Lightyear is a 2022 animated science fiction action adventure film directed by Angus MacLane, written by Jason Headley and Angus MacLane, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It stars Chris Evans and Keke Palmer. This is a spin-off of and the fifth film in the Toy Story franchise. It was preceded by Toy Story 4.
"To infinity..." - Buzz Lightyear
Andy Davis's favorite movie comes to the big screen now. After being stranded on a planet, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear ventures out on a dangerous mission to fix a mistake and return home.
Pixar's Lightyear is automatically satisfying for one reason and one reason only: it's entertaining. This movie is one hundred percent pure cinematic fun. While Jurassic World Dominion is a dumb, ridiculous kind of fun that doesn't make you feel good, Lightyear feels like just a classic piece of entertainment. It's exciting. The environments are cool. The story, while safe, is compelling. It has amazing visuals. It embraces the science fiction adventure side of the film. You see the obvious homages to Star Wars, Star Trek, and 2001, and they are fun. If you want to go have a good time at the movies, check this film out.
And it goes without saying at this point, but the animation in this movie is just breathtaking. What they are able to do with space travel and robots and humans is just jaw-dropping. The progression from Buzz's first ever cinematic appearance in 1995 to now is stunning. This film has some of the most beautiful visuals I have ever seen in an animated movie. It should be seen on the biggest screen possible.
Part of the reason I was so excited for Lightyear was because they announced Chris Evans as the voice of Buzz. If anyone can replace Tim Allen's iconic voice, it's Chris Evans. Normally, I think it would be distracting if you have an actor replace another actor in a role that the previous actor has been playing for 20+ years, but in this case, it works. This is Buzz Lightyear the human, not the toy, so it makes sense that they don't sound the exact same. And Evans just nails the voice. He feels so much like Tim Allen's Buzz while being different and great in his own way.
The character that absolutely steals every single scene, however, is Sox the Cat. Early reviews called him insanely funny, and, while he is funny, I didn't find him outrageously hilarious. However, I just felt like his presence on screen had a certain feel to it that I loved. He made me feel weirdly comfortable in situations where you should be uncomfortable. The voice actor for Sox absolutely knocked it out of the park. He was easily my favorite character.
The film also uses our knowledge of Toy Story and the character of Buzz Lightyear to its advantage. There are lines said in the film and actions done in the film that will put a smile on your face because you remember seeing Buzz do that in one of the Toy Story movies or you remember hearing him say that. It's part of what makes this movie so cool.
This film also has the emotional weight that Pixar is so known for and so good at. There's two scenes in particular involving holograms that may have you crying. They use Buzz's most iconic quote to great effect, adding an emotional layer to it that will give you goosebumps every time it's said. The story has a similar emotional weight to Interstellar, and, while I think Interstellar is much heavier and more emotional, Lightyear has some of the stuff that that movie has.
I think that this is my favorite Pixar movie since Toy Story 4. If you've read my reviews of Soul, Luca, and Turning Red, you know that I've been a little bit down on Pixar lately. Usually, they pump out a great movie every year. I feel like their last four movies (The three I mentioned before plus Onward) have been some of their worst. Obviously, that's a high bar, but they haven't really met the standard of quality that I associate Pixar with. Lightyear gets closer to that standard than any of those previous movies.
While it gets closer to that standard, it still doesn't quite meet it.
The biggest criticism I have of Lightyear is that this story feels pretty safe. Pixar is known for taking wacky concepts and crafting compelling, fun family entertainment out of it that gives you a unique experience every time you watch it. Hell, it made a fantastic movie about a rat who is taught how to cook by a ghost! Lightyear is a sci-fi adventure...and nothing really more than that. It doesn't try to be anything special. It doesn't try to wow you with its big, powerful emotions. For being a spin-off of the Toy Story franchise, it never really comes close to the heights of those movies, because it doesn't take any risks. Pixar is known for taking risks, but Lightyear is definitely their safest movie yet.
They also made some strange choices regarding the character of Zurg. Zurg has always been the villain of the Buzz Lightyear franchise, so it made sense that he was the antagonist of this film. However, they don't really develop him. They try to explain some backstory and some motivation, but it feels rushed. It comes off as a basic exposition dump that falls flat. It raises more questions than the answers it gives you. I feel like they could've just kept the traditional version of Emperor Zurg that we know from the Toy Story movies and the Buzz Lightyear TV show, but, instead, we get this version of Zurg that doesn't entirely work.
In this film, Buzz is the protagonist (obviously), Zurg is the antagonist, and then there's Buzz's crew of Space Rangers. This consists of Sox, Izzy Hawthorne, Mo Morrison, and Darby Steel. While Buzz, Izzy, and Sox are all good characters, Mo and Darby are not. They are very much sidelined, and, while they have moments of payoff and redemption, I don't really think the execution of their characters was all that good. It feels like they set up a good arc for Mo that doesn't really go in the direction I thought it was going. Darby's character is bad from the beginning. They just frustrated me, because at times, it felt like they were taking away from Buzz, Izzy, and Sox.
Like I said at the beginning of the Sour, Lightyear is still one of the weaker Pixar movies. I enjoyed it. It's good. But I wish it was great. To show you my current frustration with Pixar, I'm going to demonstrate something:
THE LAST FIVE PIXAR MOVIES (2020-2022)
Turning Red (2022)
THE FIVE PIXAR MOVIES BEFORE ONWARD (2016-2019)
Finding Dory (2016)
Cars 3 (2017)
Incredibles 2 (2018)
Toy Story 4 (2019)
While Finding Dory and Cars 3 are good, not great, Coco, Incredibles 2, and Toy Story 4 are all in my top ten, if not top five, Pixar movies. THAT is standard of quality that I expect from a Pixar movie. And they just haven't been meeting that standard. I hoped Lightyear would be the one to break this little slump they've been having, but no. Fingers crossed for Elemental.
Oh, also, there are three post-credits scenes. They are not worth the wait. You can watch them when they inevitably get leaked on YouTube.
Should you go see Lightyear?
Yes. Go with your whole family. While my little rant at the end of the Sour may have seemed like I didn't like it, I do. It's a very good piece of entertainment for all ages. Beautiful visuals make this one a good IMAX watch.
Lightyear is a really fun sci-fi adventure that doesn't reach the insane heights of the Toy Story movies. However, it's pure entertainment at its finest and is definitely worth your time.
I will go Savory here. Age range is 5+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Story: 8/10 Characters: 7.5/10
Directed by Angus MacLane
Rated PG for science fiction violence and action, potentially scary images, thematic elements
Released on June 17, 2022
1 hour and 45 minutes
Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear
Keke Palmer as Izzy Hawthorne
Peter Sohn as Sox the Cat
James Brolin as Emperor Zurg
Taika Waititi as Mo Morrison
Dale Soules as Darby Steel
Uzo Aduba as Alisha Hawthorne
Mary McDonald-Lewis as I.V.A.N.
Efren Ramirez as Airman Diaz
Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Captain Burnside