Lightyear is a bit of an odd choice for Pixar, and that’s been reflected in the disappointing opening weekend at the box office. The film is a Toy Story prequel/spin-off described as the movie young Andy saw in 1995 that made him fall in love with Buzz Lightyear and want the action figure. Meaning that the Buzz Lightyear in this movie and the Buzz Lightyear toy of the 4 Toy Stories are not the same character and do not have the same voice actor. So Tim Allen is not here, and in steps Chris “America’s Ass” Evans as the lead.
The synopsis for Lightyear reads as follows:
A sci-fi action adventure and the definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, “Lightyear” follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew. As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda.Courtesy of Disney/Pixar
The Lightyear “Controversies”
I won’t spend much time here. But because we live in a hellscape where every time a woman, person of color, and/or LGBTQ+ person is in a movie that people expect to be popular we have this same discussion about it being “political” or “woke”, let’s briefly address the controversies around Lightyear.
First off, Tim Allen wasn’t “canceled” for his politics. He’s still working on other projects at Disney. Nobody cares.
Second, and more seriously, there is a lesbian couple in this movie who kiss on-screen. A lot of conservative pants wetting about the “gay agenda”, whatever that is, has ensued because of this fact. If two gay animated characters briefly kissing for 2 seconds in a movie is a thing you don’t want your children to see, that’s your choice to make. But it’s a choice that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and I’m probably going to view you as a very unserious person.
The lesbian characters in question are Commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), Buzz’s leader/friend/fellow Space Ranger, and her wife Kiko. Without spoiling, they’re only in the film very briefly and in that time are shown to represent everything that a loving family should be. No different from countless other happy Disney/Pixar couples, except that they’re 2 women. And that’s okay. Your kid will be fine, I promise.
But is Lightyear any good?
Moving on from that foolishness, time to discuss what we really came here to talk about. Is Lightyear a movie worth going to see in theaters? My answer is yes, but with some caveats.
Lightyear is not a perfect films by any means, and I wouldn’t place it in the upper echelon of legendary Pixar films from before it. If you’re an adult who grew up with Toy Story looking for more of the “aww man, I remember what it was like being a kid! I don’t wanna grow up!” happy tears we’ve come to expect from recent Toy Story movies, that’s not here.
What is here is a fun, humorous, beautifully animated space adventure story. A story about learning to grow from failure and not letting life pass you by in pursuit of your goals. It’s not Toy Story, but it’s not trying to be and that works in the film’s favor. The thing keeping Lightyear from being a top tier Pixar movie is how conventionally it approaches the space genre. If “space” can be considered a genre.
Lightyear OR “Inter-Astra Martian Star Gravity Wars”
I jokingly tweeted after getting out of my press screening for the film that Lightyear is a top 5 Star Wars movie. The film borrows so much from the Star Wars films that it’s impossible to ignore. Emperor Zurg mirrors Darth Vader so closely that Disney might have to sue itself for copyright infringement.
But there’s elements from other popular space movies of the past few years including the likes of Interstellar, Ad Astra, The Martian, and Gravity. It combines bits and pieces from each with Pixar’s trademark humor and charm well enough that it never felt stale. But it never felt new either. If you’re one of the many millions of single young adults who grew up on Toy Story and has grown up to love many of these other more #serious #space #films, that may take away from your enjoyment a little bit. But if you’re a parent of young children, I could see Lightyear being a great entry point for your kids to get into space movies while they’re still a little too young to appreciate the modern classics from McConaughey, Damon and Bullock.
Disclaimer: please don’t subject your children to Ad Astra at any age. That movie stinks.
Pixar Visuals Continue to Dazzle
The gap between Pixar and everybody else when it comes to beautiful animation is only continuing to widen with the release of Lightyear. The movie’s visuals and cinematography stunned throughout. As previously mentioned, Lightyear shares a similar vibe with other space movies you’ve seen before, but the wonder and amazement with the vastness of space isn’t lost here.
At this point Pixar is their own bar for this style of animation. Some may prefer the comic book-like feel of movies like Into the Spiderverse or Mitchells vs the Machines, but to me Pixar’s more recent releases have been superior visually and that holds true here.
Humor and Heart
Lightyear’s script isn’t going to win any awards, but I did find myself moved by it. The main characters each feel unique and whole with real personality. The dialogue didn’t cause uproarious laughter, but it got genuine chuckles when it tried to do so. And, most importantly, the story covered new ground for the franchise in a way that distinguishes it from the mainline films that I appreciated. It’s got enough nostalgia (seeing Buzz don the iconic Space Ranger suit lit a fire in me), but it doesn’t rely purely on memberberries. This is a new story with new characters and a new message.
Final Thoughts on Lightyear
While Lightyear never quite reaches the highest heights of the main Toy Story franchise or some of Pixar’s most-beloved films, this separate adventure is one well worth taking for kids and adults alike. Depending on your familiarity with and affection for live-action space films of the last decade, this won’t feel like a new cinematic experience, but it’s a fun one nevertheless.
Recommendation: If you don’t have kids or you have a lot of kids, stream it on Disney+. If you have a couple kids, see it in a theater instead of seeing Minions 2. Please help me in my agenda to put a stop to the Minions movies. Please. For the love of God.
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