Altered Carbon is set in a future in which human consciousness can be transferred from one body to another via a process called sleeving, thereby allowing people to resurrect themselves in new forms. Thats an all-too-fitting conceit for Netflixs new sci-fi series, given that it does the exact oppositedownloads some new (and not-so-new) ideas into a mold modeled slavishly on Blade Runner, and to such an extent that showrunner Laeta Kalogridis should be hoping Ridley Scott has let his streaming-service subscription lapse.
Scotts seminal 1982 film, which recently spawned a gorgeous if underwhelming sequel in last Octobers Blade Runner 2049, is as influential as any modern sci-fi work, and yet even so, its stunning to discover just how indebted Altered Carbon is, both aesthetically and conceptually, to its illustrious ancestor. Flying cars zoom through rainy metropolises teeming with skyscrapers adorned with holographic neon advertisements. Grimy city streets are comprised of dilapidated buildings covered in graffiti. Whorehouses are bursting with shady women, and serve as the locale for sequences featuring shattering glass. Wealthy and powerful titans of industry live in imposing enclaves high above the surface-level riff-raff. And of course, a jaded gumshoe in a long overcoat (its collar upturned) navigates this landscape in search of a targetand a truththat always seems just out of reach.
Adapted from Richard K. Morgans celebrated 2002 book, Altered Carbon is second-generation future noir, and its riffing on Blade Runner is, if inferior to Blade Runner 2049, nonetheless handled stylishly. Rarely has a small-screen affair featured so much exceptional sci-fi CGI and production designfrom vast panoramas of Earths Bay City urban centers and shots through the gilded-paradise homes of the elite, to trips into virtual-reality environments where everything has a kaleidoscopic-fish-lens fluidity, Kalogridis show mimics with skill. Factor in a number of combat sequences that have been choreographed with muscular flair, and the proceedings prove to be a consistently arresting sort of facsimileone that pays reverent homage while adding novel flourishes to its stock template.
In other words, most sci-fi fans will instantly recognize Altered Carbon as existing in a familiar yet-to-be, and that notion is only reinforced by its subsequent borrowing from other genre staples (including The Matrix, via characters that function as the actions de facto Neo and Morpheus).
Its the 25th century, and Takeshi Kovacs (Suicide Squads Joel Kinnaman) is birthed out of a giant bag in a scientific labor, rather, hes resurrected, since Takeshi has been on ice for the past couple of centuries. A former super-soldier known as an Envoy who helped maintain law and order across the galaxy on behalf of the UNs governing Protectorate, Takeshi was decommissioned after he turned against his mates and joined up with rebel leader Quellcrist Falconer (Ren Elise Goldsberry), aka the aforementioned Morpheus stand-in. Two centuries later, hes back, but with a new build, since human consciousness is now stored on stackslittle hard-drive devices that sit at the base of the neck, and can be implanted into any body.
Kovacs rebirth comes courtesy of Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), a 1-percenter who can effectively live forever because he has the money to create both back-ups of his stack (every 48 hours), and exact clones of his physical self (hence his nickname Meths, as in Methuselah). Laurens wants Kovacs to solve his own murder, which took place before his most recent back-upmeaning he doesnt remember what happened. Its a clever sci-fi twist on a formulaic set-up, and before long, Kovacs finds himself ensnared in a Philip K. Dick-ish mystery involving Laurens femme fatale-wife Miriam (Kristin Lehman), scrappy cop Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), ex-military badass Vernon (Ato Essandoh), Kovacs beloved sister Reileen (Dichen Lachman) and Poe (Chris Conner), the mustached artificial intelligence who runs the hotel that Kovacs calls home.
To recount where this investigation takes Kovacswhos in the body of Ortegas dead boyfriend/partnerwould require approximately 10,000 more words, since Altered Carbon is crazily overstuffed with plot, some of it clever (on All Hallows holiday, revelers re-sleeve as different people) and a lot of it tediously convoluted. Often, there are just too many ideas competing for attention, such that dialogue drowns in techno mumbo-jumbo and creative narrative twists turn out to be unnecessary detours. Aiming to be a cyberpunk The Big Sleep, it plays like a byzantine whodunitreplete with flashbacks, rewinds, animated interludes, and perfunctory hardboiled narration from Kinnamanthats bogged down by its own self-consciousness. By the time it indulges in a cover of White Zombies More Human Than Humanitself inspired by Blade Runner, and here remixed with the piano melody of John Carpenters theme from Halloween, which Rob Zombie remadethe series feels like a snake constantly eating its own tail, which, wouldnt you know, is its signature credit-sequence image, with said serpent twisted into an infinity sign.
Though his supporting cast isnt particularly memorable, Kinnamans devil-may-care gruffness keeps the mood rough around the edges. Unfortunately, Altered Carbon is so busy tying itself up in knots that it fails to grapple with the ethical questionsabout what defines a person, and a life; about how morality can exist if mortality is conqueredthat are at the heart of its tale. Issues of representation also figure prominently in the show, largely because Kovacs was originally an Asian man (played, in flashbacks, by Will Yun Lee) whos now been given new Caucasian skina scenario that recalls the whitewashing controversy that plagued last years live-action Ghost in the Shell. No such outrage will likely greet Altered Carbon over this twistboth because the series is so thoroughly multicultural, and because Lee is given ample opportunities to shine. Still, one wishes Kalogridis exploited this central ethnic dynamic for more ruminative identity-pondering ends, rather than just as a super-cool storytelling device.
