Lightyear Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A space adventure about a character based on a fictional toy that is based on a fake movie character. The question is, can this spin-off hold its own, or is it a “Buzz-kill”?
Genre: Action / Adventure / Animation
Director: Angus MacLane
Cast: Chris Evans, Peter Sohn, Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, Uzo Aduba, Efren Ramirez, Isaiah Whitlock Jr. & James Brolin.
Run Time: 105 min.
US Release: 17 June 2022
UK Release: 17 June 2022
German Release: 16 June 2022
It’s done! After staying away from spoilers and reviews for nearly two months, I finally went to see Lightyear. Something I regret now, as I should have waited for the release on Disney+ instead of wasting money on a cinema ticket. The only enjoyment I obtained from this theatre experience, was that I was utterly alone in the screening room, able to moan and groan at the screen as loud as I wanted to. Seriously, I expected more from Pixar - a studio known for creating animation that not only entertains but moves! Instead, we obtain a hollow story no one ever asked for. I should have listened to my gut when I saw the first trailer… After a crash landing on an alien world, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear spends years attempting to return his crew and himself home. Along the way, he encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by the evil Zurg, who attempts to steal the colony's fuel source. The opening title card recaps the beginning of the first Toy Story by reminding us that this is the film that inspired Andy to want a Buzz Lightyear action figure. After leaving the showing, I needed to ask myself what Andy saw in Buzz, if this was the portrayal in the picture he saw, because he really isn’t that great of a character! It also retcons Pixar’s already established filmography of Buzz Lightyear - Buzz Lightyear of Star Command.
Most surprising, however, is how the studio decided to roll out the narrative. They are usually known to create emotionally appealing stories for children and adults alike, which contain valuable moral lessons. Lightyear has all those components to develop an attractive plot; it contains subjects of sacrifice, friendship, passion, the feeling of guilt and how to learn to let go. Sadly, none of these themes is fully pursued, missing to hook the audience sentimentally. Instead, the viewers obtain constant life-threatening action, diminishing the build-up of tension and rendering the final showdown mute.
There is a short attempt to create an emotional trigger about fifty minutes into the animation's runtime, but it is too late to create sympathy for the main character. The final act contains an unforeseen reveal, which is handled pretty clumsily, putting the complete nature of Lightyear in question, even if specific motivations are explained.
The dialogues are equally unmotivated; Buzz comes off as a pretentious prick, monologuing to himself and recording every step he makes as if doing something grand. The jokes fall primarily flat, while every other conversation is over-dramatised.
Buzz Lightyear, voiced here by Chris Evans instead of Tim Allen, who spoke him in the Toy Story franchise, is shallow. We don’t learn anything about his past, what drives him, or even what inspired him to become a space ranger. The main character is a simple plot device for other characters to springboard off. Director Mclane explained that Allen was not asked to reprise the role, as they needed someone with “a commanding presence that also can be funny without being goofy”, yet Evans did not invoke that at all - in fact, Buzz Lightyear is goofier than ever before!
SOX, a robotic companion cat played by Peter Sohn, is the most interesting character. If a robotic cat is pushing aside the lead in its own movie, it should serve as a warning that the project is in trouble! Peter Sohn gave a lovely rendition of his character; he is very charming, making his puns work, as well as refreshing every scene he is in.
Keke Palmer lends her voice to the persona of Izzy Hawthorne, a new character who was meant to take the mantle of co-lead but ultimately disappoints as a character. Yes, she obtains much more backstory than Buzz, exploring her inspiration to become a space ranger. Izzy herself, though, is dull! On the other hand, we have Alisha Hawthorne portrayed by Uzo Aduba. She is a side character, created to reach an awkward emotional moment that did not work, as well as used as a simple device to push Izzy’s development.
I don’t want to talk much about Zurg himself, as the character contains a surprising twist I didn’t see coming. However, I can say this much: He is a disappointing villain!
The animation is magnificent, as per usual for Pixar. The studio went out to create an authentic alien world, with a beautiful violet-vanilla sky in the background. The characters have the typical Pixar esthetics, while the wardrobe and surrounding areas look used and worn-out. The living organisms of the planet are maybe a little too frightening for younger audiences, although the living vines are used for comedic purposes. Short of saying, the computer designs are gorgeous!
Light and shadows are perfectly balanced in this space adventure, containing a perfect blend of strong colours for new suits or technology, with muddy, worn-out colours used for the colony through the years. The hostile alien planet looks bleak and foggy.
Verdict: This Toy Story spin-off did disappoint heavily! The 105-minute runtime feels like two-and-a-half hours due to the uninspired bland script. Constant menial action was chosen over characterisation, which took away all excitement from the final battle. Moral aspects that are touched upon in the narrative are tossed aside for over-dramatisation and unfunny one-liners, while the big twist at the beginning of the third act, is handled without any skill. Lead character Buzz is written as incredibly superficial, sidelined after the fifty-minute mark to focus on more boring people. The only interesting character is SOX, who is a companionship robot. Yes, the animation is stunning, with the world's and space's design looking photorealistic; however, it doesn’t help the final product! Lightyear feels like a generic add-on to a successful series of films and not worth more than a 6.0 out of 10.
Do you agree with my review? If you haven’t seen Lightyear yet, wait for it to release on Disney+ - it is not worth the cinema price!