If you are familiar with animated movies, then there is a good chance you have heard of Toy Story. The 1995 film by Disney and Pixar has become one of the most cherished movies for both studios. Not only did Toy Story put Pixar on the map but it has become one of their most successful franchises with four films to its name. Among the series highlights is none other than one of Toy Story’s title character-Buzz Lightyear. The plastic space ranger has become one of the most recognizable characters in animation. Given the last time we saw Buzz, it was hard to imagine that the character would making any more appearances on the big screen-but that was not case. A few years ago, Pixar announced a movie that centers on the popular character, but rather than being a continuation this film would be a spin-off of sorts focusing on the mythos of space ranger. So, after a long hiatus from theaters, Pixar make their return to the big screen with a new take on their beloved franchise: Lightyear.
Directed by Angus MacLane, Lightyear tells the story of Buzz (Chris Evans) who, after a mission goes wrong, journeys through hyperspace in order to create a new fuel for Star Command. However, Buzz’s travels lead him into a future where he helps a group of rookies face a mysterious being known as Zurg (James Brolin) who seeks Buzz and the fuel source that he is carrying. The idea behind this movie came from MacLane himself whose no stranger in is working with Pixar’s established franchise as he codirected 2016’s Finding Dory. Mac not only wanted to create an origin for Buzz but make a movie that captured elements from sci-fi films that he enjoyed. While it may seem like another way for studios to profit off this animated franchise, Lightyear looked promising with its stunning visuals and dynamic tone. So naturally I traveled to the far reaches of the silver screen to this new Pixar film, and after seeing it is this Film Adventurer’s opinion that Lightyear is a simple, but ambitious, entry for the animated studio.
Lightyear was as much an origin story as it was a out of this world adventure. As origin stories go, this tale was simple but effective. The plot itself was fine, but some of its details like Star Command’s role were hardly touched upon. Furthermore, the plot’s fast pace hindered it from flourishing as aspect felt rushed and lacked the proper impact. Yet this is not to say the story was not without its quality. Despite its quick pace, the plot was exhilarating and some of its direction took me by surprise; and many of its elements like traveling through hyperspace felt appropriate for a science fiction story. This story understood its center and while that comprehension may not have made this plot and out of this world tale, it was an enjoyable adventure fitting of its title character.
Speaking of the title character, a major curiosity going into this was movie was how it handle Buzz Lightyear. Having such a legacy already, this new rendition had much to live up to-even with the movie centering on completely different Buzz. Fortunately, this movie was able to not only live up the character’s legacy but create something new. While some of Buzz’s direction could be broad, the Space Ranger was still an engaging protagonist thanks to his balance characterization and the solid performance from Chris Evans. Along with Buzz was a ragtag group of characters that were simplistic but entertaining all the same. The aspiring rookie Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer) had an effective development while her companions Darby (Dale Soules) and Morrison (Taika Waititi) were fun additions to the cast though they could be excessive in places. Perhaps the biggest highlight to the cast was none other than Buzz’s robotic cat Sox (Peter Sohn) whose subtle mannerisms and helpful nature made this artificial feline a fantastic supporting character. Rounding the cast out were characters like Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), Buzz’s best friend and Izzy’s grandmother, as well as Zurg despite the villain having a limited presence in this interstellar ensemble.
As this is a Pixar film, it was not surprising that the animation was a highlight for Lightyear. Going into this movie, the animation looked to be top notch and, thankfully, it did not disappoint. The overall look was surprising as it featured a keen design that created a realistic vibe for the movie. Along with its stellar look, the animation execution was fantastic as it gave the movie some wonderful shots that encompassed the studio’s prowess. Between these two factors, the animation was not only fitting for a sci-fi film but brought something unique to Pixar’s repertoire. Another promising aspect was the music by Michael Giacchino, though I cannot say it delivered at the same level as the animation. The music was effective in capturing the film’s tone, but it did not leave the impression I would have hoped for. Despite the lacking compositions, the technical aspects of this film were more than efficient as they provided the right tone for this intergalactic spin-off.
Lightyear was a different entry for Pixar, and the result was a mix bag to say the least. The straightforward nature surrounding this film proved to be a detriment as both the story and characters were lacking in some respect. Yet I would not say this mission was a complete lost. While it may have been broad, the story was still engaging while the cast was enjoyable in many aspects. Furthermore, the film had an appropriate presentation which was evident in its wonderous animation. Lightyear may not have gone to infinity and beyond, but this animated feature was still an enlightening experience worthy of both its respected series and studio.