Critical Condition: Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon | Netflix, from today

➢ “The main conceit of this slow-building but satisfying series is that people can download their consciousness into a series of bodies, or ‘sleeves,’ indefinitely. These extensions are only possible for individuals with sufficient funds, of course: Living forever, which involves growing or acquiring an array of sleeves, is for the very rich. The metaphor of many iterations — copies that evolve or degrade depending on the resources available — is an apt one for Altered Carbon, which mixes together a host of familiar sci-fi ideas and storytelling conventions.” — Variety.  

Ambitous, dense and thrilling, Netflix’s new sci-fi epic starring Joel Kinnaman, James Purefoy and Martha Higareda is a binge-worthy potential blockbuster … Altered Carbon is very clearly Netflix’s colossus. Based on Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 cyberpunk sci-fi novel of the same name, Altered Carbon is a complicated, intriguing, ultraviolent, sex-filled and compelling blast, a visual delight that periodically gets tripped up with its writing but never enough to detour the experience.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

➢ “To get the most out of the dense and deeply unsettling cyberpunk masterpiece Altered Carbon, buckle yourself in, prepare to be frequently confused about what is going on, who’s who, not to mention who’s what, and have faith that your willingness to suspend disbelief will pay off. Because it will … Think of Altered Carbon as a cyberpunk Game of Thrones, except that winter is already here, three centuries into the future.” — San Francisco Chronicle.

Altered Carbon tries to meld a dystopian class-warfare story and a hard-boiled detective story by simply piling on both the pseudo-philosophical blather and the film-noir clichés. The entire twisted-rich-guy-with-beautiful-young-wife plot is a dangerously familiar setup, but the show is proud of its borrowings … If attracting [cord cutters] means recreating the entire ecosystem of television, then there’s room for a low-rent Blade Runner knockoff with basic-cable production values and premium-cable nudity. Not everything can or needs to be Black Mirror.” — New York Times.  

This show tackles race, gender, and class with all the subtlety of a blowtorch. (Also: There is a blowtorch.) I’m happy to live in a future where studios pay big money for sexy-­violent meditations on the slippery state of humanity–and there’s a real promise for far-out further seasons–but right now Altered Carbon is all sleeve and no stack.

Carbon also is often gratuitously violent and sexual, leaning on its gore and nudity as filler when the story drags. Sure, in a world in which bodies are expendable, violence against them might be common and taboos rare. But the series never explains the ethics of violence in its future world, as some characters embrace  it while others express disdain. It also revels in its exploitation of blood and (mostly) female nudity to titillate male sci-fi fans.” — USA Today.

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