Director: Angus MacLane
Writers: Jason Headley and Angus MacLane
Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Abuda, Mary McDonald-Lewis, Efren Ramirez, and Isiah Whitlock Jr.
The latest Pixar film, Lightyear, is a meta spin-off from the Toy Story franchise. It is co-written by Jason Headley and Angus MacLane, who’s also in the director’s chair. The idea was sparked with MacLane wondering what made Andy want the Buzz Lightyear toy in the first place. Lightyear follows Galactic Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) and his best friend and co-ranger Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Abuda) are exploring the planet T’kani Prime, when everything goes wrong, and the entire crew is stranded. In a desperate attempt to escape Buzz tests fuel in the hopes of reaching hyperspace, with each attempt letting him skip four years on the planet.
The film starts with a few lines on screen explaining that in 1995 Andy saw this Buzz Lightyear film and it became his favourite film, leading him to get his own Buzz Lightyear toy. This is the strongest connection the film gets to the main series. There’s also a few classic lines delivered by Buzz throughout, but beyond that it doesn’t feel like a Toy Story film in the slightest. Maybe it should have just been its own thing in the first place. That being said, the film is so charming and lovable that it doesn’t detract that much. As you’d expect from Pixar the animation style looks really great, with a much more realistic tone than the rest of the franchise.
Chris Evans has taken over the role of Buzz Lightyear from Tim Allen. The recasting was done to separate this version of Buzz from the one we all know and love, with Evans making the character feel much more grounded and serious. Evans does a really good job, and you can completely believe that Andy would become obsessed with the character. The real star of the film is Sox (Peter Sohn), Buzz’s robotic cat. He’s hilarious and the best part of the film by far. Every line out of Sox’s mouth is brilliant, and he’s definitely one of the better Disney/Pixar side-kicks from recent years. He’s goofy, lovable, and everyone will want one.
The first act of the film, showing Buzz’s repeated attempts to reach hyper-speed has that melancholic tone that Pixar has managed to perfect. With each attempt, Buzz loses four years, and he’s so determined to succeed he doesn’t truly recognise the things he’s missing out on. His friends finding happiness in their new lives, growing older, and then dying. Every time he fails, he tries again as soon as possible, and then he doesn’t really know anyone around him. It doesn’t hit as hard as Up, but it’s still surprisingly moving.
After that the film does become a more standard ‘heroes save the day’ story, with Buzz and his new friends taking down the Zurg ship. The only reason everyone is stuck on the planet is because Buzz doesn’t like to admit that he needs help from others, not even the auto-pilot system. Along the way he has to learn to work with others and see the strength of working in a team.
Lightyear is surprisingly better than it should be. It probably could drop the Toy Story connection completely and wouldn’t lose anything because of it. Pixar just continue to knock it out of the park with another gem.
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