William Gibson tells a famous story of walking out of a showing of Blade Runner at its original release, as soon as he realized that what Ridley Scott was showing onscreen was a touch too close to what Gibson himself was writing about in what would become the cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Afraid that these images would influence his writing, he walked out of the theatre and only saw the movie much later.
Altered Carbon, now showing on Netflix as a ten part first season series and based on a Richard K. Morgan novel of the same name, is probably the first time we get to see such an excellent representation of the world described so meticulously in Gibson's "Sprawl" trilogy, as well as a perfect marriage between the powerful images of Blade Runner and the imagery of Neuromancer.
A number of attempts have been made at bringing the vision of William Gibson to the big (and small) screen. None have really been very successful, most never saw the light of day. Attempts to turn Neuromancer itself into a movie go back as far as 1986, and the latest rumour dates back to the Summer of 2017. And yet while watching Altered Carbon on Netflix I felt very strongly that we finally got something worthy of these cyberpunk classics on screen. Concepts going from AIs interacting with humans to “jacking in”, to “sleeves”, “stacks” and “casting” are all easily understood, and all that future tech and the effects it has on society and its morals are deftly handled.
Once again I’m happy something like Netflix exists out there. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Netflix or maybe Amazon spending multimillion dollars on single episodes of a series. These streaming services make something like Altered Carbon possible. Here’s hoping that series’ success leads to more interesting and far reaching projects of this nature.