Entertainment - 9.1
Nudity, Language, Sexual Content, Violence
Netflix’s Altered Carbon has been called many things: Violent, dystopian cyber-punk, Sci-fi futuristic film noir, sexy murder mystery...and it all applies.
Netflix’s Altered Carbon has been called many things: Violent, dystopian cyber-punk, Sci-fi futuristic film noir, sexy murder mystery…and it all applies. Perhaps most accurate is the old adage, “Everything old is new again”…and again. In a culture whose foundation is based on mechanical reincarnation, one’s soul is defined only as one’s memories. Everything you know as yourself is recorded, and stored in a disk at the base of your neck called a “cortical stack”. But what if your memories are gone?
Well, if you’re a billionaire ‘Meth’ like Laurens Bancroft, you ‘de-ice’ a former terrorist from his 250 year old sleep, put him in the ‘sleeve’ or body of a former cop, and pay him to find your murderer. If you’re anyone else, you’re simply screwed.
This is the premise of our story and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sci-fi writer, Richard K. Morgan’s rich, fully imagined novel has been brought back to life, you might say, in the different, but equally (perhaps even more so) vibrant world of television. Creator Laeta Kalogridis bought the rights to the story over 15 years ago, and has been working to get it made ever since. Thank God she was so tenacious because it brings the world of “Altered Carbon” to an audience who may be unfamiliar with Richard K. Morgan’s writings, like me.
Our protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, perfectly played by Joel Kinnaman is reborn into a world he already despises. Unlike the ‘Meths’ who rule his society and believe in rebirth as their right (as long as they have the resources to buy it) as the last surviving ‘rebel’ he is quoted as saying, “Death isn’t up to us to give or withhold”. Presumably, life isn’t either. And therein lies the crux, the very dichotomy of this story, that of creator vs. created. For as Larens Bancroft says to Kovacs after humiliating him in front his guests at a dinner party, “…in this world there is only the choice between being the purchaser or the purchased”. In this world, the creator is the purchaser, the created, the purchased. There is very little distinction between a life and property.
While there is the rule of law for the ‘grounders’, people who live on earth, unlike the ‘meths’ who literally live above the clouds, those who can live eternally live without the boundaries of right and wrong and the consequences of both. The perverseness of base human desires are transmuted into the worship of freedom as nothingness, devoid of moral judgment and therefore devoid of morality altogether. This is the good fight, fought by Kovacs and by his unwilling partner, police detective Kristin Ortega, played wonderfully by Martha Higareda.
Other important storylines which intertwine with finding Bancroft’s killer include finding Lizzie’s killer, a young prostitute involved with Bancroft, (Kovacs meets her father during his investigation, and they work in a quid pro quo relationship to find the truth.) and clearing police lutienant Kristin Ortega’s partner and lover, Richer of a murder, again, related to Bancroft.
While everyone is preoccupied with solving their own problems, and mysteries, preoccupied with their hearts’ desires, and their own demons, we as the audience learn that Takeshi Kovacs was right when he said that, “Finding truth is more than search for data, it’s an excavation of self. You have to keep going no matter where it takes you, because nothing can stay hidden forever.”
The comparisons to “Blade Runner” are accurate especially
when it comes to the details of set design and costuming:
the screens on practically every building, the moody rain,
the advertisements for any vice to be satisfied. But this story
delves deeper, not only into a more complex storyline with multiple
interlayered plots, beyond what makes us human, and into what
makes us ‘gods’ – creators of our own devices, living gods like Odin,
and Jupiter, not, as some characters believe, the true God.
For more info on Cyber-punk dramas see Jason Turner’s Iron City Detective Series, Sentinel and Bitter Heart and his interview here on act.land.