Why you should watch Altered Carbon

Well… At least most of it, anyway.

Based on the cyberpunk novel of the same name by Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon is a visually appealing, occasionally thought provoking murder mystery.  It starts off with a bang, creating an almost believable Blade Runner-esque future where humans are capable of immortality – providing they have the serious coin needed for it.

A person’s consciousness can be downloaded onto “stacks” and implanted into different bodies, or “sleeves”.  Most people would stay dead after being murdered, but to shady aristocrat Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) it’s merely an inconvenience.  His limitless wealth allowed him to keep a back up of his stack, which, upon his death, was implanted into a cloned sleeve of himself.

The only downside is Bancroft has no recollection of the 48 hours leading up to his death, so he takes the stack of Takeshi Kovacs (Will Yun Lee), a former soldier who fought and died to prevent this future 250 years earlier, and re-sleeves it into the body of a disgraced police officer (Joel Kinnaman).  Kovacs is tasked with finding Bancroft’s killer and is offered a full pardon and a sleeve of his choosing as a reward.

The initially intriguing story does unfortunately taper off towards the end.  There’s a shift in focus away from the murder mystery and Altered Carbon becomes less interesting as a result, but it maintains the arresting visuals throughout.

Despite it’s narrative wobbles, Altered Carbon offers a curious insight into a transhumanist future.  We have been able to surgically alter our bodies for some time now. Everything  from minor plastic surgery to changing our gender is now a possibility for us, so is it really that much of a stretch to imagine a future where we could augment our bodies with technology?

If that is the next logical step in our evolution, then surely using our bodies as storage for a digitised consciousness is in our distant future.   That is a bit of a stretch, I know, but you can’t deny that it would be an interesting development.  Altered Carbon explores this possible future to a satisfactory level, and it’s this idea that’ll hold your interest, even if the faltering plotline doesn’t.

Altered Carbon is available now on Netflix.

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