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TV Review: Altered Carbon

Year: 2018
Episodes: 10
Genre: Science Fiction, Cyberpunk

Altered Carbon is a NetFlix adaptation of a Richard K. Morgan book. I’ve never read the book but I am a fan of science fiction and cyberpunk. I was also unfamiliar with the premise as well but I usually give any science fiction series a run.

Centuries into the future, a technology is invented that allows memories to be collected via an implant (stack) effectively making human beings immortal. Nefarious figures have consolidated power over the centuries since. The settled worlds have become predatory and corrupt.
The story follows Takeshi Kovacs, a man that has been brought back after centuries. He was a member of a rebellion that sought to destroy what they deemed to be the corrupting influence of stack technology. In a new body (sleeve) he is given the task of looking into the apparent murder of one of the wealthiest people on the settled worlds, Laurens Bancroft.

Whilst I really liked the theme and premise of this story, it manages to fall flat on numerous occasions. Little things, such as police security and procedure, tended to try to disrupt continuity. The producers seemingly tried to distract from these weaknesses in plot and technical considerations by throwing nudity at the audience. I suppose that boobs and male genitalia might work for some audience but it isn’t a great way to tell a story.
I also have issues with the likeability of the characters. There is a lack of redeeming features in the majority, making it difficult to care for their plight. In my personal opinion, sentient hotel Poe and Hacker Ava Elliot are clearly the most likeable. It is just a pity that they weren’t main characters. There was a morality argument in the story as well, but this did not hold up very well given that the supposed good guys are often as bad as the bad guys.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the acting either but this seems to be more of an issue with direction rather than the skill of the cast. An example is veteran James Purefoy who plays Laurens Bancroft. Unfortunately for these talented actors and actresses, they had to contend with characters that lacked depth. It often feels as if many of the cast were heavily constrained by their roles.
What the show did have was decent world-building. Solid design, CG and special effects backed this up, giving it the feeling of a living and breathing world setting. If all you are looking for is an awesome cyberpunk setting to look at, Altered Carbon delivers.

In conclusion, the world-building and effects make up for some of the weaknesses in characterisation, plot and technical considerations. However, it wasn’t enough for me to enjoy the series. It was a let down because it offered so much promise. It is also an indication of the declining quality of NetFlix shows of late.

If any of you guys have seen the show, I’d be interested in reading what you thought of it.

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