Over at Galileo’s Pendulum, Matthew Francis expresses an opinion that’s sure to get him in trouble with the Inquisition and placed under house arrest: Carl Sagan’s Cosmos isn’t all that:
However, even taking into account the differences in TV between 1980 and 2013, the show is very slow-paced at times. I’m not talking about the mellow oh-so-1970s Vangelis score, or Sagan’s measured style of speech: I mean the obvious stretching of material to make hour-long episodes. I have a long attention span, so I’m not saying Cosmos should be like the frenetic Star Trek reboot; I’m just saying that a serious show about serious science need not be ponderous.
It’s been years since I even tried to watch the original Cosmos– I caught a bit of it a few times when I was home with SteelyKid when she was a baby, and I basically agree. I was actually surprised by how much of it was historical and Earthbound– like MAtthew, most of what I remember of it was the “starship of the imagination” segments, which I loved as a kid when it originally aired.
Of course, it’s difficult to really fully account for the differences in media expectations between then and now. My touchstone for this is the “featured image” movie poster up top, which I’ve thrown in just to thoroughly confuse everybody. That’s from the movie The Hot Rock, an adaptation of the first of Donald Westlake’s comic crime novels about John Dortmunder, and one of the best. This is a caper novel where a hapless gang of thieves have to steal the same gem multiple times, in progressively more outrageous heists, and ought to be very cinematic. To modern eyes, though, it drags really badly in places, most notably a long sequence where they fly around New York in a helicopter for what feels like ages (lots of lingering shots of the then-new World Trade Center towers, eek).
That didn’t particularly stand out at the time, though, and other well-loved movies of a similar era have the same issues– the original The Italian Job was widely praised as vastly superior to the remake when it came out, but when Kate and I watched it, it seemed really slow and shaggy. While the modern remake has significant flaws, it conforms much better to modern expectations for plot and pacing.
So, I suspect that the pace of media is subject to a rule like whichever Murphy’s Law variant it is that says projects always take longer than you expect, even when you account for the fact that they take longer than you expect. Even when you go in knowing that things were paced more slowly back then, it’s almost impossible to appreciate just how much slower they were.
Anyway, the proximate cause of Matthew’s post was, of course, the reveal of the trailer for the third Star Trek reboot movie at Comic-Con:
Oh, sorry, that’s the Cosmos reboot with Neil de Grasse Tyson as
Khan Carl Sagan. But, you know, it’s easy to get mixed up, what with all the dramatic panning and CGI effects and ominous BAAAAAAMMMM noises on the soundtrack.
And as much as my tastes these days are better suited to modern pacing, this makes me a little nervous, to be honest. Of course, this was a trailer made specifically for release at Comic-Con, and thus not necessarily the most highbrow of audiences, so it’s obviously going to play up the gosh-wow graphics budget and not show much of the, you know, science explanations. But that’s an awful lot of gosh-wow graphics stuff all the same, and a lot of the splashier elements of that make me worry about how well it will handle the science.
But maybe this is just another expectations issue, where the Comic-Con-ization of something will always be more shallow and flashy than you expect even when you try to account for the shallow flashiness of Comic-Con…