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lightyear

★★★

starring: chris evans, uzo aduba, taika waititi, and dale soules 

 

REVIEWER: lyall carter

Buzz Lightyear embarks on an intergalactic adventure with a group of ambitious recruits and his robot companion.

The definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, Lightyear follows the legendary Space Ranger after he is marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he is joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda.

 

Lightyear is kinda a big deal. Not only is this the first Pixar movie to open in cinemas for three years (at least in NZ - Onward never made it to a theatrical release like it did in other territories), it’s an exploration of the life and world of one of arguably Pixar’s most beloved characters. For those confused on where this film sits in the Toy Story universe, Lightyear’s opening titles clarify this from the get go. In 1995 Andy got a toy from his favorite movie. This is that movie. 

 

While there are some narrative flourishes, you can’t help shake the sense that we kinda know this tale from across the four Toy Story installments or the several specials that have been released over the years. And the slight twists that they make to what we already know don’t quite land. The supporting characters seem to be slightly underdeveloped as well except for Sox, Buzz’s robotic cat companion, who brings some lighter moments and much needed laughs to the somewhat serious proceedings. 

 

The makers of Lightyear have sought to infuse this non-toy, fully human Buzz Lightyear with more humanity than a plastic toy could hope to muster. But the more human moments, the traditional Pixar gut punches that will leave you in a stream of tears, are largely missing from Lightyear. Those that are present feel like an afterthought in the pursuit of a more action packed spectacle. 

 

And Lightyear is stacked to the gunnels with action. With breathtaking flight sequences that would give Top Gun: Maverick a run for its money, heart in your mouth encounters with Zurg’s robot minions, Lightyear is a fully blown, animated action flick. It’s also beautifully rendered with Pixar once again upping its animation game with intricately animated spacecraft that you can almost smell the fuel on. 

 

While Lightyear is an action stacked, exquisitely rendered animated action flick, it’s missing a lot of the heart of it’s plastic predecessor.

★★★