Reporting from Seoul
Packed into Conrad hotel’s largest event hall on Monday, 22 January, we patiently await the arrival of the stars and show runner of Altered Carbon, Netflix’s latest sci-fi extravaganza which explores themes of immortality set to the back drop of a cyberpunk dystopia.
Sounds vaguely similar to another seminal filmic treatise on the cyberpunk genre, doesn’t it? Which actually works to the favour of this new series as it wants you to know that this new series will be everything you love about the subgenre and more.
Think of this as every other cyberpunk movie that left you wanting more when you left the theatre. Now with the television format, comes enough narrative canvas to delve into that weird and wonderful world.
I’m jolted to attention as the crowd erupts when Joel Kinnaman (Takeshi Kovacs) peeks from backstage and emerges with his co-stars, Dichen Lachman (Reileen Kawasaki) and Martha Higareda (Kristin Ortega) on stage. Show runner Laeta Kalorgridis rounds out the panel to join them at the table, which is when Joel greets the audience with a hearty Korean “hello” that sends the crowd into another round of cheers.
It is very easy to lampoon Altered Carbon as Netflix’s homage to all things cyberpunk but it is a lot more than just that. It is a very balanced mix of multiple genres that is seldom seen in a television series so steeped in that subgenre.
“The show is, in essence, a noir murder mystery that I enjoyed telling people is “Chinatown” in space” – Kalorgridis
Showrunner Laeta Kalorgridis has layered the series with a various perspectives that makes us question our very own humanity. If immortality is within reach, what would we (as humans) do and what would we do to get it?
“It is a story of what happens when we develop a technology in the future that allows us human beings to live forever. But we are not morally ready for the consequence of that.” – Kalorgridis
In the far flung future, human consciousness is stored on “cortical stacks” which can be inserted into various bodies or, as the world calls them, sleeves. You could be inside a body that’s not your own, which also poses the question: who are we really? Does it matter what body we’re in? Are we just a face in the crowd or are we a little bit more than that?
Takeshi Kovacs (Kinnaman) is one such individual whose ‘stack’ is resurrected into a body that is not of his choosing, 250 years after his last death and tasked to solve the murder of one the richest elites of the current time.
“There is action, there is the traditional whodunnit kind of murder mystery and then there is the larger speculative science fiction” – Kalorgridis
The story is filled with so many different genres which shouldn’t have gelled this well but it did thanks to the collaborative effort of the entire production crew. I will delve deeper into this during my review of the series, but the passion of all those involved really shows in this ten-episode season.
The action is definitely one of the standouts for the series especially coming off the heels of awesome fight sequences in The Punisher and Daredevil. The actors went through vigorous training six months before the shoot to prepare – Martha Higareda shared that Joel Kinnaman’s commitment to the role was so dedicated that he was continued his training even with a broken foot.
“the ambition of laeta and the other producers was to have a feature film level of the action” – Kinnaman
The gorgeous Dichen Lachman reiterated the same intensity during the filming of her scenes, where she revealed that they were actually trading real punches in those sequences.
“In this show, you had to be in your body, you had to be in there 100% because otherwise, we might have died” – Lachman
It would be really difficult to pigeon hole Altered Carbon as it crosses so many genres and themes in its inaugural season. Think of it as if Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell had a love child, with Dollhouse and Battlestar Galactica as their godparents.
Catch Altered Carbon exclusively on Netflix starting February 2.