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Film Reviews - Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon is a Netflix original. I’d like to first say that this show is not being held back by budget or story limits. Meaning Netflix dumped money after the “success” of the first season to make a second season with no CEOs breathing down the neck of the producers.

Altered Carbon is a show about a cyberpunk future that is heavily influenced by Blade Runner and the civilization is run by the technology of stacks. Stacks are little disks in the neck of people that contains the person’s consciousness. This means eternal life is attainable, for the rich, thanks to the idea of cyberpunk being the hierarchy is beyond anyone’s reach to abolish. The main character is a man who was a “freedom” fighter who was put to sleep for 300 years, basically prison without a body. He was originally an army man who fought against the “rebellion”. I am putting these terms in quotes because they are very stupidly defined by the show. Basically, he finds his long lost sister, and their reunion breaks all ties they made with their “clans” and they fight against their own people to protect each other. His sister was sold to Yakuza, a Japanese mafia. The plan when Takeshi, the main character, is brought to a choice of going into the army and having his sister given to a proper family or be thrown out to the streets after he had to kill his dad for killing his mom. It sounds confusing but it’s worse in the show because it does the worst flashback job and just inputs memories whenever it wants and it is extremely annoying. He ended up obviously choosing the army and instead of being given to a proper family his sister Reileen was sold to the Yakuza. After the event of them betraying both sides, they run away and are caught by the rebellion in a forest. At this point, the audience has no idea who the army is fighting and what they are fighting for. It would have been cool to just have the show on the battles but instead, they are awful flashbacks. I am going to summarize in chronological order because the show has you going all over the place to understand every single character’s background, they think in this strategy you will suddenly care about a character for knowing when they were born. Long story short it doesn’t work at all.

After being caught the rebellion recruits them and their leader being the creator of stacks is called Quellcrist. Still, we have no motives at all and we barely know anything about the stacks other than that they can keep people alive after physically being killed. But it goes on to show the romance between Quellcrist and Takeshi and the growth into the rebellion family the siblings go through. Eventually, it leads to a final battle where they try to destroy all stacks?? They say some science blabber that makes no sense and is just meant to distract the audience from the awful writing. The plan ultimately fails like the story and Quellcrist is supposedly killed with Takeshi’s sister and Takeshi escapes to find that the whole rebellion is killed. He runs away and is caught later and put to jail for 300 years for his crimes against who??, I don’t know and neither will you for a while.

He is awoken and is brought to an extremely rich man who was recently killed, not “real deathed”. No, I did not make that up they really say that in the movie, a cyberpunk future movie has the slang of a 12-year-old. The rich man wants Takeshi, a man who has been asleep in prison for 300 years for being apart of a rebellion against stacks or the army to solve his attempted murder. The rich man is called Mr. Bancroft. That is all we are told about him other than that he is stupidly rich for some reason. He has a wife and a few kids, notably a brat son. Fast forward dumb shenanigans later other characters that make up his wacky all-inclusive random group are people we have no idea why they are sticking around or why they care. A police detective who is the classic angry Latina that shouts puta made at random times, a black veteran who has a murdered PTSD daughter and a wife who is missing, and an A.I. who is the owner of the hotel he is staying at, and his memory of Quellcrist. Did I mention that this is cyberpunk? Oh, I did but you probably forgot and so does anyone who watches the show. It is only used as a cool backdrop and a plot device. This show can quite literally be placed at any time period and it would change anything but the props used. The murder investigation is also very little cared about and is somehow solved by passively doing random things. Takeshi is revealed to the entire world that he is the last Envoy, this is the rebellion name tag and it really sucks, like an envoy of what? Point his this leads to death threats to him and he follows one that leads to that previously mentioned black veteran. Yes, a random death threat led him to a crucial point of the investigation, he chose this one, out of 30 million other ones and it was this that led to the truth of the case. Awful writing.

I don’t want to spend any more time summarizing an awful story but the point is, he was killed by Takesh’s sister, a random lady that was murdered killed herself because for some reason Mr. Bancroft got jittery and killed hookers, which led to him beating and killing the black veteran’s daughter who was a hooker for Mr. Bancroft. Takeshi’s sister killed Bancroft for the sole reason of getting her brother out of prison, which is stupid because for some reason she is extremely rich and could’ve possibly bailed him out anyway. Takeshi finds out she killed Quellcrist and he kills her because he is mad she killed her to keep her influence away from Takeshi. Awful awful writing where we get forced twists to keep the audience engaged in a borderline textbook idiot film. This is only the first season but the second season in 2 sentences is basically that Takeshi moves on and is brought back and his main goal is to find Quellcrist who is suddenly alive and he wants to save her. I gave up watching this mess as I was not going to watch 10 more 50-minute shows of a show I already hated after the second episode.

Now for my rating and criticism. One, the plot is like spaghetti, there is no beginning or end, too many flashbacks that you can make a whole new series on clips of the flashbacks. Two, cyberpunk is something of a topic itself, it begs the question of what happens to a civilization that is destroyed by the ever-growing gap of the hierarchy in today’s economy and capitalism. Slums worsened and the rich never die and there is no changing it, unless… That could have been the plot in of itself, the struggle of fighting the powers that have eternal wealth, power, and life. But instead, it was a murder mystery of someone who ultimately didn’t die and strung in the plot device of stacks. Three, stacks. Stacks are the most confusing plot device, almost like zoom and enhance it is never explained or explored in the story. Instead, we get monologues that were decently put together about the problems of never fearing death and living on forever. That was a highlight that was rarely seen. Four, plot holes in plot holes. Why give so many flashbacks, the studio quite literally made the story up as they went and used flashbacks to justify anything that was too far fetched to believe, like stacks in cyberpunk. Five, the characters. The characters I could honestly careless, the main character is the show to be outgoing and smart in flashbacks, but in the present time, he is a rude annoying loner that is trying too hard to be that guy that “works alone” too much. That is our main character and I don’t even want to get into the others like the hotheaded Latina detective. Six, confusing timeline and plot points. Things that we thought were true quite literally the next episode could be wrong, so for some reason, we have an unreliable narrator were times where we think it was the brat of a son who killed him to in the blink of an eye denied and changed to blaming someone else. Seven, themes, what themes? I couldn’t tell you if I tried. Which I will, some themes I get are identity, eternal life, hierarchy, and trust/bonds. Things happen and we are told to believe they did, there is barely any metaphoric value in anything on the screen, it just happens and we observe. None and I mean none of these 4 themes are ever truly explored and are instead in the background as explanations for things that happen. Oh, you’re wondering why he cares for his sister and Quellcrist so much?, bonds and family ties. You’re wondering why people get sick after changing bodies?, identity crisis. The identity crisis could have been extensively observed through the craze and hilarity that comes from changing bodies, or the degradation of the mind for living for so long. But no, Takeshi instead just needs to look into a mirror and the theme is forgotten. This Netflix original is as good as a transformer movie, with awful attempts at humor, everyone trying to look badass, themes that don’t matter, so many flashbacks, and a terrible setting and plot. I did not enjoy this at all and I could care less about the characters or the outcome of the story. Altered Carbon: 1/5.


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