Netflix’s latest sci-fi offering shows a future where a human’s mind is stored in a disc in the back of their neck, called a stack.
Upon the destruction of their body they can simply be re-uploaded into another one.
In this future, capitalism allows the super-rich to be virtually indestructible. They pay for their stack to be backed up into a cloud, allowing for multiple stacks to exist.
Meanwhile the poor are left to die with the Catholic, superstitious guilt that re-uploading yourself is a mortal sin.
Add in some film-noir— in which protagonist Takeshi Kovacs must solve a murder in order to win his freedom after 250 years in storage —and you have Altered Carbon.
Based on the 2002 novel by Richard Morgan, there are obvious nods to Blade Runner, with rainy streets and endless buzzing neon signs.
Altered Carbon is visually impressive and the plot is intriguing.
Kovacs’ back story opens up the viewer to the big questions of morality and equality. While not wholly original, it is entertaining.
However, Altered Carbon falls into some of the genre’s predictable traps. Hypersexualisation is rife, with sex being one of the top commodities on Earth. The objectification of women is not discussed in a satisfying way and does not seem wholly necessary to the plot.
The actions of the police, although evidently corrupt, are shown in a sympathetic light.
Despite the grating flaws Altered Carbon is worth watching, if only to remind ourselves that capitalism left unchanged will surely lead to a grim and oppressive future.
Available online at netflix.com