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Lightyear - movie review

‘Lightyear’ is a solid, fun adventure movie but falls short of Pixar’s standard of great filmmaking

While 'Lightyear' has what we’ve come to expect from a Pixar animated film, there's something in the film that feels missing.

Lightyear’ is an animated science fiction adventure film from Pixar, which expands the world of the ‘Toy Story’ franchise by being a sort of origin story for the character Buzz Lightyear. The fictional astronaut Buzz Lightyear, whose toy became a prominent character in the ‘Toy Story’ series of films was based on a movie, which was Andy’s favourite film. So ‘Lightyear’ is the movie, released in 1995, that the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on.

Director and co-writer Angus McLane wanted to use this film as a “tribute” to the science fiction films he grew up with like ‘Star Wars.’ There is a push-and-pull between early 90s sensibilities alongside contemporary values and mores. What is created is a rich world and enjoyable characters that would have been revolutionary and exciting if the film really was released in the 90s.

‘Lightyear’ portrays Buzz Lightyear as a fearless captain, highly competent, and very arrogant in a humoristic way. It helps that Chris Evans’ voice acting for Buzz is imbued with so much earnestness that it really helps cement the character down pat. We see a sort of a maverick figure, one who is unaccustomed to making mistakes, prefers to do things alone, but will always give respect to his commanding officer, Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba). The film begins with the ship of Space Rangers arriving at an uninhabited planet. On a quick reconnaissance mission, Buzz, Commander Hawthorne, and a rookie, whom Buzz does not want to tag along, discover the planet is a hostile one and end up marooned on the planet in the process.

The story manages to quickly establish Buzz’s guilt for his part in their being marooned on this planet, his friendship with Commander Hawthorne, and his obsessive drive to set things right. What unfolds is a rather complex story that involves time, Buzz’s need to open up and take the whole weight of the burden on himself, and the attack of the Zergs on the Space Rangers.

Lightyear Movie Review

While ‘Lightyear’ has what we’ve come to expect from a Pixar animated film: great humor, thrilling setups, a tight and rather surprisingly complex story with a narrative flow that is quite unexpected, and some truly great humanistic moments that even got me teary-eyed at some point; there’s something in ‘Lightyear’ that feels missing.


All of Pixar’s filmography that I’ve seen has been absolutely terrific. From each film in the ‘Toy Story’ series to ‘Monsters Inc.’ to ‘The Incredibles,’ and even the more recent ones like ‘Turning Red’ or ‘Inside Out’ or ‘Soul,’ there’s just something so wonderfully endearing in each of these films that I would immediately consider them classics. And while Buzz Lightyear’s character growth and personal epiphanies are quite strong messages to impart to its audience – the value of camaraderie and the value in allowing our mistakes to help us grow – it doesn’t feel as universal a message as it should.

While genre films like science fiction or horror or fantasy are great narrative forms to take to form a metaphor to test the human condition, there seems to be a distance in ‘Lightyear’ and his learnings from our own, unlike, say, Woody and Buzz’s learnings in ‘Toy Story’ or that of Sully and Mike Wachowski in ‘Monsters Inc.’ There is an everyman quality to the characters of ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Inside Out’ or ‘Soul’ that we can easily relate to, while Buzz seems so extraordinary that it’s hard to take his growth as our own.

It’s all familiar and recognisable, but it’s just hard to ride on.

Lightyear Movie Review

At the same time, there are flourishes in the story’s narrative that bring up images of colonization and imperialism that don’t sit well with me. Yes, the planet is uninhabited by intelligent lifeforms so the marooned Space Rangers set up a station and begin mining the planet’s resources. And while it all makes sense (especially for a film made in the 90s), it brings to light the human nature to take possession and use anything in the world for their own uses. While this is a science fiction film and maybe they are keeping the ecological and environmental stability of the world in check; in this day and age of global warming and dwindling resources, it just feels off to see it so blatantly in this film.

But it is still a fun movie. Sox, the robot cat that is given to Buzz, is just a wonderful character and is definitely going to be a fan favourite (and a treat for all cat lovers) and all the new characters are unique and recognizable that you are guaranteed to have a fun time.

And while ‘Lightyear’ is a good film, a solid one, it’s not a great film. And when Pixar has been churning out great films with each release, the film suffers only in comparison. And that’s not entirely fair. 

My Rating:

5 stars - Don't Look Up review

Lightyear‘ opens in Phillippine cinemas on Wednesday, June 15. Buy your tickets here.

WATCH: ‘Lightyear’ Trailer Teases an Action-Packed ‘Toy Story’ Spinoff
WATCH: Disney & Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’ Unveils Out-of-this-World Trailer
Chris Evans Lends His Voice to Buzz Lightyear in Disney and Pixar’s ‘LIGHTYEAR’

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Action, Adventure, Animation, Family
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