Netflix is searching for the next success story like HBO’s Game of Thrones and it may have just found it. Sci-fi epic Altered Carbon is a mental trip which questions the idea of death and grabs you for a 10 episode, pulse-quickening, experience that will leave you needing more.
Based on the Richard K. Morgan “Takeshi Kovacs” series of books, Altered Carbon paints a world where humans are only their soul and can interchange bodies, known as sleeves. Takeshi Kovacs, played by Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop, The Killing) has just been awakened after spending 250 years in prison. He has been put in a different sleeve to assist in solving the murder of the wealthy aristocrat Laurens Bancroft, played by James Purefoy (The Following), who claims he has no recollection of what happened and lets his arrogance get in the way of what could have truly occurred.
From the first battle of the envoys, to the futuristic workers of the UN Protectorate, you’re immediately drawn into the mind-blowing visuals and vibrant color scheme that paints the picture for the year 2384.
It seemingly takes inspiration from Blade Runner, presenting a world which features everything anyone could ever desire, even including AI hotels to fulfil the greatest sexual fantasies one could desire.
The characters of Altered Carbon all have a unique aspect to them which help in moving the plot along. Because of the complex idea that challenges gender roles and what we know as life today, the first few episodes could feel a bit tedious, as the world is being set up and we, as viewers, are getting to know the setting.
Yet, Kinnaman’s performance picks up the slow beginning, as one moment he can be the action hero, while the next we see a depth of regret and longing for what has been taken from him.
Along with the introduction of Kovacs as our main anti-hero, we are also introduced to the AI owner of the hotel Raven, Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe is easily the most memorable and loved character of the entire series, adding witty humour and sarcastic remarks to the mind boggling sci-fi noir. What makes him different than any AI’s in other films is his love and fascination for the human animal.
His character adds a layer of depth to the idea of one’s consciousness being a digitized medium controlled by the government. The addition of Poe’s character was also fun not only for Chris Conner (American Crime Story) to play, but for production designer Carey Meyer to design. Poe is anything but his physical body; he is the AI of the entire Raven.
Conner told The Hollywood Reporter about the first day of shooting. “We walked in and [Meyer] said: ‘Here you are. This is you.’ It just clicked. I’m everything in this hotel,” Conner said.
Meyer dressed the set with easter eggs throughout the Raven, including choosing the floor design to throwback to one of Poe’s different personas, M.C. Escher. “Everyone got to have their own little easter eggs in the Raven. When you go back on a second or third viewing, you can definitely pick them out,” Conner said.
Netflix truly builds a believable world that begs to be explored, especially for those interested in the corrupted aspects of the human mind.
Altered Carbon may be a little rough on the beginning plot, but has all the visually appealing action sequences that make it an easy add to your watch list.
Rachel Blumberg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org