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Cyberpunk Review: Ready Player Two

Ready Player Two: A solid sequel to Ready Player One

CUTSCENE

Thus is titled the first chapter of Ready Player Two, and aptly put. Ernest Cline’s second book and sequel to Ready Player One (which was also adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg), Ready Player Two continues the first book with almost no time passing. We find Parzival (Wade Watts) catching us up on what happened immediately after the events of the first novel, and the novel takes its time to get going before a critical event happens that sets the rest of the novel in motion (which happens about a third of the way in).

Ready Player One – Phase9 Entertainment

A Very Fast Read

If you liked the fast-paced nature of Cline’s writing style, then you certainly won’t be disappointed with Ready Player Two. And I think it’s telling that it took me only a week to finish this novel. Although it’s actually 10 pages longer than the previous book (384 pages compared to its original 374 pages), it felt like a much faster read.

Ready Player One»: le grand huit de Steven Spielberg | Télécâble Sat Hebdo

More of the Same Special Sauce

Some people may criticize this novel by saying it’s too much of a repeat of the first novel, or that it’s not different enough. And while I can see those complaints, I personally really enjoyed this novel. After you finally get to the chapter called Level Five and you  finally discover the conflict that needs to be resolved in this book, the entire book speeds up very quickly in a race against time that is even more intense than the previous novel was. That’s perhaps why the novel felt slower than the previous one for the first third, and then much faster for the other two thirds. We find all of the same original characters, like Shoto and Art3mis, are back.

Every Easter Egg in 'Ready Player One'

Another Quest, Another Easter Egg Hunt

This time the quest, which is very similar to the first novel, is the following:

Seek the Seven Shards of the Siren’s Soul…to once again make the Siren Whole.

The seven shards of the siren’s soul is yet another easter egg hunt left posthumously by one of the Gregarious Games’ co-founders, James Halliday. The difference between this one and the 3 keys hunt, however, is that there is no clear prize for obtaining the seven shards. What, or who, is the Siren’s Soul? What happens when someone makes them Siren whole again? This is the original premise of the novel until the aforementioned villian appears and kickstarts the book into high gear with a very short, very urgent, countdown.

For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I won’t add any more than that. Simply remember that if you feel the novel isn’t going anywhere, continue reading until page 134.

I enjoyed this easter egg quest, but not as much as the previous book’s quest, probably because this time around it’s a little less video game-focused, favoring other pop culture references instead. This book focuses a lot on the female character Kira Morrow as well, which was a welcome change of pace.

New Thought-Provoking Technology

For Ready Player One, I talked briefly in this blog post a couple years ago about the educational significance that Ready Player One’s utopian vision of teaching could have on our future education systems. At the time that Ernest Cline published Ready Player One back in 2011, I felt that the technology he described of virtual reality with haptic rigs in the OASIS was pretty futuristic, along with that educational system that went with it. Is the OASIS an improvement for humanity, as people can escape their stark surroundings and live in a happier world, a kinder and less hostile world, as Wade did growing up poor in the stacks? Or is the OASIS a dangerous fantasy world that results in greater isolation of humans and makes them lose touch with what’s important–the real world, and reality in general?

Just like his first novel, Cline describes a new technology that changes the world, for better or for worse, and then describes a utopian vision of what this technology could be used for. This new technology, if you can believe it, makes the VR haptic rig systems look downright Neanderthal by comparison. Cline also takes a much more heavy-handed look at whether this new technology should be used, by having the main characters begin to argue amongst themselves about this issue (it becomes a major point in the story). Unfortunately, Cline more or less answers that question for the reader by the end of the novel, which…I wish he would have left it a little more open-ended, but ultimately I’m not complaining about the ending, which I thought otherwise was great. It’s still epic, and in that way similar to the previous novel.

The new technology also, however, invites further questions about the nature of humanity and that age-old, cyberpunk trope of how human artificial intelligence is, and what rights and considerations (if any) they deserve. While only invitations to questions are presented in the book (Cline decides to just briefly comment on this new tech, saying it’s a new age but deciding not to go any deeper than that) it’s a situation well worth considering. After some time has elapsed I may later post a spoiler-filled post where I can go into these topics in a bit more detail, but I won’t be doing so here as it would understandably completely spoil the novel for those who have yet to read it.

Overall Verdict: 8.5/10

I really enjoyed this novel. To say it was a page-turner would be an understatement. With fun dialogue, relatable characters, loads of references, an interesting story, and thought-provoking technology when its implications are considered, there’s a lot to love. However, there were parts of the novel where it dragged, and others where I felt myself losing interest (especially in parts of the quests) where I either wasn’t familiar with the material, or the quest felt trivial when framed against the backdrop of what was at stake, and the urgency of their quest with the clock running out. I also felt like the characters themselves didn’t grow much and could have had a bit more development–one character’s actions and motivations in particular. Finally, if you really like John Hughes movies, Prince, and the Lord of the Rings universe, you will particularly like this book.

Questioning Reality: Revisiting The Thirteenth Floor | Filmotomy

Final note: favorite Cyberpunk line in the book

My favorite Cyberpunk line by far in the book surprised me as early as page 4. It’s actually not just a line, but an entire paragraph. Here it is in its entirety below, and if you’re a Cyberpunk fan like I am, then it’s a great reference and also perhaps a reminder that, oh yea, I should probably watch those again.

“According to the interactive building directory on my phone, the thirteenth floor was where the GSS archives were located.

Of course Halliday had put them there. In one of his favorite TV shows, Mad Headroom, Network 23’s hidden research-and-development lab was located on the thirteenth floor.

And The Thirteenth Floor was also the title of an old sci-fi film about virtual reality, released in 1999, right on the heels of both The Matrix and eXistenZ.” –Wade Watts

 

Cyberpunk and Coronavirus: A Dystopian Global Pandemic Happening In Real Time

Coronavirus: Symptoms, death rate, where it came from, and other ...

Police Decontamination team in Bozhou, China

Living in a Present-day Dystopia with Cyberpunk Tones

What a time to be alive. No literally, people around the world are dying from COVID-19, so if we are alive right now, we are lucky. Although honestly, life is a gift, so any day we are alive should be counted as lucky.

But something truly remarkable is happening right now. All around the world, we are experiencing a collective feeling and thought process. 2.6 billion (now 3.9 billion) humans are in isolation right now, representing 1/3 of humanity (it is now half of humanity). Think about that. Almost one third of humanity, provided they have the resources, are coming together through the internet, online virtual classrooms and meetings while practicing isolation.

A New Era of Confinement from COVID-19

Welcome to the new era. Of Confinement, social distancing, online communities, and virtual classrooms and meetings. In this new, dare I say, dystopian Cyberpunk world, we have drones decontaminating empty streets.

Drone in UAE decontaminating the streets (Reddit)

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

As people stay at home, and simply going outside presents a health risk, humanity is finding new and ingenious ways to get work done in safe ways. Like using this cyberpunk-looking UV machine to speed-decontaminate hospital rooms .

Hospital tests UV light to clean rooms – illumiPure ...

Source: Illumipure.com

Returning to a New Normal

In China, where the Coronavirus is getting more under control as the number of cases levels off and drops, workers are returning to work under a new “normal”–with distancing measures in place, like this picture a local Chinese plant shows.

Source: Wired.com

Drones!

Drones have already been, I would say, cyberpunk enough–it’s a relatively new trend, but something that has been growing a lot already in 2019. They can do cool things like debris removal on power lines with flamethrowers, or shoot fireworks at annoyingly loud neighbors.

Probably one of the coolest jobs ever.

What can’t they do?

But now with the Coronavirus, drones are a cool, futuristic, yet practical way to get work done remotely. Like walking your dog! Because dogs are immune to Coronavirus, so why not walk them with your drone?

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This pup in Cyprus seems to enjoy the idea.

It’s so surreal

The entire world is going into lockdown, and many might think this new, different, crazy world of confinement feels more like a dream than reality. In fact, it’s even been shown as a dream before, like in that scene at the beginning of Vanilla Sky where Tom Cruise finds himself in downtown Times Square, except all the streets everywhere is completely deserted, before he wakes up and realizes he was just dreaming. But now that wouldn’t seem like such a far-fetched dream, now, would it? Who else has ever in their lifetime experienced anything like this before?

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It’s a world where seeing images like this isn’t so odd or uncommon anymore. Which, for cyberpunk fans, is kinda cool, no?

Eerie Emptiness thanks to COVID-19

All of a sudden, big usually-busy public squares are completely empty of humans. Mother nature is reclaiming its rightful claim on the world. Just look at the beautiful, eerily desolate pictures around the world from this Atlantic article:

Washington DC

San Francisco

Disneyworld, Florida

Paris

Pisa, Italy

The Brooklyn Bridge

A Mall in Richmond, California

Rue de Rivoli in Paris

London’s Eye from Westminster Bridge

Notre-Dame, Paris

Hangzhou, China

Going Virtual

The entirety of humanity has had to adapt due to the Coronavirus, as everything moves online. One of the starkest examples of this are the schools and universities around the world who have had to suddenly switch to online and virtual classes. Above is a science teacher live-streaming to her students using her phone and a tripod.

International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar on a video call with people who are in a lockdown across the world.

Zoom!

One online platform that has seen a huge growth in users has been the online meeting software zoom. Millions of people around the world are now using this platform for school or work, and are adjusting to their new virtual reality. I personally have started using this for work as well myself.

One cool thing I learned about Zoom is that for video, you can add a virtual background including a video of a beach by the sea with palm trees.

Zoom virtual background

Just the Beginning of Virtual

This led me to think about Deepfakes, and what would happen if people started working online constantly using deepfakes. If that were the case, someone could actively mask their identity or pretend they were continuously someone else. Pretty Cyberpunk, no?

The Truth About Deepfakes: Legal Expert Weighs In on ...

What if we deepfakes were used with Zoom? Source: dreadcentral.com

A New Normal with Masks Protecting from Coronavirus

As different regulations are passed, everyday people wearing masks is quickly becoming the norm. For some cultures like in Japan or China, masks might have been already somewhat ubiquitous, but to see them in places like New York City or Paris is incredibly new and surreal.

Manhattan lawyer gives wife, son, daughter and neighbor ...

Times Square

A person wearing a full-face mask in King's Cross underground station

King Cross Station

 

The Effect of COVID-19 on the Cyberpunk Genre

 

COVID-19 has affected virtually every single industry there is because of how incredibly global its effect is. The Cyberpunk genre is no different, and has had both its pros and cons as a result of the virus.

Recognizing the Negative of Coronavirus on Cyberpunk

Let’s start with the negative first, before going with the positive. As the saying goes, you gotta take the bad with the good.

Juan Gimenez dies from COVID-19 complications

One sad result was the death of Juan Gimenez, an acclaimed comic book artist who happened to draw one of my favorite, and maybe the most iconic, illustration of Case and Molly Millions from the Cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Juan, you will be sorely missed. May you rest in peace.

Matrix 4 delayed

Another unfortunate result of COVID-19 is the delays of major Hollywood productions, including in particular Matrix 4. Variety has reported that production of Matrix 4 may have to be delayed until at least mid-may. This may affect the release date of May 21st, 2021, but since it’s far out enough, it may be possible that it won’t be pushed back too much. John Wick 4 will also probably be delayed, so we’ll see if Keanu Reeves day will still be a thing, but as I mentioned before, I doubt both will end up releasing on the same day.

MATRIX 4 KEANU REEVES AVEC SON RÔLE DE NEO - DIGITALE A

Source: Digitalanime.dz

Seeing the Positive from Cyberpunk during COVID-19

One positive bit of news, however, is how communities are giving back and providing help. Two major companies giving back are CD Projekt Red and Tesla.

tesla cybertruck cyberpunk 2077

CD Projekt Red gives back

Career offers - CD PROJEKT RED

CD Projekt Red, which is of course the major Video Game Production company behind the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, agreed to donate $950,000 to help fight the disease. “In these hard times, every help counts…We would also like to thank the entire medical service and everyone involved in the fight against the virus. Risking your own health, you fight for ours every day – your hard work is our inspiration.”

Tesla promises ventilators

https://www.economist.com/sites/default/files/20200201_WBP504.jpg

Tesla is doing its part by doing its best to start cranking out desperately-needed ventilators. Elon Musk announced last week that Tesla’s New York Gigafactory would be re-opening to start producing these ventilators as soon as possible.

Final Thoughts

It looks like for the next couple months, COVID-19 is here to stay. How will the world look post-coronavirus? Will it spur the entire world to becoming more virtual, more online, and using more drones? Is this a jump forward towards a Cyberpunk future? I certainly think so, or at least, it will move things along more quickly. Finally, what do you think about coronavirus and COVID-19? Are there any more connections between Cyberpunk and the Coronavirus that I didn’t mention? Make sure to let me know in the comments below.

Review: Altered Carbon: Resleeved

AlteredCarbonResleeved

Continuing the Altered Carbon Universe

Altered Carbon: Resleeved is the latest Cyberpunk movie to stream on Netflix. A Japanese anime movie spin-off, it is set in the Altered Carbon Universe and features Takeshi Kovacs and Taneda Hideki on planet Latimer. In return for wiping his slate clean on Harlan’s World, Hideki hires Kovacs to protect a tattoo artist in order to investigate another faction of the Yakuza clan. The visual style is done in 3-D anime, which strongly resembles the Borderlands aesthetic. For me, it took some getting used to, but after the first 5 minutes I was able to settle in for the ride and forget about it.

The characters

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You may know Takeshi Kovacs well enough from the two live action seasons on Netflix. This movie has him in another sleeve, of course, in a suit with short white hair. Quickly after he meets in virtual with his employer, Tanaseda Hideki, he meets the Yakuza clan tattoo artist he’s supposed to protect — the young Holly Togram. At the same time that he tries to protect Holly from various mysterious ninjas that attack her, she is also wanted by CTAC. When the leader of CTAC, Gena, finds Holly, she reluctantly agrees to team up with Kovacs in protecting and using Holly to infiltrate the Yakuza clan in order to unearth the secret of why she is wanted dead so badly, and by whom. We also meet Shinji, the other Yakuza clan leader who is Holly’s employer, and Ogai, an AI butler and manager of the AI hotel The Wild Geese.

A New Takeshi Kovacs (again)

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Although a short film at under an hour and a half, this movie kept my attention from beginning to end. Kovacs here is no brooding film-noir type like we saw in Season 1, nor the Quell-obsessed idealist in Season 2. Rather, he is a protective big brother figure and still very much a bad-ass. I quite enjoyed watching him team up with Gena as they fight faceless deadly ninjas again and again.

Oh. Did I mention they have ninjas in this movie? Because they do. In ample supply, and it’s awesome!

Ninja-Fest

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These ninjas throw ninja stars, use smoke and strike from the shadows, and have a variety of different weapons–not just katanas! They also appear in various different styles, from hooded street hoodlum (above) to futuristic visor-toting assailants, and finally as bad-ass samurai-style ninjas. As you will see, they’re quite difficult to kill!

A Distinct Genre of Film

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The story of this movie definitely takes a bit of a step back to the action, and if you like Japanese Yakuza ninja-style action, then this is definitely the movie for you. If you prefer a detective film-noir, however, this won’t be for you. I also noted that while there was plenty of neon lights to feast your eyes on, if you don’t care for the Japanese aesthetic and prefer more cyborgs and futuristic tech elements, you might be disappointed. Although firmly rooted in the Altered Carbon universe, the movie doesn’t play around much with its parameters like seasons 1 and 2 did. This is truly an action-focused film, a nice stand-alone entry in the Altered Carbon Universe. Which is why the lead-up to the final epic showdown is so excellent. It’s fast-paced, completely brutal, and very well done. The style of this film is absolutely in the anime style, which makes sense considering the origins of its creator (Dai Sato was also a writer for Cowboy Bebop and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex).

Final Verdict: 7.5/10

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I really enjoyed watching this movie, and if you’re a fan of Japanese Yakuza, Ninjas, and epic brutal fighting, then you will too. With a decent musical score and voice acting, this movie’s incredible action sequences and beautiful visuals make up for its lackluster characters and somewhat shallow themes. The story delivers a brisk pace with enough intrigue to keep the viewer’s attention, and while not as full of high tech or futuristic world-building as other Altered Carbon stories, it does have sprinkle enough throughout it to remind the viewer this is no ordinary Earth. I give this movie 7.5/10.

Now it’s your turn

Did you see Altered Carbon: Resleeved? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below, or on twitter at @cyberpunkmatrix.

 

 

Matrix 4: 2020 Updates

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Matrix 4: What 2020 Updates we know so far as of March 15th

It is now mid-March and I just realized I haven’t provided an official Matrix 4 production update since last December 2019!

So without further ado, here’s everything new that’s happened with Matrix 4 Production since then:

New Casting announcements:

Max Riemelt (Sense 8)

Sense8's Max Riemelt Joins The Matrix 4

Riemelt is a 36 year old German actor mostly known for his work with the Wachoskis in their Netflix series Sense8 as Wolfgang Bogdanow. Apparently, he’s also well known in Germany for acting and directing.

Priyanka Chopra (Baywatch, among others)

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Chopra may be a little more well-known than her Matrix 4 peers. Chopra is an Indian actress, singer, producer, and winner of the Miss World 2000 pageant. Named one of the top 100 most influential people by Time and one of the top 100 most powerful women by Forbes, Chopra is also a vocal defender of social causes like women’s rights and the environment. Oh and she’s also the wife of Nick Jonas. This created a lot of buzz for the casting, as no one knows who she will be playing. One thought that I had (and wasn’t alone, apparently) was that maybe Chopra could be replacing Monica Belucci as the Merovingian’s beau.

Andrew Caldwell (iZombie)

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Andrew Caldwell is an American actor from Michigan whose most prominent role was being cast as Harley Jones in the third season of the CW series iZombie. He is probably one of the least well known casting choices of the actors announced, so we’ll see what his role is and how he does in Matrix 4.

Brian J Smith (Sense 8)

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Brian J Smith is an American actor from Texas who is another Sense 8 alum, working with the Wachowskis as Will Gorski. He’s also played lieutenant Matthew Scott in the TV series Star Gate Universe, and was nominated for a Tony award for his role as Jim O’Connor in the 2013 revival of The Glass Menagerie.

Ellen Hollman (Spartacus)

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Ellen Hollman is an American actress from Detroit, Michigan and is perhaps best known for her roles as Saxa in Spartacus and Regent Warrior Zypher in AMC’s Into The Badlands. Considering many of her roles have required intensive fight scenes and have been physically demanding, I’m excited to see what fighting role she will probably take up, especially considering she’s trained in Jiu Jitsu.

Lambert Wilson (The Merovingian, Matrix Trilogy)

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Probably one of the most exciting announcements we’ve heard is that Lambert Wilson officially confirmed that he will be returning! Wilson is of course the smooth-talking, philosophy-waxing Frenchman and power-hungry rogue program that antagonized Neo, Morpheus and Trinity in Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions. Glad to have you back, Wilson!

Not returning: Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith, Matrix Trilogy)

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Unfortunately, due to scheduling difficulties, Hugo Weaving will not be able to return as Agent Smith in Matrix 4. Few could forget his memorable performances in all three Matrix films opposite Keanu Reeves, but his departure can be easily explained story-wise, as Neo sacrificed himself to destroy Smith at the end of Matrix Revolutions. The new agent or agents could be played by anyone for Matrix 4, but my hope is that their diction and slow eloquence match the excellence that Weaving delivered. Because if not, he will be even more sorely missed.

Matrix 4 filming in San Francisco: Explosions, stunts, and property damage.

Filming in Alameda and San Francisco, California began in February and ended beginning March. Which is just as well, too considering that if they had planned filming any later in March or April, things could have been delayed due to the Coronavirus.

As it is, people in both Alameda and San Francisco were treated to some sneak peeks of what the film has in store for us. I should warn you that while I could not resist looking at these photos, part of me regrets doing so, because now I will be looking out for these scenes in the film once it is finally released. So if you don’t want to have any spoilers whatsoever for Matrix 4, GO NO FURTHER!

However, if you’re like me, continue scrolling down. I chose to select the most representative images of what happened, so you can see what kinds of things are in store without having too many revealers. Of course if you want even more images, you are welcome to google them yourself, or find them on twitter, where you will find plenty.

Filming on set in Alameda

The first image we saw was this film set behind barriers on set in Alameda. This is where they filmed the set performances for the previous Matrix movies as well. It looks like from the suspension cables and the high altitude on these crates, that it could be that some jumps or flying stunts were filmed here.

Stunts between Skyscrapers

The stunts didn’t stay on set, however. We were then treated to these images and videos of daring stunt work with two actors dangling from cables suspended between two different skyscrapers in downtown San Francisco. It looked like the character above, who resembled Trinity, was teaching the character below her, who could have been Neo, how to jump and/or fly in what presumably is the Matrix. Whatever it is, I can’t wait to see what’s happening here on the big screen! It looks like they got some great shots!

Street Shots near House of Nanking in Downtown San Francisco

As you can see from the text, we were then treated to multiple different shots of screening in downtown San Francisco, right next to the chinese restaurant House of Nanking. Here we see a grizzly-looking Keanu Reeves in plain clothes walking down the street with what are presumably extras. What happened to Neo, and how is he back in the Matrix? What’s also convenient here is that Lana Wachowski stands out like brilliantly shining lightbulb, easy to pick out with her neon dreadlocks. She seems very secure in her direction of the scenes, and as far as I can tell, she’s doing a great job! In the Wachowskis we trust!

Neo and Trinity reunited at last on the back of a motorcycle

This shot is one of the ones that made me most sentimental. Here we have a clear shot of once again a grizzly-looking Neo holding onto the shoulders of his lover Trinity as she drives both of them on a motorcycle. The motorcycle was attached to rigging part of the time to allow for easy filming of the scenes, which included some smoke machines in the streets of San Fran. I decided not to show any further pictures for the sake of spoiling the magic of filming, but needless to say I am super excited to see these two back on the big screen, and it’s very cool to see a sneak peek of what they will both look like in the film.

Hovering Helicopters in Downtown San Francisco

This shot came as little surprise, as the announcements for filming in San Francisco for residents including warnings of explosions, gunshots, and hovering helicopters. But it was super cool all the same to see both shots and video of two black military-style helicopters hovering overhead in the streets of San Francisco, as well as the subsequent planned explosions. Matrix is back, and big as ever!

Minor Property Damage from Explosions and Heat

What wasn’t anticipated by the crew, however, is that the intensity of the explosions caused a window to shatter and the plastic covering some marketing signs and lampposts to melt from the heat of it all. Notice the slightly melted lamp post on the wall above. The filming crew will of course pay to replace anything they destroyed, however, and I think this speaks to the vision and ambition of Lana Wachowski that they’re not messing around with Matrix 4! It’ll be some intense explosions and action scenes indeed!

Looking to the future

For now, Matrix 4 is planning to go ahead and film as planned in Berlin and in California despite the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic. However, the situation is continuously changing, and many other movie productions have halted or delayed due to the Coronavirus. Others have delayed their release date due to movie theaters being closed. So what does this mean for Matrix 4? Since its release date of May 21st, 2021 is still so far away, I think it’s safe to say that the release date won’t be affected. I hope that the production won’t be forced to halt or be delayed, but if so, that could affect its release date after all. Regardless of the production crew’s decisions, here’s to hoping all involved stay safe!

Did you like this blog post on 2020 Updates for Matrix 4? Then share it with a friend on social media so they too can stay plugged into the Matrix!

 

 

Altered Carbon: Season 2 Complete Review

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Altered Carbon Season 2 Review

Phew! I just finished Altered Carbon Season 2 and let me tell you, it was quite a ride. There are pros and cons to this season, just like any season, and there’s a lot I want to get out of my brain because I have so many thoughts on the series. So without further ado, here we go: my review of Season 2 of Altered Carbon.

General feeling:

The general feeling of the series is very toned down compared to last season, for better or for worse. It’s warmer and more family-friendly. There is less torture, less nudity, and less shocking gore and violence.

Source Material Bias

My experience of the series was probably biased, and shaped from my familiarity with the source material. I found myself often lighting up upon hearing references to characters and concepts from the books. This led me to enjoy the series more, as I often took a very conscious note of their choices to veer from or stick to the original content. Also, as a result, my review will be very much contrasting the book to the series.

General differences between book and series

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Quell & Vidaura

One of the biggest differences from the books in this season is the choice of Kalogridis and Schapke to create the love story between Quell and Takeshi. In the books, Takeshi’s trainer and the leader of the rebellion were two different people: Quell was the legendary leader of the rebellion, who inspired people to follow her own life philosophy called Quellism. The leader and trainer of the envoys, meanwhile, was someone called Virginia Vidaura. Kovacs has flings with both Vidaura and Sylvie, but not Quell.

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Source: theaquasarah, YouTube

Sex vs. Love

Kovacs has sex with Sylvie (Trepp in the series), but when they do, she switches to the AI copy of Quell. This passion is what triggers the switches in the books. There is no love between Kovacs and Vidaura, or between Kovacs and Sylvie—it’s purely sexual lust, and obviously a certain connection that comes with it.

Many people were turned off by the random, very explicit sex scenes in the books—in particular with Woken Furies. I remember when I read the book it felt like a jarring switch and I was never ready for it, which led me to skim or often just pass over the explicit sex scenes, which often rarely added anything to the actual story.

The complete lack of sex scenes in the second season, except for one very PG-13 one, is perhaps a strong flip to the other side of the coin. And the lack of gratuitous sex mirrors the new emphasis on love in the story, which was virtually non-existent in the books.

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Family Ties

There’s also a stronger emphasis on family ties than on the previous season. Season 1 had the mother and family ties from Kristin Ortega, who then tragically died and gave the story more weight. Season 2 is about Trepp doing all she can to find her brother, and then to protect her wife and her son, who ultimately are saved in the end by her actions. Everything she does is to protect her family. And while one of her family members tragically dies to protect her, none of this carries the same weight as Ortega’s family dying in the first season. It almost feels like going through the motions when she discovers her dead family member. I knew I was supposed to feel something, but because of how stiff and set up it all was, I felt little.

Now let’s look at the characters from Season 2.

Characters

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Poe

I really enjoyed Poe again in this season. Not only is his acting excellent, but he is very well written and is a fun, charming addition to add levity to the more somber moments of the season. His quests to help Takeshi, and to try to remember what he was forgetting, made him incredibly endearing. Even more than before. If that’s even possible.

'Altered Carbon' Season 2 Video Reveals New Cast and ...

Tanaseda Hideki

I really liked Tanaseda Hideki’s character. In the books he is simply a Yakuza leader with a shared past with Takeshi, but in this season he acts as a wise, respectful mentor figure for Takeshi. It was a refreshing take on the character.

Cemetaire

I also liked the fact that they put in Cemetaire! His character really bothered Takeshi in the books, because of his profession making money off the lost stacks of the dead–and he was a good addition here (even if his part was very small). I recognized one of his lines as being taken straight from the book: “I am a simple ferryman plucking souls from my ocean wide.”

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Trepp

I thought it was interesting that they chose to have the character of Trepp, who acts like a Sylvie with her head coils, yet chose Falconer’s mind as the one with the second personality in her stack instead of in Trepp’s mind. I thought having the second mind/personality downloaded through the coils really made sense in the books, and I would have preferred them doing the same thing with Trepp instead of with Falconer. Still, I really enjoyed the mystery of figuring out who was in Quell’s stack, since it obviously couldn’t be Quell as it was in the books. The way that we were introduced to Takeshi in a completely different sleeve than expected made us believe the second personality could really be anybody, and in my view was quite well done.

Joshua Kemp

I also liked that they included Kemp, but his role was so diminished here. I understand that Kemp had his uses in season 2,  but in the books Kemp was a legitimate rebellion leader and very brutal. When you know who he was in the books, his diminished role here really feels a bit like a waste. At least they put in the ascertainment trial, but if you didn’t read the books, know that in the books the trial took hours, but was obviously condensed for the sake of editing.

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Stronghold Takeshi

Another big difference was how they changed Takeshi Kovacs’ double-sleeved clone from an earlier period of his life.

In the books his clone slaughtered the entire team Takeshi was working with in the past. Takeshi was incredibly afraid of his brutal clone, because of the regrets he carried from his past choices in life. The books made it feel like his past mistakes were literally hunting him in the present day.

This version of Takeshi, however, is simply a new person. Almost like a long-time brother, one who wasn’t up to speed with what had happened in the world. It felt incredibly different, and while I loved Will Yun Lee’s performance, I think his character was a bit of a wasted opportunity here. There’s so much more they could have done with him. I will admit that Stronghold Takeshi is a little ruthless in the beginning, but by the end all that is quickly erased as his character does a complete 180.

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Col. Ivan Carrera

Having Carrera as originally the dogged hunter-soldier made him a force to be reckoned with—especially in the scenes where he is brutally interrogating his prisoners. I wasn’t expecting it to then turn into something where Carrera was an old father figure to Takeshi, and go into their complicated history. It gave a more nuanced side to the character, which I actually liked. In the books he’s simply the leader of the Wedge, a military group instead of a small task force, and he does little more than fight one on one with Takeshi.

Additional mentions: Dig 301 and Danica Harlan

Both Dig 301 and Danica Harlan were technically in the books, but they had almost no part worth mentioning whatsoever. And regarding their roles, I thought they were…fine. Dig 301 simply doesn’t have the charm that Poe does, and I personally didn’t find her very interesting at all. I was happily surprised that Danica Harlan was plenty cunning, very much more than she leads on, and in that way I liked her character.

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Angel Fire

Although Sylvie/Quell was able to briefly summon Angel fire, in the books it was unexpected and not understood until afterwards. Similarly to this season, I was incredibly surprised when it happened, as there was no warning this time either. It was incredibly cool to watch Angel Fire on the screen.

Archaeologues

I was also glad they put in a little bit about the archaeologues and deciphering the symbols, like in book 2, even though it was a very small part of the story. It was interesting to see how they changed the portal from the books into the new alien ruin that it is in the season.

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Final Thoughts

If I had to compare this season to the previous season, I would say that it’s not as good as the first half of season 1, but much better than the second half of season 1. The countless naked Reileens attacking an armed Ortega just seemed too over the top and unnecessary, and then the overly dramatic scenes with Lizzie and the confrontations in the end were all new and different from the novel. Reileen, in fact, was never even mentioned in the books—it was all for the TV series. The first season was pure, classic film noir cyberpunk.

Season 2 has none of the bloat or over-dramatic scenes from the first season. It’s all very tight, self-contained narrative with a decent plot and pacing. But barring a few exceptions, nothing really shocks the viewer in this season.

Overall Verdict: 7.5/10

Although a fun and interesting season, after the first couple episodes the season started losing a lot of the Cyberpunk visuals that help make it great. There were no flying cars, or mega-cities, and there were less neon lights as the series moved inside and then into the trees outside. Its excessive violence and gore is toned down, which is great, but so is everything else—less sexuality and greater focus on family, which feels like a more PG-13 kind of season. Nonetheless, the action’s pacing, exciting plot and solid acting performances create an all-around great second season that is well worth watching.