To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Lightyear is a computer-animated sci-fi action-adventure film directed by Angus MacLane (Finding Dory) from a screenplay by MacLane and Jason Headley (Onward). Featuring Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Bill Hader, and Isiah Whitlock Jr. Lightyear is Pixar’s 26th feature film and a spin-off of the Toy Story franchise serving as the movie Andy saw that inspired the Buzz Lightyear toyline. The movie-within-a-movie follows Buzz Lightyear as he leads a ragtag group of wannabe Space Rangers against the ruthless Zybots and their enigmatic leader known as Zurg.
In deep space, a turnip-shaped ship locates the potentially habitable planet T’Kani Prime and beings to wake members of its crew from cryosleep. Star Command Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) along with his best friend and commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), and rookie recruit Featheringhamstan (Bill Hader) exit the ship to explore the planet to determine its suitability for colonization. After discovering that the planet hosts hostile plant life and insectoid creatures, they are forced to retreat to their vessel to leave the planet. During the escape, Buzz crashes the vessel damaging the hyperspace crystal and marooning the entire crew on the planet.
One year later, the crew have constructed a small colony and fixed their exploration vessel. Buzz volunteers to test the hyperspace fuel necessary for them to leave the planet and complete their mission. After a four-minute test flight around the closest sun fails to reach hyperspeed Buzz returns to the colony disappointed. However, upon landing, he finds that four years have passed on T’Kani Prime due to the effects of time dilation from having traveled at such high speeds. Determined to fix his mistake Buzz continues testing the hyperspace fuel losing four years each time as those around him continue to grow old and die.
As a big fan of all four Toy Story movies, I was very interested when Pixar announced that they were making a feature about Buzz Lightyear. Interestingly enough, Lightyear is not the first Buzz Lightyear spin-off film. The Disney direct-to-video release, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins (2000), was the first and served as the pilot for the television series, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000–2001). The movie and series start with the framing device of Andy’s toys (after the events of Toy Story 2) watching the respective media. The series ran for 62 episodes, which was typical for an animated show produced by Walt Disney Television Animation. Lightyear starts with a similar framing device although it’s only text explaining and none of the characters from Toy Story appear.
Lightyear is akin to an animated Interstellar although with less corn and fewer planets. The way they deal with time dilation makes for a very touching montage as Buzz continues to watch Alisha grow older. As Michael Giacchino’s score plays in the background it invokes similar emotions to what he did with the opening scene in Up! – although not quite as sad. The supporting cast is enjoyable, but the standout is easily Sox (Peter Sohn). He’s funny and witty and very similar to K-2SO from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The only issue I can think of with him is how come we never even see an ad or display of his toy in any of the Toy Story films. A talking kitten would be a must-have for boys and girls alike. As with every Pixar film, the animation is beautiful, but for some reason not as photorealistic as Toy Story 4. I feel that style would have been more appropriate as It’s assumed this is a live-action picture in the Toy Story universe.
Surprisingly, Pixar did not choose to mine the original series for ideas when developing this new story. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command was Star Trek meets Star Wars. Filled with interesting characters, stories, and locations. It would have been nostalgic to see the return of Princess Mira Nova, Booster Sinclair Munchapper, and XR as computer-generated models even if new actors were attached to the roles. This brings me to Chris Evans as Buzz Lightyear. I think he does a fantastic job at making the character his own, especially since this is supposed to be a younger Buzz. However, there is also an Old Buzz, voiced by James Brolin. I think it was an odd choice not to have Tim Allen voice the older iteration as a nod to the fans.
I’d say this movie is another win for Pixar in terms of how well the picture is made, but not something that warrants keeping all of their movies as theatrical exclusives. Certain creative decisions turn out great while others are questionable at best. I give Lightyear a Decent 7/10. The big question is if we will get other Toy Story spin-offs? Since Lightyear was announced fans have been asking when Woody will get his theatrical movie.