It’s funny putting up the review for this after my review of Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, as a lot of the things I said in that review I’d already put in the notes for this one: I don’t generally like CG animation and only watch it if its attached to a franchise I enjoy, this Netflix offering has cheap and stiff animation (though this time it looks a lot more stylised, compared to the bland look of GITS) and so on. That being said, Altered Carbon’s two seasons fall on either side of the good and bad spectrum for me, so let’s see how this effects it as the tie breaker!
On the planet Latimer, reawakened Takeshi Kovacs must protect a teenage tattooist named Holly while investigating the death of a yakuza boss alongside Gina, a strangely familiar no-nonsense CTAC agent.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Little does Kovacs know he’ll have several similar encounters soon…
So we all know that a big part of Altered Carbon is the idea of immortality and how the technology of “sleeving” allows someone to just download into a copy, or an entirely new, body to survive. That’s no different here, as Kovacs (Ray Chase) is hired to protect Holly (Brittany Cox), a girl working for this Blade Runner-esque universe’s version of the Yakuza, and a girl who tattoos the leaders of the mafia with a special mixture that fully kills them when it’s time to pass the mantel onto a fresh leader. The big plot twist is that the same head of the Yakuza has been sleeving into copies of the next leader before the transition ceremony and therefore actually gone against the very code of his clan by leading the group well past his time. It’s a fun idea, and a good use of the theme of the show / books (I assume!).
You can tell how the budget has been used here, as a lot of the time the animation is really awkward, stiff and unnatural, but then you suddenly get a high-impact fight scene with really fluid and well-choreographed animation, so they obviously picked a few specific scenes to spend the money on and just used the basic stuff for the rest… Those few scenes, especially the climactic fight between Kovacs and the Yakuza head, are good fun though.
Damn! They missed.
Well, apart from the aforementioned stiff animation, there are a few negatives. Holly can be a bit bratty and annoying, especially at the start. I mean, “bratty kid who runs off and meets a cool, stoic man who ends up protecting her and the two form a bond” is right up there with the best of them in terms of writing clichés, and it’s done… by the book here. So much so that just when you think they might be going in a different or interesting direction, they don’t. If the resleeving Yakuza boss was the interesting half of the story, this was the boring half.
Likewise, no-nonsense CTAC agent Gena (Elizabeth Maxwell) just doing her job, and then bending the rules the more she hangs out with Kovacs and Holly was dull. She turned out to be more interesting towards the end, eventually revealing herself to be Kovacs’ sister Reileen, which baffled me! (I missed the early dialogue placing this before Season 1 and just naturally assumed it was later in the story!) Still, it was a bit of fun, for the last 15 minutes of the film…
“God damn it, I get it! Japanese culture! Do I have to do this every time?” “Every time?” “Erm, never mind.”
Kovacs himself is somewhere in between Season 1 and Season 2 in terms of personality. He’s not as wooden as Anthony Mackie, but he’s still no Joel Kinnaman. It is hard to balance the stoic sarcasm with just sounding unemotional in live action, so it’s not a surprise it doesn’t work using an animation style so devoid of expression.
The film pushes the old idea that anime = extremely bloody violence hard as well, with large blood spurts and walls and floors covered in gore. Unnecessary of course, and “confirms” the old stereotype to those who may love the TV series and are giving the sub-genre a go for the first time…
Wooo! Cool! …. I guess?
Altered Carbon: Resleeved wasn’t great, though its comparatively short runtime made it more enjoyable on the whole than Season 2 of the TV series. It made use of the world of the series well, and there were some well animated fight scenes, but there was also some poor and lazy writing and characterisation, as well as plenty of poor and “janky” animation in between the good bits. A mixed bag, which annoyingly doesn’t help Altered Carbon’s place as “half good, half bad”…