Then again, Altered Carbon is defined by its general shallowness, which it tries to mask beneath a brooding, fatalistic exterior. Never is that more acutely felt than in its fondness for bloody violence and full-frontal nudity (of both the male and female variety), which makes it feel like its trying way too hard to be gritty and adult. Of course, sex turns out to be an integral component of a show that, at heart, is about corporeal experience. Too bad, then, that even its treatment of this ripe-for-exploration subject never really goes anywhere. Its all body, little soul.
What that new ‘Jessica Jones’ character means for the season and the series
Friend or foe?
Warning: This post contains spoilers for Jessica Jones Season 2.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones has been a revelation for women ever since it premiered in 2015. Not only did it present us with a deeply flawed and traumatized protagonist, it dealt with her history and insecurities head-on.
In Season 2, we still have a host of varied, complicated women; from Carrie Ann Moss’s struggling Jeri Hogarth to Rachael Taylor’s unraveling Trish to our newest character, played by Janet McTeer. It’s a pivotal role with DEEP complexity and physicality, the likes of which is rare for women in action shows – especially women of a certain age.
McTeer is first introduced as Dr. Leslie Hansen, a scientist linked to the ominous IGH, but we quickly learn that there’s far more to her. She has abilities like Jessica’s, but dialed up to 11; with her super strength comes a rampant rage – a dissociative disorder that’s a side effect of the experiments IGH actually conducted on her.
When that switch flips, she becomes incredibly volatile, but with an almost childlike fixation on the source of her distress. McTeer communicates all this with a clenched jaw and unwavering gaze – and that’s before all the stunt work.
“That was fun, you know, the idea of being someone who works really hard to control her emotions, control herself,” McTeer told Mashable at the Season 2 premiere in New York. “She doesn’t know how to do that particularly but she tries very hard in all kinds of different ways and doesn’t always succeed.”
And then there’s that Episode 6 reveal, the shaky word a disbelieving Jessica says after tracking her quarry back to the house where she lives: “Mom?”
At first, turning this new character into Alisa Jones feels like a bit of a MacGuffin for Jessica’s quest to figure out exactly who or what she is. The tragic loss of her family is one of Jessica’s most formative experiences, like so many other superheroes. It’s infuriating to think her mother was alive this long and that their paths never crossed. Alisa didn’t even seek her out.
Episode 7 addresses all of that in flashbacks, but it’s still maddening. Especially with an ostensibly retconned dead boyfriend plot for Jessica that ends up being her mother’s fault (that jacket reveal though…:crying emoji:).
As the season builds to a climax, it’s hard to reconcile those revelations with a forced mother-daughter vigilante bonding subplot. Sure, there’s a tenderness to Alisa tending her daughter’s bullet wound that we haven’t seen Jessica experience before, but Mama Jones is a ticking time bomb and combustion is all but inevitable.
By now, we know how this ends: Alisa goes rogue (Jessica with her, for a time) and there’s no reeling her back in. By the final episode, she’s lost the only person who could help her scientifically and joined Jessica in the dead boyfriends’ club – she also murders a detective in a surge of violent energy reminiscent of Kilgrave himself.
“I’ve never seen a woman play a part like this,” McTeer said. “I’ve seen men do it very often but you know, I’m a middle-aged woman, so that was fun. Hard, harder than playing it when you’re 25 because it’s very physical, but still great.”
“You do something like this and you hope someone will go ‘Oh, that’s a good idea, let’s do another one!'” she added. “‘Does an FBI agent have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman. Does that person really have to be a man? Let’s make it a woman.’ I’d like that to happen more.”
If any show was going to do it, it’s this one.
Jessica Jones Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.
Offred is 1000% over it in new ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ teaser
The Handmaid’s Tale just served up an International Women’s Day teaser of Offred and her sisters fighting back. After a first season that explored women losing all their agency, Season 2 shows shows the women of Gilead refusing to be oppressed any longer.
The teaser is mostly a few flashes of footage and imagery – including Offred in front of a noose and a weeping Moira (Samira Wiley) – narrated with the emotionless cadence Elisabeth Moss perfected as Offred. She lists the requirements of the handmaid like commandments: “Wear the red dress, wear the wings,” and eventually, “Shut your mouth, be a good girl, roll over and spread your legs, yes ma’am, may the lord open.”
And then the teaser ends with a burst of frustration: “Seriously, what the actual f–”
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 2 premieres April 25 on Hulu.
Obamas in talks with Netflix about original shows, report says
Netflix Originals from the Obamas may be coming.
You could soon be watching Netflix Originals commissioned by Barack and Michelle Obama.
According to a report by The New York Times, the former president and first lady are in “advanced negotiations” with the streaming giant to produce a series of shows.
The proposed deal, the Times reports, would see Netflix paying the Obamas to commission exclusive content, which would “highlight inspirational stories.” Exactly how many shows and episodes we can expect, whether these will be documentaries, mini-series or otherwise, has not yet been confirmed.
How much the Obamas will be paid is also still unclear.
Netflix currently boasts 117 million members in over 190 countries — quite the robust platform for the already social media-dominant Obamas to potentially leverage.
But the Times surmised that Obama wouldn’t be using the platform as “a direct answer to Fox News or Breitbart.com,” writing:
Mr. Obama does not intend to use his Netflix shows to directly respond to President Trump or conservative critics, according to people familiar with discussions about the programming.
Netflix isn’t the only streaming service interested in content commissioned by the Obamas it seems, with the Times reporting that executives from Amazon and Apple had also “expressed interest in talking with Mr. Obama about content deals.”
Mashable has reached out to Netflix for comment.
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