Is 'Altered Carbon' Just Riding on 'Blade Runner's' Coattails?

It looks like Ryan Gosling has something on the bottom of his Blade Runner coat. What is it? Is it Altered Carbon? The latest trailer for the cyberpunk Netflix series, based on the science-fiction novel by Richard K. Morgan, show feels like its riding on the coattails of Blade Runner. And in some ways, literally.

On Thursday, Netflix released a new trailer for Altered Carbon, a sci-fi series starring Joel Kinnaman (Suicide Squad) set in a future where immortality is achieved through reassigning one’s consciousness into a new body. If that sounds like Ghost in the Shell or Blade Runner, the trailer doubles down into those obvious influences, down to its brooding protagonist’s long black coat.

Thanks to his wardrobe, Kinnaman’s got an eerily similar silhouette to Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049, made more obvious by Kinnaman’s penchant for standing in the rain while doused in neon lights. But can you blame him? Gosling’s K had a really, really nice coat.

Who wore it best?

Warner Bros. Pictures

Meanwhile, the rest of the trailer does its best to remind you of every other sci-fi movie from the last 30 years. Crowded futuristic streets, populated by artificial bodies, all ruled by sinister British men in nice suits — Altered Carbon is a grab-bag of so many other sci-fi it can almost make one’s head spin. But one unfortunate influence maybe the issue of whitewashing, previously attached to last year’s Ghost in the Shell.

Altered Carbon is about a half-Japanese soldier named Takeshi Kovacs (played by Will Yun Lee in the series) who wakes up 250 years after his death in the body of a white man, Elias Ryker (Kinnaman). This means throughout the show, the very white Kinnaman, who played a Republican candidate in the last season of House of Cards, is playing an Asian guy. Yeah.

This looks... familiar.


But unlike Ghost in the Shell with Scarlett Johansson, the show’s race-switching is a big part of the novel, in which Morgan explored Takeshi’s lost identity and being unfamiliar in his own skin.

But in the pop culture climate rocked by the Ghost in the Shell hurricane, will there be tolerance for Altered Carbon? You can bet that when the show finally airs, there will once again be some very serious conversations regarding its take on race, which in the trailer appears absent.

Altered Carbon will premiere February 2 on Netflix.

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