Before reading this review read the book review here.
I’ve watched seven out of the ten episodes of Altered Carbon on Netflix. It is time to take a break from the show and tell you what I think so far. I could invest three more hours, finish the series, and then write the review but I suspect there will be some cliffhanger or finale to cloud the experience.
If you read the book review then you know I enjoyed the book. Earning 4.6 stars in a review from me is no small feat. I don’t even like this type of Science Fiction, typically. I’m a spaceship type of sci-fi nerd.
I also changed one of my primary rules of choosing to experience either the book or tv show (or movie) and never both. I developed the practice after being disappointed by movies so many times, anticipation turned into dread. I changed this rule because I thought it would be interesting to discuss the differences and choose a favorite. I have chosen a favorite version of Altered Carbon.
Altered Carbon the TV show is NOT as good as the book.
This is a story that occurs over and over. The good news is the show is good. If I didn’t read the book, I would have the exact same criticisms about the show. First, the differences. I will attempt to describe them without too many spoilers. First, the entire A.I. hotel is different, if it’s better it remains to be seen. Second, lots of new characters such as Captain Tanaka, Alazne Ortega, Reileen Kawahara, and Vernon Elliott to name a few. I will reserve judgment here because the new storyline is anchored on many of these new characters. Yes, you heard me, new storyline. I think the story is the most significant thing they changed. Takeshi continually flashes back, but it’s not to talk to Jimmy as in the book. He flashes back and hallucinates his sister Reileen. Reileen add’s depth to Takeshi I’m not sure was missing.
Many changes make no sense to me such as changing the Panama Rose into the Fight Dome. Seriously? The Carnage character is a little over the top and bordering on cheesy. I didn’t get a sense of cheesy from the book. Everything is book came off as cool, dark and expected.
Enough of the critical talk after all I said the show was good. Joel Kinnaman plays Takashi brilliantly. Byron Mann somehow manages to match Kinnaman’s style just enough to make us believe it is the same person. Someone should check James Purefoy’s birth certificate because he plays manipulative super meth Laurens Bancroft way too well. #JamesPurfoyTruther
Martha Higareda is an incredible Kristin Ortega, and Kristin Lehman owns Miriam Bancroft. It took me a few episodes to form my opinion of the casting of Kristin and Miriam. I didn’t read Kristin as being stereotypically Latina. 366 years in the future I envision more melting pot type cultures where told languages and religions are gone. It’s part of what makes the Catholic resurgence so absurd in the book. Maybe I read more into it than Richard Morgan intended. As for Miriam, I envisioned her in a perpetual 20 something’s body. On the show, she is more a super fit 40 something. It works well though. I have already forgotten the mental images for both characters and no can only envision them as they are in the show.
What Netflix has done superbly is keep Altered Carbon very rated R. I was terrified the show would be censored and watered down. It is not. It is raw, gritty, bloody, and dirty exactly how the book is written. The dystopia we will inherit is portrayed as brilliantly as the utopia we will strive to achieve. Let’s face it, we all want our penthouses as far away as possible from the dirt.
I really believe we will come to look at Altered Carbon as a turning point is Science Fiction culture. Nudity in sci-fi has always been laughable. Blood and drugs limited to a few cult classics. If the writers and producers can dial back a bit on the cheese factor (aka the Raven hotel, Ugh), Altered Carbon will shift Science Fiction a tiny bit more mainstream.
Time to Needlecast to the next review,