If you’re confused over the premise of the Lightyear movie, fear not because they make it abundantly clear at the start that you are watching a film from within the Toy Story universe, and not just any film but Andy’s favourite!
That film in question follows Buzz Lightyear after he and his crew are stranded on a faraway planet, and with no hyperspace crystal to charge their jump into outer space, Buzz takes it upon himself to be the hero that will get the ship off the planet.
The Star Command Crew
As stated, Lightyear isn’t a Toy Story movie; it’s more in line with Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins. Like the 2000 spin-off, Lightyear follows an entirely original story with all-new characters, which to some extent includes Buzz.
Chris Evans takes over the mantle of Buzz Lightyear from Tim Allen. Evans is great as our lead hero. However, the arrogant aspect of his character keeps him from reaching the heights of Tim Allen, but that isn’t his fault.
In the original Toy Story, Buzz’s arrogance was played for laughs due to the ridiculous nature of the toy believing he is real. Still, since this version of Buzz is a human, his arrogance becomes one of the more frustrating parts of the movie. It also helps drive the plot forward, making the character even more frustrating, especially when it comes to the expense of the other characters – many of whom are far more interesting.
When the planet is taken over by evil robots controlled by the mysterious Emperor Zurg, Buzz is forced to team up with three seemingly useless individuals played by Keke Palmer, Dale Soules and Taika Waititi, plus Sox (Peter Sohn), Buzz’s robot cat.
It could be considered a blessing that the four characters are so likeable and funny, but that could also be considered a curse because they are all more interesting characters than Buzz himself. Palmer’s Izzy Hawthorne is energetic, Soules’ Darby Steel brings a lot of dry wit, and while Waititi brings a lot of his usual schtick to the table, his performance of Mo Morrison still manages to become one of the better parts of Lightyear.
And that brings us to the real star of the movie – Sox. Played by Pixar animator Peter Sohn, Sox is Buzz’s robotic feline companion. The movie may not be the best Pixar movie, but Sox is one of the best Pixar characters. Similarly to Dug from Up, Sox is a riot from start to finish because of his deadpan responses and sporadic robotic behaviour.
It’s No Toy Story
The movie starts as an almost Interstellar-style sci-fi movie, but once Emperor Zurg and his army are introduced, it enters familiar Pixar territory.
Teamwork and family are core elements in Toy Story, and it was great to see these themes explored differently in Lightyear. It’s just unfortunate that Pixar decided to lean heavily on clumsy characters to move the plot forward – and that’s when they aren’t using Sox like a swiss army knife.
Yes, Lightyear is a good film, but it’s undoubtedly one of Pixar’s slower movies, so much so that it often feels like it plods along in places, and its uncharismatic lead certainly doesn’t help.
It’s also a great shame that Lightyear has the weakest villain in any Toy Story movie. James Brolin plays Emperor Zurg, and his performance isn’t bad by any means; it’s just that the character himself is lacklustre and missing something that the previous Toy Story antagonists had.
The Future and Beyond
Where can Pixar go with Lightyear in the future? Well, many places, and since Lightyear is mainly set on one faraway planet, I would love to see a sequel take us into deep space. And yes, I would say that Lightyear deserves a sequel. The answer to what Disney should do with Star Tours is also here because a Lightyear reskin would work wonderfully on the attraction.
Lightyear may not match the quality of the previous Toy Story movies, and its plot may be slow and generic, but it still manages to create a ride that is a total blast and a decent start to a new spacefaring franchise.