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Monday, June 16, 2014

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Blu-ray Review


You don't have to be a Family Guy fan to absolutely adore Seth MacFarlane. He's had success in animation and at the box office, but one of his greatest achievements could be the resurrection of Cosmos. Apparently, MacFarlane is a super science geek and good friend of Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan. Who knew, right? Well, probably the millions of people who watched the recent documentary series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey aimed to continue Sagan's work -- and on the Fox network! While it may seem out of place for MacFarlane's TV home (the same network that gave the greenlight to The Swan, The Littlest Groom and Married By America), this series is quite a feast for the senses.

MacFarlane serves as one of the show's executive producers. Just in case you need some additional credibility, know that Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, with Druyan serving as a writer, executive producer and director. It's also filled with all sorts of awesome cinematography and scientific tidbits, all of which should appeal to varying ages.


 Neil deGrasse Tyson suits up for "The Clean Room," an episode of "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey." Photo: © Fox Broadcasting.

The show recently wrapped up its broadcast run, exactly two days before the Blu-ray release. If you missed any of those 13 episodes, a little binge-watching is in order. Designed as a follow-up to Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Voyage from the 1980s, this series has a format similar to its predecessor. Of course, it does have way better production values. A lot is covered in these 13 episodes; it's hard to even scratch the surface of what's presented here. However, you can expect the show to cover a lot of interesting and entertaining topics, including the "Cosmic Calendar," evolution, oceans, the Earth, atoms, and even Sagan himself.

The Picture

If you watched any of these episodes during the show's initial broadcast, you will notice the slight step up on this 1.78:1 image. It looks pretty fantastic. The show uses CGI, animation and live-action sequences throughout every episode, so some images are definitely brighter and more detailed than others. It's not as awesome as a sci-fi blockbuster or even something like Planet Earth, but there are tons of stars, spacecrafts, water, trees, microscopic creatures, and animations to ogle. Yes, that includes Neil deGrasse Tyson's mustache. It's fabulous in HD!

The Sound

Dialogue is absolutely the main focus of Cosmos and Neil deGrasse Tyson is comforting and mesmorizing, as well as crystal clear. However, that doesn't mean that the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is wasted here. There are tons of sound effects to whoosh through the soundfield. Every episode has a little something to keep you engaged. For instance, check out the crickets on "Deeper, Deeper, Deeper Still." I actually had to pause the Blu-ray, because I thought I was hearing actual crickets -- during the day (ahem). It was a nice little surprise, as are the other sound effects used to emphasize every point in every episode.

The Extras

Despite having four discs, the Cosmos extras are a little on the slim side. Some of what's included is quite cool, though. Disc One only has a single commentary track for a single episode. Disc Two has the 35-minute featurette, "Celebrating Carl Sagan." This cobbles together snippets of the Library of Congress event, with very entertaining speeches by Seth MacFarlane and Neil deGrasse Tyson, as well as a few words from Ann Druyan. Disc Three has 40 minutes of the show's debut at Comic-Con, which includes the show's original trailer and a panel discussion. And finally, Disc Four has two pieces. The first is a 41-minute featurette that touches upon the original show and Carl Sagan's work, as well as how the show came about, the various locations, the effects, and more. Then, the whole collection wraps up with an interactive version of the classic "Cosmic Calendar."


Final Thoughts

If you missed any of the episodes (and judging by the ratings, some of you did), Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is an absolute must-have. This is the type of release that screams "buy this Blu-ray." While it could have used a few additional extras, the image is gorgeous, the audio track is fun and the content itself is truly fascinating. It's something that warrants repeat viewing.

Product Details
Hosted by: Neil deGrasse TysonDirectors: Brannon Braga, Ann Druyan, Bill PopeAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English)Subtitles: English SDH, Dutch, French, French (Quebec), Portuguese, SpanishAspect Ratio: 1.78:1Number of Discs: 4Rating: NRStudio: FoxBlu-ray Disc Release Date: June 10, 2014Run Time: 553 minutesList Price: $59.98Extras: Disc One: "Standing Up in the Milky Way" Audio Commentary by Ann Druyan, Mitchell Cannol, Brannon Braga, Jason Clark and Kara VallowDisc Two: Celebrating Carl Sagan: A Selection from the Library of Congress DedicationDisc Three: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey at Comic-Con 2013Disc Four: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - The Voyage ContinuesInteractive Cosmic CalendarSneak Peek

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