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Geek Review: Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear

The surprising thing about Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear isn’t how well Chris Evans channels Tim Allen, and yet is still able to put his own stamp on the character of Buzz Lightyear. It’s also not that this film, like the many Pixar films before it, manages to deftly tell a character driven tale about mistakes and regret, and weave in many emotional elements along the way. It’s not even about being able to reference the Toy Story franchise, where the character of Buzz first debuted, yet still hold its own ground.

It’s that Lightyear manages to do all, and is still able to be a sci-fi film at it core, weaving in elements of time dilation, hyperdrives, alien lifeforms and hints of time travel, without confusing audiences. 

Now that’s impressive.

lightyear

While its foundation as a Toy Story spin-off puts this film in a higher orbit than all other first outings of animated films, this origin story about the Buzz Lightyear character who influenced the toy leans heavily into the science fiction elements that go beyond casual references to Star Command and protecting the universe. 

The pilot of a colony ship headed for a suitable planet, Lightyear takes the ship on a detour after detecting alien life on a nearby planet but is made to strand everyone on the planet after a mistake grounds their colony ship. Buzz takes it upon himself to use the planet’s resources to create a new crystal capable of hyperspace travel, even if it means that each time he test drives a crystal in his space vehicle, those left on the planet age four years while Lightyear remains young, due to the relative effect of time dilation while moving at fast speeds.

The first 30 minutes of set-up establishes the premise and allows audiences to get used to a new, old friend, as Evans does his best to evoke Allen’s voice and posture, yet doing enough to still make this Buzz Lightyear his own. Still a little raw behind the ears, this Lightyear is mission-driven and has the cockyness of a pilot reminiscent of another hotshot on the big screen – Pete “Maverick’ Mitchell.

lightyear

In fact, the first time Lightyear takes off to test his first hyperdrive crystal will remind audiences of the experimental test flight at the start of Top Gun: Maverick, which is a great way to establish all you need to know about Buzz, if you happen to be among the small population who do not know Toy Story.

In between his multiple attempts to perfect the hyperdrive crystal, audiences are privy to the surrounding changes to the rest of the inhabitants of the colony ship – they are ready to settle down and move on if need be. 

For a seemingly children’s movie, there are quite a few things that move beyond their comprehension, and we’re not even talking about the blink-and-you-will-miss-it same-sex kiss that feels oh no natural.

Even adults might get confused on the effects of time dilation, and now Buzz returns after each test to a crew who have aged, and moved on. So bent on fulfilling his mission to bring the colony to their destination, Buzz, like in Toy Story, misses out the obvious right in front of him, of the friendships and relationships he could have gained, had he come to accept there is no slingshot maneuver to pilot out of this one. 

It is upon his final flight that he realises the test is a success, only to discover that the planet has been invaded by robots, led by Zurg in a massive ship in space. And so continues his mission to get everyone home, this time aided by a crew of misfits from the colony, as they are the only ones around who can confront Zurg.

If you adore Toy Story, this here is the reason why Andy loves Buzz Lightyear, and even if you don’t, Lightyear is a heartwarming take on growing up, making mistakes, recognising them, and ultimately, living with them. 

lightyear

For those who recognise Zurg, know that whatever you think or know about his/its relationship with Buzz from the earlier franchise, is no longer canon here. It actually makes more sense how the relationship unfolds here, because if you remember the revelation in Toy Story 2, it was done more as a homage to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, than as some factual element fans should strictly expect Pixar to adhere to.

If there is one quibble, it’s that with the film so focused on the lead, his supporting cast are rather forgettable. Aside from Sox (Peter Sohn) as the robotic cat who can probably move merchandise, there is nothing particularly interesting about Lightyear’s crew comprising Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer) and Darby Steel (Dale Soules). Sure, Taika Waititi voices buffoon Mo Morrison to great laughs, but the fresh recruit is funny because it’s Waititi, not because the character himself is memorable. 

Lightyear offers a nice, modern take on the iconic character. While it might not bring us to beyond, it’s nice to have this friend indeed.

GEEK REVIEW SCORE

Summary

For parents who cannot bring their children to watch the film due to the higher rating, fear not. This is still a wholesome movie that can be enjoyed when it eventually drops on Disney+.

Overall
8.1/10
8.1/10
  • Story - 8/10
    8/10
  • Direction - 8/10
    8/10
  • Characterisation - 8/10
    8/10
  • Geek Satisfaction - 8.5/10
    8.5/10


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