I have a collection of Blus and DVDs of past classics such as The Planets, The Universe, Wonders of…, and of course Carl Sagan’s Cosmos…if they were gifts, they would have been the coolest presents but alas they were all self gifted!
I just completed watching my latest Blu Ray box set. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I have always had pre-emptive reservations about Tyson and everytime I see him as a guest, I cant help feeling he is trying too hard to be like his mentor, Carl Sagan and never went down well with me. But I never really saw him hosting or actually presenting a program until he “starred” in this huge epic production series remake of Sagan’s original series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.
Also, I have never been that fond of American Space documentaries compared to British ones. Even though, they are all made by different directors and producers, the two nations still have their distinct class of style, pacing and signature regardless of the individuals involved. British documentaries have a slower pacing and often with a sense of slowly unravelling a mystery. American documentaries are generally more bombast, emphasis on sensationalising every moment, sometimes over dramatising with Sagan’s Cosmos being the only exception. That’s no criticism, it works for those who love that style of presentation. I do love some bombast too, I just simply favour the British style (not all, some can be downright dull, admittedly).
So what of this new series remake of the original Sagan series? Is it blasphemous to remake it? Of course not. I welcome remakes of anything. They dont erase the original, so why be against it? In the moviee world, almost all remakes are inferior but some can offer new entertaining perspectives and be superior to a newer generation audience who think the originals are understandably too dated . Or at the very least make aware of the more classic originals to newer generation that may never heard of it before and have an opportunity to check it out. SO remakes, no matter how they turn out are healthy for at least raising awareness of the originals.
So, what did I think of this remake of Cosmos and why did I buy the boxset, if I had such low expectations of it being hosted by my personally unfavourable Tyson and an unfavourable country of origin (in terms of space docs)? Well, the answer is I will take back all those pre-emptive negatives I splurted above and in previous posts of this forum because Cosmos is the most exhilarating epic production of Space I have ever seen and Neil deGrasse now joins my list of personal favourite communicators of science and astronomy. I finally see now why he is so popular in America. He sure knows how to engage the viewer with a rapturous flair for storytelling, masterfully communicating the intricacies of the cosmos with delightful nuance and presentation. He is quite simply awesome. Yes, he does have a touch of Sagan influences in his delivery but I actually enjoy that now and it doesnt feel as forced as I first perceived him to be. Its clear he loves Carl Sagan for he mentions him often and many excerpts are played from the original series integrated with the more modern narrative. Mind you, no one can top Sagan’s poetic and seductive delivery, he is legend.
As for the production values, its a mesmerising feast of photography, CGI effects, animation and music that all beautifully serves an incredibly rich narrative on the history of the universe and of people who progressed our understanding of it. After each episode, I felt like I just watched the best movie of the year. The visuals are spectacular, and like Sagan before him, Tyson navigates the Spaceship of Imagination. Another element that really sweeps me away, is the incredible soundtrack by one of my favourite film composers, Alan Sylvestri (Back to the Future, Predator). The original series had a wonderfully hypnotic soundtrack by Vangelis (Blade Runner, Chariots of Fire) who played a huge part in making Sagan’s Cosmos the classic it is. But everything has its place in time. Vangelis would not have suited this remake for today’s audience. Sylvestri creates one of his most eclectic and entertaining works here, just as Vangelis had done in the original.
And oh, there was plenty I learnt form this series too, particularly in the history of unsung heroes. But there might be a caveat to these historical stories because some of them, that Tyson narrates so wonderfully, may have a little amount of liberty taken with its creative licence. But that’s fine with me, personally.
SO, if you still looking for an astronomical Christmas present to give to a young generation born to a faster paced, effects laden world of entertainment, then I cant think of a better gift then Tyson’s Cosmos: A Space Odyssey to ignite their imagination and possible enthusiasm for science/astronomy.
….oh…right, the shops have closed, well, next year then!
the shops have closed
Amazon’s still open, though I wouldn’t bet on the courier getting here in time 😉
A great review, Tej. Thanks very much – because I’ve been very wary of NDGT, too. And I wasn’t much enamoured of the animations that I’ve seen. But i’ll have to reconsider, now that Cosmos II has got the Tej seal of approval!
Have a great Christmas – and to everyone who’s been on this forum this year!
Brian will be happy I didnt use the word, transcending 🙂 Oh the animated stories were a strange inclusion at first but they turn out to be a superb touch and I ended up looking forward to it in each episode!
There is talk of a second season but this season was conceived as a sole season and it certainly feels “complete” in its journey. I dont think there should be a second season just for the sake of it. The reason there is talk of it, is because it actually won many awards, including several Emmys. z
Oh and Merry Christmas to you too, Andy and to everyone here.
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