One look at Netflix’s Altered Carbon will likely be all that it takes to get even the most causal science fiction fan to prepare their next binge watch.
The streaming service reportedly dumped a lot of cash into the series and it’s apparent from the get-go just how much of that money wound up on screen. The production has gone to great lengths to bring the cyberpunk dystopia of Richard K. Morgan’s novel to life, delivering a gritty, neon-trimmed future-scape where human consciousness can be downloaded and transferred from one body to the next through a process called “sleeving,”] effectively affording an infinite number of resurrections to those with the means to do so.
The hunger with which fans of cyberpunk will devour Altered Carbon, the noir adaptation of Richard K. Morgan’s definitive novel on Netflix
, is not up for question. The television landscape hasn’t yet spawned any classics of this particular sci-fi sub-genre the way cinema has with the likes of Blade Runner or even the more controversial Ghost in the Shell (although some are in the works), so the field is wide open for this series in which minds are downloaded into new bodies to prolong life. Fortunately, Altered Carbon succeeds on its own many merits, not just because of the dearth of competition.
Starring Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as Takeshi Kovacs, whose memory (or “cortical stack”) has been placed in a new body (or “sleeve”) after serving 250 years of an eternal prison sentence, Altered Carbon putlocker9
follows the investigation for which Kovacs has been revived (or “spun up”): to find the murderer of Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (Hap and Leonard). Since Bancroft died before a 48-hour backup could be made of his consciousness, his new sleeve has no memory of the event.
Such a conceit has immense potential and Netflix clearly wanted to offer a visual experience on par with the grand themes at play in the narrative. But while there are some lofty ideas ready to be explored, this is blockbuster television at its most conspicuous. The series is an obvious challenger to the spectacle of HBO’s Game of Thrones, albeit one delivered through the future shock aesthetic of Blade Runner. Like that film and its sequel, watch free movie streaming site
Altered Carbon asks the question of what constitutes a human, though in this case the question arises on account of futuristic body swapping ostensibly making natural death a choice. There is also the question of human nature, and whether or not it’s hardwired into the species to seek conflict and to kill, a question that provides the series with plenty opportunity for bloody action sequences and the season’s central mystery.
There is so much on its plate, so much going on with the plot that Altered Carbon never takes the time to simply be in the world it’s created. There are 10 hours of television and series creator and showrunner Laeta Kalogridis (Terminator Genisys) seems intent on filling each and every minute with dialogue. The script in the first hour is a blunt instrument, pummeling the audience with concepts, while characters literally and clumsily tell one another who and what they are. Like Kinnaman’s reborn freedom fighter, there’s no easing into the world or the story; it’s just a series of heated exchanges, flashbacks, and visions meant to check and recheck that the audience is following along. But the world of Altered Carbon and certainly its characters aren’t that complicated, and it’s not long before all of the hand holding being done by the scripts becomes a distraction. There’s a difference between the quality of breathlessness and needing to take a breath. Midway through the second episode it’s clear this series could stand to let some air in.