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Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (Blu-ray Review)

cosmos whysoblu thumbHere is something I was really happy to enjoy this past spring.  Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is the spectacular follow-up to Carl Sagan’s award-winning series that explored the remarkable mysteries of the cosmos and our place within it. This thrilling, 13-part adventure transports viewers 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, fans have the chance to experience an unforgettable journey to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest and smallest scale.  Now this impressive Blu-ray is available for all to check out.

Series: 

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As stated, Cosmos is a 13-part series all about delivering information to better help viewers understand the nature of our universe.  There was an original 1980 version hosted by Carl Sagan, but this update, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, presents plenty of information that calls back to that original series, provides updated looks based on what has been learned since, and explores plenty of new territory as well.  It is a fantastic look at how far our world has come, in terms of understanding all that is around us, let alone a great way to simply learn about things.  While media does not necessarily need to teach its viewers, Cosmos was a television event that was literally allowing audiences to learn fascinating stuff for free, with plenty of great production highlights to go with it.

Here are the 13 episodes from this series, presented across four discs:

  1. Standing Up in the Milky Way
  2. Some of the Things That Molecules Do
  3. When Knowledge Conquered Fear
  4. A Sky Full of Ghosts
  5. Hiding in the Light
  6. Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still
  7. The Clean Room
  8. Sisters of the Sun
  9. The Lost Worlds of Planet Earth
  10. The Electric Boy
  11. The Immortals
  12. The World Set Free
  13. Unafraid of the Dark

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From the Big Bang, to evolution, and far beyond, a wealth of topics are covered during this entire series and regardless of how interested one may be in this type of material, the work done to make it play well for audiences everywhere is very evident.  It would be one thing to lecture people with some nifty images in the background, but this is a full-scale cinematic presentation, with some dazzling special effects (for a TV program that is a documentary and not an action show), fantastic cinematography from renowned cinematographer Bill Pope, a look at places all over the world, clever animated sequences, a wonderful score by Alan Silvestri, and plenty of other aspects that make it all worthwhile.

With that, much of the success of Cosmos comes down to how effective Neil deGrasse Tyson is at being the host of the series.  While he may be one of the greater minds currently active in the world, he’s also just a really charismatic guy.  He has the kind of gravitas and charm that makes him inherently likable and easy to listen to, which is important, given how technical everything can get at times.  That said, the information being shared is never presented as something that makes one feel inferior to those speaking to you, as a good job is done to relate all this science mumbo-jumbo to audiences that simply want to hear about what is being described in understandable detail.  It is a great balance made possible by Neil and everyone else involved in this project.

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Speaking of everyone else involved, along with the filmmakers that have jumped on this project to make it a visual spectacle, with plenty of insightful and informative presentations being delivered via Neil and the animated segments, plenty of actors lend their talents as well.  People like Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Patrick Stewart and others all step in for various episodes to voice some of the famed scientists and philosophers from much older times.  Additionally, the fact that Seth MacFarlane was a major force in getting this project going is also pretty interesting.  Here’s a guy that can do whatever he wants, but despite his comedy background, he chose to back a project that he felt was truly worthwhile as well as educational.  It is the kind of thing that makes me believe that many people wanted to make this happen, not just because they could, but because they should.

Whether it is for nostalgic reasons, based on the fondness for the first Cosmos, or due to a true interest in the science, or historical theories, or whatever, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey feels like something special.  It was a big enough event for dozens of channels to broadcast it on television, during primetime schedules, for a few months, and it is certainly worth checking out for those that want a well-produced and info-packed series about what it is that shapes our universe, based on the minds of many very intelligent people who did their best to get their theories out there.

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: Given the three kinds of things we see in this film: live-action scenes with Neil deGrasse Tyson, CGI sequences, and animated sequences, there is plenty to look at throughout this series and it is all wonderfully detailed enough to make this an remarkably sharp Blu-ray.  There is a lot to take in, between the location-based sequences and other imagery that likely comes from the Hubble Telescope, in addition to the CG bits, but there is a level of clarity that puts the emphasis on how solid this whole production was.

Depth: Given the use of wild visuals to really emphasize the nature of discovery and imagination within a realm of information being shared, I found a lot of depth within the presentation, throughout this series.

Black Levels: Black levels are about as deep as a black hole, but you can escape Cosmos.

Color Reproduction: The colors are overwhelmingly good on this Blu-ray.

Flesh Tones: We’re mainly just seeing Neil, but he looks good.  Strong facial textures at play here.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing of note.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese

Dynamics: Between the voice of Tyson, the score by Silvestri, and the sound effects that accompany this series, there is a lot at play and it all works very well to deliver a strong audio experience to be immersed with on Blu-ray.

Low Frequency Extension: The sound effects utilized make for some effective moments that utilize the LFE channel.

Surround Sound Presentation: With all that is going on, I really got a kick out of how well balanced the tracks were for each episode.

Dialogue Reproduction: While Tyson may actually seem too loud at times, strange as that sounds, he is generally always clear in his narration.  The animated scenes also come out just fine, when hearing from the characters presented.

 

Extras:

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There is only one audio commentary, which is nice enough, but more would have been appreciated.  That said, while not too many pieces go into the making of this series, I was happy with what was presented, for the most part.

Features Include:

Disc One:

    • Audio Commentary on Premiere Episode – Producers Ann Druyan, Mitchell Cannolo, Brannon Braga, Jason Clark and Kara Vallow talk over the episode “Standing Up in the Milky Way.” I can only imagine the humor executive producer Seth MacFarlane could have added.

Disc Two:

    • Celebrating Carl Sagan: A Selection from the Library of Congress Dedication – Speaking of MacFarlane, he was involving in this very interesting piece.

Disc Three:

    • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey at Comic-Con 2013 – This is a fun panel, with Neil deGrasse Tyson providing some fun, candid answers to various geek questions.

Disc Four:

    • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – The Voyage Continues – This is the best chance to see how this production was put together.
    • Interactive Cosmic Calendar – An interesting feature with Ann Druyan providing a voiceover for this informative and interactive extra.

Summary:

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There is plenty to appreciate about Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.  If you missed the broadcast, check out the Blu-ray, as this is a series that is almost Planet Earth good in terms of presenting interesting amounts of knowledge with some quality production aspects to make for a wonderfully accessible experience.  It certainly helps that the discs look and sound great, and have a decent amount of extra features to add to the experience.  This series was just nominated for 12 Emmy’s.  It deserves the recognition.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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