On the whole, I found this new take on 'Cosmos' extremely underwhelming, disappointing even. While Sagan's original series had a great deal of substance and searching, probing historical insight, Tyson's if anything is the opposite: a lot of style but less substance. Most of the screen time is dominated by either overblown CGI sequences and sweeping, but banal orchestral music (in contrastOn the whole, I found this new take on 'Cosmos' extremely underwhelming, disappointing even. While Sagan's original series had a great deal of substance and searching, probing historical insight, Tyson's if anything is the opposite: a lot of style but less substance. Most of the screen time is dominated by either overblown CGI sequences and sweeping, but banal orchestral music (in contrast to the very interesting and alien-sounding electronica of the original, and its use of classic orchestral pieces which were very awe-inspiring), or some very underwhelming animated sequences of historical dramas (apparently done by the animator of 'Family Guy,' no kidding!) which fall far short of the historical realism and subtlety conveyed by the period dramas of the original series.
The show did present, to be sure, some interesting and more updated theories of cosmology, most importantly 3 dimensional maps of the sun's gravitational pull and the 'rogue planets,' which are quite fascinating. But it was presented in no more depth than as mere snippets between CGI sequences, more in the manner of sound bites than anything more substantial. A great deal more insight could easily be garnered from a half hour perusal of a cosmology magazine or introduction to astrophysics book. While the presentation of the science may be educational for an elementary school audience, I think even secondary school children would eventually become bored by its lack of depth and substance, let alone learned adults.
Unfortunately, the explorations of history and social relations are even worse. Unlike Sagan, who presented a deeply nuanced and sophisticated elucidation of history, Tyson's is decidedly one-dimensional; it seems to merely recapitulate the hackneyed, bourgeois "great man" theory of history. There also seems to be an overwhelming focus on *men* without even the barest of nods to the patriarchal suppression of women's discoveries and insights across history (at least there was no mention of this in episode 1, whereas Sagan discussed figures like Hypatia). He even has the bombast to declare that at the time of Bruno "no one else" on earth believed that the earth circled the sun, a clearly preposterous statement that Sagan would never have made--in fact, as Sagan illustrated in his original series, the theory was decidedly old hat by the time of the Renaissance, having its historical roots in Presocratic Greece! One wonders, given such awful lapses of judgement, if Tyson had even watched the original series of his mentor.
The animation sequences are Disney-like, which as some reviewers have noted are very jarring, and extremely unfitting as an attempt to convey history in terms of its depth and nuances. Even the animation style is too simplistic; while something as stylistically complex as, for example, Studio Ghibli's anime may have worked more effectively to evoke the imagination, the animation style employed here comes across as woefully inadequate.
At least insofar as the first episode was concerned, the originality of the documentary seems highly questionable. Aside from simply re-presenting some of Sagan's original concepts (specifically the spaceship of the imagination and the cosmic calendar), I'm finding it difficult to identify anything that was genuinely new or innovative, or shed any substantive light on the most recent findings of cosmology/astrophysics.
In the end, there is far less actual social and historical context to flesh out the episode than with Sagan's first episode; a telling indication of this is the fact that while much time is spent providing CGI scenes, much less than the original series is spent qualifying the images with analysis.
Even more appallingly, the presentation of Bruno's religious persecution is extremely doctrinaire. I am no defender of the Christian papacy, but the history of the Christian religion is far more complex and contradictory than merely the church persecuting believers in 'science.' In fact, many of the Renaissance scientists, and radical social movements within Christianity (Cromwell's factions, the Diggers, John Ball and his followers, to name but a few), were not only deeply opposed to the papacy but, as Ernst Bloch has shown, advanced extremely libertory, libertine, and "heretical" interpretations of the Bible which are simply not reducible to the current anglo-American context of religious fundamentalists versus liberal atheists. The blatant reductionism of presenting Christianity as a whole as nothing more than the evil of the papacy is just one example among many of the ham-fisted, Hollywood-esque approach to history that I fear is but a foreshadow of what is to come later in the series.
In conclusion, I find little basis upon which to recommend this so-called 'reboot' of the series, and found little of interest in the first episode that would encourage me to watch the rest. It had much promise, a promise which only added to my disappointment.… Expand