Lightyear Review: Pixar’s Latest Adventure Honors and Enhances a Timeless Character
Disney/Pixar’s announcement of Light year was something that sent shockwaves through the company’s fan community. For the first time, we have a spin-off/origin story of a character outside of the context of the original franchise, only instead of seeing the beginnings of the toy we got to know in toy story, we’re looking at the “real” Buzz Lightyear. Everything from outright skepticism to outright optimism was on the line, as this was new ground for computer-animated dream makers.
Having followed the path director/co-writer Angus MacLane took to explore such a concept, I can safely say that Light year honors and highlights its timeless character, and in an exciting and fresh way. Of course, the part of this formula that needs to be reworded is exactly what Light years initial title cards spell out for all who watch.
It was the science fiction film that sparked the imagination of young Andy in the toy story world, inspiring it to want the resulting linked product. In other words, we’re watching the “real” Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) on a quest on behalf of science and Star Command. This origin story introduces our Space Ranger to a handful of new friends (KeKe Palmer, Dale Soules and Taika Waititi), with whom he will team up to defeat his newly created ultimate enemy: the evil Zurg (James Brolin).
Even the most cynical Pixar fan should be impressed with how Lightyear uses his new premise.
Light years very meta premise could have been used to laugh, wink and nod at Buzz’s character as we saw in toy story. Some may even have thought that this was the strategy that this film’s history movie would have taken, similar to Pixar’s “out reels” where movie characters like The life of an insect are in reality only committed actors. It’s the polar opposite of what Angus MacLane, along with story/script collaborators Matthew Aldrich and Jason Headley, set out to do.
Whereas Light year has tons of easter eggs, plot points, and even bandages reminiscent of the star wars and Extraterrestrial franchises, he never flies wholesale in any of those worlds. Using these sagas as inspiration, the real story at the heart of it all is Buzz’s obsession with completing his mission. In its own way, Buzz Toy’s crazy mission-driven mindset toy story makes even more sense after seeing Light year.
Coming into this film, I had heard fellow critics mention that they actually cried for Light year. This is where even the skeptic in me took a moment, as I wasn’t sure what they could have done to elicit such a response. While I don’t doubt Pixar’s ability to bring people to tears, this particular storyline took me by surprise, as what begins as a rousing space adventure version of The good thingor dare I say Superior guntakes a complete turn At the top territory. Even using their own playbook, the Pixar team didn’t phone the emotion, and that’s part of what nails it. Light years the tone and texture so wonderfully.
Chris Evans’ Buzz Lightyear leads a cast of lovable and engaging characters, with one surprise that almost steals the entire show.
Chris Evans being the latest actor to voice Buzz Lightyear almost felt like a type cast when it was announced. For some, it may have been an easy decision to draft the man who played the MCU’s stoic Captain America as the “serious” version of Light years protagonist. And yet, this version of Buzz is more complicated than one might expect, with a huge chip on his shoulder which ends up being the crux of his story.
Just as the story of this sci-fi adventure offers different textures to the Buzz Lightyear character, Light year gives Chris Evans something new to work with. Again, it was the film that inspired the toy story action figure, so on-screen Luke Skywalker is clearly going to act differently than his licensed Kenner counterpart. While Evans certainly gets moments that invoke Tim Allen’s original performance, it’s not a Buzz Lightyear cover version we’re looking at.
The same goes for James Brolin’s Zurg, who pretty much gets a front-page rewrite as the character. Forget what you know of toy story 2 or even Star Command’s Buzz Lightyearbecause the circumstances surrounding Zurg are quite surprising in Light year. With a new enemy to fight, Buzz Lightyear also needs new friends. which is what this movie definitely excels at.
Playing the trio of Maurice, Izzy and Darby respectively, Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer and Dale Soules each bring a unique attitude to the handful of Junior Rangers teaming up with Buzz. Running the gamut between comic relief, heroic inspiration, and utterly badass action, the actors create awesome dreamy steam when bonded with the serious hero of Chris Evans.
But believe me when I tell you that the hype surrounding Buzz’s robotic cat SOX (Peter Sohn) is absolutely worth buying. This character steals almost the entire film, once again showing how to take the right archetype and nail it through a new take. Light year go up quite high. What could have been a simple dispenser of a jokey catchphrase is shown with as much depth as the humans he follows.
Lightyear borrows from Pixar’s past, through the lens of the present, to create a very interesting future.
Reimagining Buzz Lightyear was a task that could have gone wrong, as meta-narratives like Light year do not always stick landing. What could have been a one-off that proved why these kinds of movies shouldn’t be made ended up being a hugely surprising success. Borrowing from Pixar’s past and showing it through the lens of the present, we’re given a film that could lead to a very interesting future.
It’s a bit chaotic at first, as the proper tone takes a bit of time to set in. Once Light year finds his way, he doesn’t stop, hurtling straight into an adventure dealing with real blue hero stuff. While it may not reach infinity, the finished story absolutely goes beyond what anyone would have expected. By the time I had reached the end, I was already excited to see where the sequels might go, smiling in the final shot like it was my first time watching. toy story.
Yes, Light year will make you believe this toy can fly. That being said, this is an adventure that takes bits and pieces of Pixar’s best emotional storytelling and properly gels it with all the adventure, action, and humor you could want. You can definitely see why Andy would have wanted a Buzz Lightyear for his birthday, and new generations of kids are about to demand the same. Only this time there will certainly also be a lot of SOX toys in these shopping carts.