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Altered Carbon - Altering Minds since 2002

Altered Carbon

I would absolutely love to see the Screenwriters pitch to producers for this visually stunning and genre confusing Netflix Series. The popular books, written by Richard Morgan, should guarantee at least some curious viewers make the journey from page to screen. There is no doubt though that Netflix are taking a gamble on another high budget production that will demand a committed audience before it is recommissioned, big budget productions such as Sense8 fell victim to Netflix demands and was cancelled after just two series. Perhaps this is a very traumatic time for viewers as you never know whether your relationship with a new production will last more than a season or two, so why commit?

Altered Carbon does not ask for commitment, it demands it. If you were to hold ‘Fifth Element’ in one hand and ‘Blade Runner’ in the other hand, then smash them together you will have Altered Carbon. I guess what makes me most afraid is that I grew up watching Star Trek technology become real, if the technology in Altered Carbon comes true then we are all in trouble.

New technology allows a person’s consciousness to be stored in discs called 'Stacks' which can be placed into another body, or ‘Sleeve’. This renders death redundant as you can simply move into another body. The wealthiest, in this world, can buy clones and then just keep moving into a younger and healthier version of themselves. This creates an immortality and a ‘God’ like aura for the most powerful, wealthy, and elite in the society. This is book-ended by the poorest being placed in storage or, if they have some money, they can get a run-down and broken body as a replacement. Essentially our bodies have become simply a vehicle and if you have the money you buy super-cars, if not then you will be stuck in a Fiat Panda.

Naturally when faced with such technological advances there is a conflict with religion and aspects of society have ‘Coded’ their discs so that they can have a ‘Real Death’, meaning their consciousness cannot placed into another sleeve. There is talk in the first series about the government enforcing the placement of a murdered sleeve into another sleeve so that they can testify against their killer, but this contravenes religious doctrine. This is just one example of the depth of conflict created by the narrative and we have not even spoken about the Protagonist yet.

Joel Kinnaman plays the lead character, Takeshi Kovacs, with the same swagger and presence of the iconic Firefly Captain Malcom Reynolds. Nathan Fillion has achieved cult status for his role in Firefly and Kinnaman has adopted many traits. The dark humor, stubbornness, sweeping long coats, and quick to action nature of Kovacs makes the character familiar, likable but also unpredictable. Kovacs is an Envoy, an almost Jedi Knight meets Matrix style of character. Envoys are highly trained and specialist soldiers that can control virtual reality and enjoy heightened strength and fighting skills. This comes in handy for Kovacs as a string of comic book-esque baddies attempt to kill him because he happens to be in the sleeve of an ex-cop. Also guess what…., the female cop he ends up working with was dating the consciousness that used to drive the sleeve Kovacs is in.

Kovacs has been kept in storage for over 250 years but is given a new sleeve by a Billionaire, who sets him a mission to determine who killed him. When I say killed him I mean the billionaires former sleeve, a former him. You see how this gets confusing! I am not going to talk plot or narrative anymore as by now you should be so intrigued or confused that you have already loaded Netflix. As you can tell the plot does ask a lot of the audience but if you are a forgiving person then you will be able to just sit back and admire.

Rating 9/12

A Slice of Genre Genre Analysis – Altered Carbon For Master’s Degree – Falmouth University

Altered Carbon is a visual attack on the senses and the immersive nature of the world will initially get you thinking this is a Sci-fi fantasy. At the core of the narrative this may well be true but there is so much going here. The primary function of the protagonist is to ascertain who killed a billionaire, thus making him a science fiction version of Poirot, thankfully without the mustache.

Interestingly the protagonist can be considered two people, the consciousness of another human is inside the body of a former cop, and the female detective he is working with used to date the former cop. So a Romantic Drama is unfolding as the body of her former lover has now got a new owner and she is also seemingly falling in love with him, this is a love triangle between two people. With just these two examples we have a Science Fiction Fantasy mixed with Murder Mystery and Romantic Drama.

Undoubtedly this is a Personal Drama, in primary form. The protagonist, Kovacs, is trying to resolve personal conflict that goes back over 250 years. His consciousness has been in storage since he was arrested 250 year ago, Now he has been bought back to solve a murder. The world has changed but his desire to find his sister and bring down the government that killed his comrades, in a rebellion, remain the motivation for the character.

Mark Anthony Games

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