Netflix spent $6 billion (Rs. 38,193 crore) on original content in 2017, with one of the biggest expenses being its upcoming new sci-fi series, Altered Carbon, which reportedly cost $6-7 million (Rs. 38-44 crore) per episode. That means there's a lot riding on the show, which comes from the mind of Laeta Kalogridis, the screenwriter of Shutter Island – starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and directed by Martin Scorsese – and an executive producer on James Cameron's Avatar.
Altered Carbon – based on Richard K. Morgan's book – is releasing on February 2, but it's clear from what we've seen that its visuals evoke Ridley Scott's iconic cyberpunk film Blade Runner. When a reporter asked what Kalogridis made of the comparison during a press event in Seoul earlier this week, she said: "I feel like a lot of science fiction that deals with this topic and themes pulls from similar places."
"So I always feel like, we have a lot in common with Black Mirror, Black Mirror has a lot in common with us. We're pulling from Philip K. Dick, and we're pulling from William Gibson, to some degree, we're pulling from [Isaac] Asimov. Interestingly from the Foundation books, and the concept of what happens when the wrong people are in charge for too long."
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Dick is the author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the book that served as the basis of Blade Runner, and the sequel with Ryan Gosling last year. Gibson is known his Sprawl trilogy, which includes his debut novel Neuromancer, alongside coining the term 'cyberspace' in Burning Chrome. Asimov's Foundation series, published over five decades, is considered his most famous work.
Kalogridis believes people notice "the overlap with Blade Runner" because it's the most obvious, but the inspirations and influences for Altered Carbon come from all corners of cyberpunk. "We've debts personally to the original Ghost in the Shell anime much in the same way The Matrix does," she added.
"Or even some stuff from Vampire Hunter D [the Japanese novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi] and [Katsuhiro Otomo's manga and anime] Akira. There are a lot of pieces that belong in that kind of cyberpunk anime dystopic future world. I feel like we are all a piece of a larger movement that explores some of the same ideas."
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In the world of Altered Carbon, human consciousness can be downloaded onto "stacks", a piece of metal stored at the base of the skull, which can then be transferred into new bodies, known as "sleeves". And while most people can afford a new sleeve at the end of their lifespan, only the very rich can afford to continually switch and avoid the entire aging process.
Kalogridis noted that this was the most important takeaway for her from the book. "[The] widening gap, between those who have and those who don't," she said. "What I regard as the corrosive quality of that. Maybe this comes out of being Greek; it is a deeply anti-democratic thing to have a few people who own everything and everybody else being underneath it. It's bad for human society."
Personally, the creator and the writer feels that "it is a very, very bad thing for anyone" to live forever. "I'm interested in not taxing the planet, [and death] is the greatest safeguard we have been given against the worst parts of our selves."
Netflix's Altered Carbon, with a first season of 10 episodes, is out February 2.
Disclosure: Netflix sponsored the correspondent’s travel and accommodation for the duration of the event.