These days, regardless of multi-million dollar debt, Netflix appears to throw money at virtually everything pitched to them. Evidently, a lot of dough has been invested in their latest original, Altered Carbon.
Set hundreds of years from now, the sci-fi murder mystery series takes place in a dystopia where a human’s consciousness is stored in a device attached to their nape, thus granting them a sort of immortality since the device can be detached and transferred to another “sleeve” (jargon for “body”).
The Netflix budget has made possible a future that’s coruscating, but the elements within it are too commonplace in science fiction: flying cars, holograms, the service industry replaced by AI, unchecked amounts of nudity, etc. Still, it’s a vision typically only afforded by cinema so the long-form experience of television is exciting since it provides commodious time to explore an expansive new world. The writers realise the possibilities so they weave the plot through a multitude of locations, from a wealth of brothels to abodes reserved for the affluent.
Joel Kinnaman, forever chasing a respectable lead role after maligned blockbuster efforts following the end of AMC’s thrilling adaptation of The Killing, takes centre stage as mercenary Takeshi Kovacs. With the Swedish actor playing a man named Takeshi, the prospective issue of whitewashing is sidestepped through the narrative – this is a future where carnal existence is nugatory. The physical body is merely a host for the storage contraptions, therefore race, gender, etc. aren’t taken into consideration.
Kinnaman is game in his portrayal of Kovacs, a man who internally battles with his existence and physically battles the challenges presented in the task of discovering who murdered the world’s richest man, Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy, on fine form). The sweet superkick he delivers to his nemeses is cooler than anything the actor did as Rick Flag or Robocop, and the anticipation for action is greater than the suspense of the unimaginative narrative.
English-speaking audiences will learn the name Martha Higareda, for she is more impressive as the protagonist’s detective partner Kristin Ortega. Ortega has several interesting layers to her character with her history with Kovacs’s “sleeve”, her relationship with her mother and her sense of humour in this dire world.
The visually splendid Altered Carbon shows promise thanks to its willingness to explore a rich world and the intriguing locations within it, but it could benefit from a stronger core narrative.
Altered Carbon is available on Netflix now.
Watch the trailer for Altered Carbon here: