Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Blu-ray | Box Set
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COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey continues the exploration of the remarkable mysteries of the cosmos and our place within it. Hosted by renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, this thrilling, 13-part adventure will transport you across the universe of space and time, bringing to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge and a deeper understanding of nature. With an updated Cosmic Calendar, dazzling visual effects, and the wondrous Ship of the Imagination, prepare to take an unforgettable journey to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest - and smallest - scale.
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Tyson is one of the most famous astrophysicists alive. His involvement in NOVA and his podcast 'Startalk' have made him a rockstar among the scientific-literate youth. Ann Druyan (who co-wrote the original Cosmos) helped produce and write this revamp. Seth Macfarlane, better known for starting the show Family Guy, it seems has always been interested in science...this revamped version of Cosmos came about when Seth ran into Tyson at a meeting at the National Academy of Sciences. Who woulda thought?
Now onto the show:
In the first episode, you are invited aboard the Ship of the Imagination. It's a sleek vessel that allows Tyson and the viewer to go anywhere: from the edge of the universe to the nucleus of an atom. It's a fantastic way to get to the places that Tyson is describing in the narration.
The cinematography is jaw dropping. 3D renderings of galaxies, nebulae, asteroid fields, atoms, storms on Jupiter, etc are scattered throughout each show...and they look 100% real. There are moments where animated cartoons are used, usually representing a story about past scientists or philosophers...I thought the cartoon animations would detract from the shows grandeur, but that doesn't seem to be the case - the animations are beautiful and tasteful.
The music score, by Alan Silvestri, is perfect for this series. Silvestri has scored soundtracks for movies like Contact, Castaway, Forrest Gump...and for Cosmos he has used his talent to create yet another fantastic score. It gives the show a perfect sound to go along with the visuals...you'll see (hear) this in the first episode when you take a tour of the universe.
The science is mind-blowing. Neil Degrasse Tyson clearly talks you through each scientific tidbit, allowing even the youngest developing minds to understand intricate ideas, theories, and laws. Most who graduated high school (and college) will already know about most of the science talked about in this show, but this is a great refresher.
In addition to making it easy for you to understand the science, Tyson urges the viewer to continue the charge of the scientific revolution. He makes it clear that ANY viewer could be the next Einstein, Darwin, or Newton...it just takes one spark of inspiration and the next great idea will be born.
Cosmos is one of the most important television shows to ever grace the airwaves. No doubt it will inspire teachers to educate more clearly, inspire students to learn, and allow everyone to appreciate the vast beauty and complexity of the universe we live in.
As the show goes on, I will continue to update this post with my likes and possible dislikes (though I doubt I'll find anything I dislike). I will also update my post when the Blu-ray is released. For now, I just want everyone to know how great this show is.
BLU RAY REVIEW:
The picture and audio quality is mindblowing - every little star is noticeable, even the smallest bacterium is full of detail. This is the quality I expect from blu-ray, but this detail also spotlights the care and precision that went into this show (the special effects mirror that of a high-budget Hollywood film).
The audio is crisp and deep. If you have a sound system, definitely use it when watching Cosmos.
The packaging is great (even has a little Cosmic Calender printed on an inside flap). The menu screen is slightly difficult to navigate - the words on the screen are very small (I have near perfect vision and I have to squint to read the show titles on my 42" television).
My main gripe with this release is that it didn't come with a digital copy (even one that we could download from the web). This is a show I'd love to have on my tablet, but I'm more or less confined to just watching it at home now.
Regardless, if you have a blu-ray player and are remotely interested in Cosmos, it's worth the plunge. Never before has a show brought me to such an emotional level: Cosmos isn't just about science, it's also about the grandeur of the universe. And in blu-ray, it's like having a front row seat to all that is, was, and ever will be.
The team has done an incredible job of teaching difficult concepts, recounting some of the incredible stories of scientific breakthroughs in history, and creating that sense of wonder about discovery.
If you are looking for hard science and numbers, this isn't where you should be looking. There are text books and hard documentaries a-plenty on public television. This show however is a great primer for those who are looking at an easy way to introduce a younger audience to the wonders of science, nature, and human history as it relates to our place in the universe. If watched with said younger audience, it would certainly help to spark questions that perhaps would get them to think a little more about the bigger world around them.
Even if you are someone who already has a firm grasp of the cosmos at large, there is a lot to appreciate in some of its history and nature lessons which even I found, while perhaps not profoundly educational, a good refresher and still managed to learn a thing or two about some key people and events. Can most people honestly claim to know everything about Ibn al-Haytham, tardigrades, or Marie Tharp?
A direct comparison with the original 1980 broadcast of this voice of the universe is inevitable, however Neil deGrasse Tyson is no Carl Sagan and Alan Silvestri is no Vangelis. I do not mean to say that Neil and Alan are in some way lessers of Carl and Vangelis, but rather, their purpose is a little bit different.
The original Cosmos had a musical quality about its presentation with Carl Sagan as its vocals, a delivery I describe as being a heart moving experience that makes you think. Listening to the music and hearing Carl's own written words from his seminal work is something to be personally felt to understand. But there is a certain nostalgia to the sensation that may be a bit passe for some younger generations.
Cosmos 2014 however has a more direct, practical approach to its delivery. It's not trying to tug at those same emotional notes right off the bat and it's certainly not trying to capture the magic the same way and I greatly appreciate that. It does connect to the original series on a personal level (Neil deGrasse Tyson's first meeting with Carl Sagan) and uses some of the same imagery from time to time (Ship of the Imagination, the opening cliffside scene, the cosmic calendar). Various topics about the age of the universe, nature, and science are covered in its own informative but not too heavy way, which is again perfect for a general audience, providing enough general answers but leaving plenty of room for independent discovery for the curious.
The musical score too is not as heavy was it was in the original series, accompaying the narrative without being very emotional except maybe in a few key moments when it wants to be. It is somewhat repetitive however, which is fine since it's not trying to carry the series.
This is definitely not the same Cosmos of yesteryear. But it does not try to be, which is perfectly fine by me. Perhaps some day soon when my nephews finally look up at the night sky and can ask me what those twinkling lights are, I'll let them decide which approach to the Cosmos they prefer.
(There IS a series out there that has a much more "Cosmos 1980" feel that was done in very recent years, which I also deeply appreciate, but out of deference to this series I will not mention directly in this review.)