June 10, 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Review

            Film (and now with the rise of the medium, television) has at times been described as powerful.  But can film and television be powerful enough to change policy in a government as stubborn as the United States government?  While I have my doubts, an onslaught of space related projects are certainly going to make it interesting to see if NASA can return to a much more integral role in the US government.  Gravity was a flashy start and the Interstellar trailers have really made it known that space is both our past and future.  However, the one project that has really tried to bring space back into the American spotlight is Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.  Cosmos certainly has its heart in the right place and can be jaw-dropping at times, but at thirteen hours (including commercials) in length it can get a bit clunky and you come out in the ending wishing it had gone to much more complicated territory.

            Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a sequel of sorts to the Carl Sagan hosted Cosmos: A Personal Voyage series from the 1980s.  It explores what we know about the Cosmos today and how we came to those discoveries as well as what the future might hold for mankind if we stay on the course we are currently on.  Famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts the series.  Brannon Braga leads the directing team for the series while Ann Druyan (the widow of Carl Sagan) and Steven Soter write the series.

            Cosmos is very often throughout its run visually stunning.  Neil deGrasse Tyson goes to interesting locations while the visual effects are used in a way that it has a Terrence Malick-esque sense of wonder to it.  Even the animated scenes can be quite beautifully constructed. 

            Sadly the writing and the way the series is constructed can be quite disjointed.  A segment of science can be followed by an entire episode about history while the next moment in the series will be a plea for humanity to find a way to improve.  Some of it works while other segments don’t work at all or don’t feel in line with what came before or after.  While a lot is said and explored in this series it ultimately feels a bit lacking in the end.  With thirteen hours to play with the series easily could have covered some more complex scientific phenomenon and facts but is instead content with sticking to mostly common knowledge ideas.

            That being said Neil deGrasse Tyson is a calming presence throughout.  Tyson clearly knows his stuff and makes it look easy adapting his trade into easily digestible television.

            Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a flawed but inspiring piece of television.


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