Review: Altered Carbon

3 stars
Could be better

Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk TV series on Netflix. The story revolves around a man who is brought back from the dead to solve a multimillionaire’s murder case. In terms of cyberpunk tropes, it’s got it all: high tech and low life, neon signs, a super-rich caste, a failed state whose only purpose is to serve the ruling class, drugs, violence, cynicism and grime everywhere.

There are a number of small things that bother me about it. As a fan of cyberpunk, I wished the show was a little more subtle in its exploration of themes, like poverty or religion. Also, the whole jaded muscular military guy trope feels tired at this point. Often, the show presents itself like yet another police procedural drama. Many reviewers have also correctly complained about the pace, which is uneven.

The motivations for some of the characters and groups are never convincing. The only thing that seems to drive the villain is nihilism and a pathological obsession for family, which just makes the character look undeveloped. The Uprising wants to make people mortal again, but why? Something about “it’s not human nature”. Then they explain that the problem actually is that only the super-rich have access to immortality, which… okay, but wouldn’t it be best to just fight overthrow the system that distributes benefits unfairly in the first place?

Having said that, it still has a watchable quality to it and you do want to know how the plot is resolved. Despite my grievances, it’s still more good than bad, hence the three star rating. If you’re into the genre, I can recommend it, but don’t go into it expecting something like Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell. It really isn’t.