Header Ads

Lightyear (2022)

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, a young boy named Andy was given a toy based on his favourite movie. This is that movie. Or at least that's what Pixar want us to believe based on the pre-title card that opens Lightyear. In reality, you're best off putting such thoughts out of your mind as this is not a Toy Story movie. Not really

The film centres on a version of Buzz Lightyear we've never seen before (now voiced by Chris Evans) who- along with his fellow passengers- becomes marooned on a remote planet. Volunteering to try to find a way home, he discovers that while only minutes have passed for him, years have gone by on the planet's surface. Trying time and again, more and more time passes by. Eventually, he returns to find the colony being menaced by robots who serve the mysterious Zurg.

It's no great revelation to say that Lightyear is an extremely good looking movie. Pixar's animators and artists are at the very top of their game and everything looks fantastic. Lightyear is their first movie in a while that leans a bit closer toward realism and away from the more cartoony and stylised animation of Turning Red and Luca. The faces are still more caricatured, so there's no danger of stumbling into the uncanny valley.

With such impressive visuals on display, it's not hard to imagine why Disney higher-ups might have seen this as a more 'cinematic' movie than other recent Pixar films. It still impresses on the small screen. 


Outside its technical brilliance however, the film is not always entirely successful. At the heart of this is the character of Buzz himself. Evans does fine with the material he's given, but there's really nothing much to the character beyond a lantern jaw and bland clean-cut heroism. This version of Buzz is also pretty straight-laced and often humourless- very different from the version we're used to.

Outside of Buzz himself, the cast is highly likeable, helped in no small way by an excellent cast. Standouts include Uzo Aduba, Keke Palmer and Taika Watiti. The film's real breakout star is Sox the robot cat (Voiced by Pixar director Peter Sohn).

The time dilation concept is an interesting one and is pretty heady stuff for a family film. However, it's not as emotionally affecting as it could have been. The film really wants us to feel for him and be invested in his friendship with Commander Hawthorne. The problem is that Buzz's first jump forward comes so early in the film that we haven't really had the time to have any real connection with anyone. The same idea is pulled off more effectively elsewhere, such in the 80's favourite The Flight Of The Navigator and classic anime Gunbuster.

From what we saw in the Toy Story movies, it feels like this movie should be a Star Wars style romp. But tonally, this is a long from that. Director Angus MacLane seems to be influenced by a much more cerebral strain of sci-fi, the likes of 2001: A Space Oddysee, Arrival or Interstellar. There's nothing wrong with that in itself, but it does feel like a tonal mismatch.

Once Buzz jumps forward one last time the film takes a more typically Pixar path. Meeting up with a motley crew of volunteers led by Hawthorne's granddaughter Izzy, Buzz helps the colony take on Zurg's robots. Aside from a frankly baffling plot twist, it all unfolds in an entertaining, fairly predictable manner. It's enjoyable enough, but nothing spectacular.

"Enjoyable enough but nothing spectacular" actually makes a pretty good summary of the film as a whole. In a way, Pixar are a victim of their own success. Measured against their own filmography Lightyear seems like a lesser work. But compare it against Hollywood animation as a whole and it fares much better. Lightyear isn't top-tier Pixar but neither is it a disaster.



IN A NUTSHELL: Buzz's journey into uncharted territory is ambitious stuff, but lacks the magic needed to really take off.


Community Rating