Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Netflix’s new show ‘Altered Carbon’ is all style, no substance

The show’s mixed reception is deserved

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By Nico Ribadeneyra, Collegian Staff

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“Altered Carbon” premiered on Netflix on Feb. 2 and has received a very mixed reception from critics and audiences alike. Turns out, this is an occasion where the majority is right!

To give you a short summary of the series, it’s set some 300 years in the future when humans now have their consciousness downloaded into a device called a “stack,” so that when they die, they can put their minds into a new body, which are referred to as “sleeves.” The main character is a former resistance fighter. Part of a group called “envoys,” he was killed 250 years prior to the plot of this show and now has been inserted into a new sleeve in order to solve the murder of a billionaire.

Alright, I’m just going to get this out of the way immediately: The show is a complete rip-off of “Blade Runner” in terms of setting and characters. It has the beautiful visuals and intriguing story to hook you in initially, but instead of the cool cyberpunk-noir feel that the original “Blade Runner” and it’s sequel, “2049,” gave us, we get a level of senseless violence and gratuitous nudity, the likes of which I only thought George R.R. Martin was capable of.

My serious recommendation is that if you’re going to watch this show, then do it in private, because the people on the second floor of the University of Massachusetts library didn’t always appreciate what was on my computer screen, and I’m not saying I’m opposed to these things in television. I loved “The Punisher” and that the show was so violent it felt like it was pulled out of Quentin Tarantino’s daydreams.

It’s just that, at times, it seemed like the show was trying to have serious commentary about social class and religion, but right after that, the main character would fight twenty robot prostitutes to the death. If you’re going to have a successful show, you have to know what you want to be or else you’ll risk looking like the second half of Jim Carrey’s acting career. And unfortunately, this show has serious identity issues.

Leaving all of that behind, the show’s story, although confused at times, is interesting enough to hold the average viewer’s attention for the most part, but it is constantly being held back by its inconsistent acting and cheesy writing.

The show stars Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs—whose biggest role was Rick Flag in “Suicide Squad”—along with a bunch of mostly unknown actors who’ve only had small roles in an assortment of TV shows and movies. Kinnaman does a fine job, but I feel like any muscular guy with wooden acting skills could have played his part. To be fair to him, there’s only so much an actor can do with a bad script. Just watch Natalie Portman’s jilted delivery of “to be angry is to be human” in “Attack of the Clones,” and keep in mind that she has won an Oscar. The writing is cheesy and probably better suited for a Sylvester Stallone mid-80s action schlock than a show trying to be the next big thing in the sci-fi genre.

According to my ten minutes of internet research, the show is adapted from a Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name and has been in development hell for quite some time, as most production companies were worried about how its graphic nature would translate onto the screen, a worry that was completely warranted and, in the end, probably should have prevented it from being made. The show isn’t terrible, but in a world cluttered with sci-fi and fantasy reboots and rip-offs, “Altered Carbon” only adds to the noise while providing no real advancement to the genre. I’m not saying the show isn’t entertaining, but it doesn’t do enough to deserve your attention.

Nico Ribadeneyra can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @NicoRibadeneyra.

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Netflix’s new show ‘Altered Carbon’ is all style, no substance”

  1. Mike Hunt-Hertz on February 25th, 2018 7:52 am

    Your opinion is wrong, I hope everyone you love gets cancer and you have to watch them die slow

    [Reply]

    K. Reply:

    Opinions are relative and yours is quite violent in nature.

    [Reply]

  2. Melody Stewart on March 8th, 2018 9:44 am

    Hi,
    Thanks for writing this review. I disagree with you on almost every point; I loved the show. But unlike the crazy person above, I don’t hope that everyone you love gets cancer and that you have to watch them die slow. Psyco much?
    Anyway, from a female perspective, I was glad that there was plenty of male nudity, I’ll be honest. Although they could have done without the nudity, male and female and the show would have been just as good.
    I liked the story a lot and hadn’t heard of Richard A. Morgan before so that was a great new find. I wrote a review about it on https://act.land if you’re at all interested. I did appreciate your perspective though, thanks!

    [Reply]

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