a show that is portraying the future, this is definitely a step forward in accurate representation. It would be a factor that makes it good content for kids, if not for the next part.

Is it in the right direction?

Thanks to Game of Thrones, we are increasingly numb to violence and nudity. But it’s a safe bet to say that Altered Carbon brings it up two, no maybe five notches. People are not just naked, they are naked. Which prompts the question— is it really necessary? If it’s not crucial to the plot, what other motives spur dancing on the line between film and porn? The confusion comes in when certain scenes leave out the —junk, so to speak— while showing everything else possible. What does that mean? Was it an addendum in the actor’s contract? It’s the same with the level of violence. Dismemberment, impalement, and plain ol’ torture. It seldom does more than seem like a distraction. Which is why towards the middle, it became rather challenging to follow. The excess struggled to pace in the span of ten episodes to conclude in a bit of a quick getaway.

So should you watch it or not?

Depends. If you live for beautiful drug-induced visual trips, catalytic fight sequences, or catch yourself wondering about the consequences of immortality and potential atrocities humans are capable of with unlimited wealth, then yes. But if you’re looking for gripping sci-fi, maybe stick to the classics.