Altered Carbon Is What GITS Should Have Been

SPOILERS for Netflix's Altered Carbon. A little. Maybe. I'm trying not to.

I really enjoyed Altered Carbon on Netflix. I think you might too if you are comfortable with nudity and blood.
And naked fighting.
I'm not going to get into the details here because I want you to watch it and form your own opinion. I will give the broad strokes and talk about some issues raised but the good stuff? Well, watch it on your own. It's only 10 episodes and I burned through those on a sick, flu-ish weekend and even had a moment to catch the less awesome The Cloverfield Paradox after I was done.

So, if I'm not talking about the story too intensely then what are we here for? Well, I was watching this show and it made me think of other filmed stories that shared a similar vibe. Blade Runner popped my head. This series certainly shares similarities to the original film in content and visuals. I haven't seen Blade Runner 2049 but I'm sure the same is true for that latest iteration as well. I also saw similarities in another recent movie, the Ghost In The Shell live-action adaptation. I didn't see that either but, since I care so much about you people who read our blog and am a bit of a film masochist, I watched it.

I should have watched Blade Runner.
The film and series definitely share visual cues in their depictions of the future. There are holographic advertising everywhere in both albeit sometimes the ones in Ghost In The Shell make no sense to me. Like who are those random just big people doing movements? What are they selling? Are they selling anything? I guess the idea is that the future just bombards you with consumerism everywhere and all day. There are also scenes of naked or skintight outfit fighting, which are surprisingly good in both.

There is also the issue of whitewashing, dealt with atrociously in Ghost In The Shell and with far more tact in Altered Carbon.
That guy's name is Takeshi Kovacs. Yup.

I think the reason why it fails in Ghost In The Shell and isn't as bad in Altered Carbon is that it's (SPOILER for GITS) not used as a big surprise moment. The outward appearance of Takeshi as the 2014 RoboCop is explained as a story element that is just normal for the characters in this universe. The humans have discovered technology that allows their consciousness/soul to be placed in a new body or sleeve when necessary. The fact this body was selected is a story element but the fact that this is an Asian guy is not some slick twist and seems more like it's just part of the story, especially with information that we learn in later episodes. Of course your mileage may vary and this may be problematic. I haven't read the source material and their may be more development in this area but I definitely think the idea of being placed in a body that isn't yours or not selected by you is touched on in this series, especially in a superior way than the way they tried to in Ghost In The Shell.

I also understand the desire to see people with your face represented on screen and the argument could be made that he didn't necessarily have to be a white male. Again, I didn't read the books and just going by what I watched on Netflix. Kinnaman is a good actor and pulled off this role but maybe they could have got an actor of a different ethnicity to play the role. I will say that I didn't feel the creepy feeling I got while watching Ghost as I watched Altered Carbon. I think that was also because of the inclusion of Takeshi's original and sleeved forms portrayed by Will Yun Lee and Byron Mann.

Will Yun Lee is a boss.
Outside of the issues I touched on, this series deals with a whole bunch of topics that we need to possibly ponder in the future and definitely can touch on now. There are discussions to be made on economic disparity in society, government groups that fail citizens and children and how that creates even more evil and the corruption of organizations that are supposed to serve all. A big topic of Altered Carbon is how technology can be created and discovered to be use for knowledge and exploration but is eventually changed to reinforce oppressive systems that are already in place. Things that we think are going to be used to just make our lives better can quickly be twisted to maintain the status quo or make it worse. The good intentions of certain people in creating tech can be transformed quickly into nefarious tools of domination.

I'm not sharing anymore. I enjoyed the series and will probably watch it again. I would suggest you give it a viewing and form your own opinions as you contemplate the issues that arise intentionally and unintentionally. It's certainly television that should be discussed.

The future is sponsored by Ziploc.

Sean Fields is an aspiring writer and has been in the education field for more than a decade. He works mostly with teenagers nowadays which both keeps him well informed on pop culture and makes his hair turn grayer daily. He has a few blogs but is currently focused on this one and this other one. You can also find him on TumblrTwitter and Instagram, if you want to be entertained or infuriated.
Altered Carbon Is What GITS Should Have Been Altered Carbon Is What GITS Should Have Been Reviewed by SeanFields on Friday, February 09, 2018 Rating: 5
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