Lightyear is Pixar’s latest release, now available to watch on Disney+. Featuring the eponymous Space Ranger from the Toy Story films, Lightyear aims to bring something new to a character we know so well. But despite being a fun, enjoyable space romp, it fails to reinvent the wheel and justify its existence.
The film opens on a title card explaining straight off how this ties in with the Toy Story films, stating that in 1995 a boy called Andy got a toy that was inspired by a movie, and Lightyear is that movie. It then jumps straight into the action with Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) waking up from hibernation to investigate signs of life on an unknown world alongside his Commander and best friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), while the rest of the crew remain in hibernation.
After running into hostile lifeforms, they attempt to flee but in doing so Buzz causes their ship to crash, destroying their hyperspace crystal and stranding them on the planet. The crew rally around to utilise the planet’s materials to construct a colony and rebuild their ship, and Buzz volunteers to be a test pilot. A year later they’re ready to test a new hyperspace crystal but Buzz’s test flight does not go to plan. The crystal fails and on returning to the planet, he discovers the effects of time dilation – four years have passed on the surface for what was only a four-minute flight for him.
Alisha gives Buzz a personal companion cat robot, SOX (Peter Sohn), to help him readjust, but instead Buzz decides to dedicate himself to fixing the hyperspace crystal. Over 62 years Buzz tests the crystals to no avail, while Alisha grows old and has a family. After finally testing a crystal successfully, Buzz returns to discover that 22 years have now passed and the planet is under siege from an army of robots led by Zurg (James Brolin). He meets Alisha’s granddaughter Izzy (Keke Palmer) and her friends Mo (Taika Waititi) and Darby (Dale Soules), and they decide to work together to stop Zurg and use the crystal to return the colony home.
As you’d expect from Pixar, the animation in Lightyear is fantastic. From the characters to the astonishing-looking scenery and space scenes, it’s spot on. The action scenes too are very well done and the hyperspace and flight scenes are both stunning and incredibly realistic, to the point where I almost forgot I was watching an animation. The montage scenes are especially beautiful and moving and very reminiscent of the Carl and Ellie scenes from Up.
Considering the fact that Buzz Lightyear is a well-established character, Chris Evans does a great job in bringing him to life and connecting him with the toy version voiced by Tim Allen. The rest of the cast too are engaging and all bring a likeability to their respective characters. However, the show is undoubtedly stolen by the robot cat SOX. Not only is he incredibly adorable, but he also has the funniest lines and Peter Sohn delivers them with such brilliant deadpan timing.
It’s a shame that the characters are spoilt by the plot. Zurg comes across as a generic villain and rather forgettable, and there’s a twist that has been seen many times before in sci-fi films and sadly fails to land. The story itself while fun, is overall somewhat predictable and doesn’t bring anything new that hasn’t been seen in sci-fi films before. And I’d argue that while fun, it never really becomes anything extraordinary and is giving us a backstory to Buzz that we didn’t really need to know.
Overall Lightyear is a fun and enjoyable film that looks good and has a standout star in SOX the cat, but ultimately it’s an addition to the Toy Story universe that we didn’t really need.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!