What is the dividing line between homage and plagiarism? All of our various forms of modern day, scripted, mass-market entertainment — movies, TV, comics, videogame — rely upon mash-ups, high-concepts, and meta connections to engage and connect disparate audiences. We’re seeing lots of new sub-genres appear all across the entertainment landscape; sometimes the hybrids feel fresh and dynamic, while others seem like regurgitated cash-grabs. In other words, say you like crime dramas but your spouse prefers epic fantasy, well then maybe you’d both enjoy Netflix’s Bright (I’m not picking on this film, it’s just a really good example of the trend).
I mentioned Netflix because they seem to be really, really interested in fleshing-out their portfolio of nostalgia-heavy original movies and series with a wider array of new concepts aimed at merging some of their existing niche audiences. Take their latest new sci-fi series, Altered Carbon, which appears to be a cross between Blade Runner and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War novels — Netflix recently optioned this book, coincidentally.
If you’re unfamiliar with Altered Carbon, here’s the synopsis:
“In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize.”
Sounds pretty cool, right? It looks pretty cool too.
Netflix just dropped a new trailer for this upcoming series, which very obviously borrows from both the old and the new iterations of Blade Runner, particularly their visual style and focus on human cloning (or whatever you call the replicant tech in those movies). The connection to Old Man’s War is slightly less obvious, unless you’ve read Scalzi’s books, which entail transferring human consciousness to new, gentically-enhanced and internet-enabled, go-go-gadget bodies.
OK, so maybe there’s a little bit of The Matrix and Alien: Covenant in there too. Hey, when you’re making a sci-fi mash-up, you might as well drag in all the tropes you can. Overall, Altered Carbon looks like a highly-polished, high-tech, murder mystery and aimed at mature audiences (nudity, violence, and probably a lot of profanity too). Originals like Altered Carbon might be borrowing from existing content a wee bit too liberally, but then the sci-fi genre has always been about standing on the shoulders of its giants. It’s also more proof that Netflix is widening their content nets and reaching out to new or emerging audiences. The streaming wars are heating up; whattya got Amazon and Hulu?
Does Altered Carbon strike you as something new and exciting or derivitive and tedious? Let us know in the comments down below!
Altered Carbon hits Netflix on Febryuary 2, 2018.
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