I intended to post this review earlier this week but it’s been far too hot to do anything. So, I waited until it was a bit cooler. It means that I’m able to actually write something but it also means that it’s been a while since I watched this film. Hopefully, I can remember it enough to get through this. I was pretty excited to watch this. It sounded like the kind of thing for me. Chris Evans, Pixar, upset right-wing mums… it had everything I love. The only thing I wasn’t sure about was how it would all fit together.
Thankfully that question is sorted out immediately. The opening title card tells us “In 1995, Andy got a toy from his favourite movie… … this is that movie.” So, this wasn’t really the Buzz that we know and love but the character that inspired the toy. It’s an interesting concept but not one that necessarily justifies the making of this film. It kind of feels like Pixar wanted to go sci-fi but didn’t feel confident that it would work. So, they just stuck the name of their only sci-fi character on it for good measure. Were they leaning on familiarity and nostalgia rather than quality?
Well, not in terms of animation. The film is absolutely gorgeous, which isn’t really a shock. We know that Pixar understands how to make a film look good. The visuals here are stunning. The use of colour and the depictions of space are amazing. Just watch as Buzz jumps to hyperspeed and delight in the visual feast on display. This also extends to the characters who are well-drawn and boast a great cast of voice actors. Chris Evans isn’t really doing much different here and is kind of playing sci-fi Captain America. Thankfully, he does that pretty well. The new additions to the cast are all fun but none more so than Buzz’s robotic kitty friend. He’s sure to be a fan favourite.
So, it’s looking like so far so good for Lightyear. Surely this is a great sign. The problems start to arise when you focus on the story itself. It’s all a bit meh. I came away from this film wondering what the point was. It starts off quite dramatically with Buzz crash landing on a strange new planet. The entire crew of the ship must then make a home there as they try to fix the ship. This ends up taking longer than they thought but Buzz remains convinced that he can save them. His experiments see him missing out on decades of life and watching as his friends grow old around him. This is clearly meant to amp up the emotional stakes but it doesn’t resonate as much as other Pixar moments.
As far as the narrative goes, the film is pretty disappointing. The premise never quite reaches hyperspeed and sort of meanders along to some sort of ending. Not a satisfactory one but an ending. It also works really hard to shoehorn in all of the Toy Story references it can. Boy, they had to do some heavy lifting to introduce Zurg into this premise. It results in a villain that doesn’t really register and leads to way more questions. Lightyear isn’t a terrible film but you do get the impression that it would have worked better had it not been linked to Toy Story. If they’d just made a science-fiction film and not tried to get too clever about it.