‘Altered Carbon’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’
Don't Exist Because of Futurism
How cyberpunk aesthetics have eclipsed cyberpunk punch.
My thoughts ...
Ryan Britt sets up a straw-man argument about people liking the cyberpunk genre because it is "More Realistic" and they say that simply because it is gritty. That doesn't mean the conclusion is wrong. It is just not a unique phenomenon for the cyber punk sub-genre. Fans say the same thing about Batman movies these days. Star Trek, Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Scifi, or pretty much any movie crowd will call the grittier movie, more realistic. Of course movies in the US are not realistic at all, none of them. Ryan Britt ...
"Netflix’s Altered Carbon possesses the same baggage as Blade Runner 2049; in trying to nail the cyberpunk aesthetic, it’s turned cyberpunk into a consumer product, effectively declawing the genre’s entire aim.
"On February 3, 2018, Netflix released its new series Altered Carbon, based on the Richard Morgan novel of the same name. Right out of the gate, the reviews have been mixed. Some say it’s too violent, some say the concept of an Asian man’s consciousness being transferred to a white guy’s body is racist and just as problematic as the whitewashing in Ghost in the Shell. All of these discussions are interesting, but they don’t yield the most important question. Why was any of this made at all and who is it for? If it’s made for people who have never heard of cyberpunk, that’s okay. But why not bother updating the aesthetic a little?"
Writers, producers, & people have "aims," genre, not so much. Right out of the gate I've got to say that I find none of those mentioned discussions interesting at all. Why was this made and for whom? Hollywood is a business like any other and they make movies based on thirty-year old books to make money. Target audience? People that loved a good book or two in the '80's and can afford movies now. I mean, if they made Ghostbusters for people that have never heard of Saturday Night Live, that's okay, but it's just nostalgia-laden ... Maybe they did update the aesthetic on that one. But that's not how any of this works.
The most important question is, "How do we encourage and bring to the screen innovative, creative, cutting edge ideas and stories?" But that will be addressed later in a blog about Startup Weekend.
Nobody claims Blade Runner is an up to date, cutting edge story. The claim is that it is a worthy follow on to the original. That means keeping continuity with the source materiel. Likewise Altered Carbon is also based on it's 30-year old source materiel. That in an of itself does not make them bad movies. It simply means that, like most materiel on the big screen (or Netflix) these days, it is derivative.
Mr Ryan is right on target with his conclusion Scifi writers address similar ideas, usually in different ways, and that is considered fair game among creators in the genre. It is, perhaps, a bane of the genre that in the past it focused more on ideas, than on great story-telling. Gibson's novel Neuromancer is a watershed for precisely the fact that it did both well. It's only a little ironic that he produced it on a type-writer.* So yes, the cyperpunk sub-genre did wonders for the Scifi genre over all and brought ideas ideas and great writing to the forefront of the reading world. Again Ryan Britt ...
"What was once daring about cyberpunk is now mainstream. Which, is great in a sense for newcomers. But because the opening credits of Altered Carbon feature a giant cloned snake eating its tail, one wonders how long we’ll have to wait until mainstream science fiction starts to look a little different than it did for our parents."
While a genre is not conscious of its aims, the writers, producers, and people that bring it to market surely do so consciously. And while all that is cool and gritty, I think most authors of the time were issuing cautionary tales rather than the road maps they became. To the extent that cyberpunk now reflects modern reality is not really a good thing for anyone.
I hope viewers will learn a little bit about the Ouroboros of mythology and it's thematic relationship to the story and also dig into the history of humanity's study of the carbon atom. In the 19th century a dream of Ouroboros, gave the German chemist August von Stradonitz the idea of linked carbon atoms forming the benzene ring. Originally a breakthrough for the concept of infinity and later a breakthrough for organic chemistry. That intro is a well placed to set the tone for the nature of the story and the scientific ideas with which it deals. Well worn story and scientific ideas, but still worthy of discussion.
* A type-writer is a mechanical device that predates word processors or computers. An operator would used a mechanical keyboard that through various methods, would cause a metal letter to strike an ink laden tape against a piece of paper, leaving the ink letter impressed directly upon the sheet. While computers did exist when the book was written, back in the 80's, they were few and there was no internet to connect them. William Gibson typed his novel directly onto paper. Neuromancer and the first Macintosh were released in the same month!