WHERE TO WATCH:
Now showing in cinemas
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Legendary space ranger Buzz Lightyear embarks on an intergalactic adventure alongside ambitious recruits Izzy, Mo, Darby, and his robot companion, Sox.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Like most millennials, Toy Story was a foundational childhood film that set up Pixar as one of the world's top animation studios, making us all wish that our toys were secretly coming alive when we weren't looking. The sequels mirrored our journey to adulthood, creating new characters to fall in love with and share with the younger generation. Personally, it should have ended with Toy Story 3, but the fourth instalment still had many merits that we loved, and emotionally we had all said goodbye to the franchise.
Then Lightyear comes along - a movie within a movie, supposed to be the in-universe inspiration for the toy Buzz - and you can't help but feel like Pixar/Disney has stepped into the precarious realm of cash grabs. It's not a bad movie - reminiscent of 50s sci-fi where space exploration is at the heart of it all - but smacks of a genericness that lacks that particular passionately careful storytelling that Pixar is famous for. Especially since no one really craved this movie in the first place.
We start off in pretty familiar territory. Buzz, alongside his fellow space ranger and crew, is stranded on a hostile planet and sacrifices everything to try and get them back home. However, many people and obstacles prevent him from fulfilling his mission, causing some internal existential discoveries.
The film actually starts off pretty dark, and our hero has a bit of a depressing story arc throughout despite its happy ending. The Big Pixar Theme in this one is about letting go of your past mistakes and making room for other people's mistakes so that they can learn and grow. Lightyear feels like many a frustrated dad that wants to do everything himself, exuding a relentless perfectionism imposed on himself and others. It clearly drew inspiration from toy Buzz's self-delusion of grandeur from the first movie and took some fun swings at his continuous monologues on his comm system and other hero tendencies. This metaphor is repeatedly hammered into every scene, and while I enjoyed the story for its own sake, it just felt a little hollow at times, especially when it came to the villain of the story.
As for the animation, there's nothing you can ever fault Pixar for, opting for a Robinson Crusoe in space aesthetic with American frontier-style energy. It's pretty standard stuff for the father of CGI animation, but I wonder if they're taking adequate note of the new blend of 2D and 3D that's steadily gaining steam in animation, spearheaded by Sony's Into the Spiderverse. It's becoming more prevalent in the space, from Bad Guys, The Mitchells vs the Machines to Arcane, and with this new dawn in the industry, Pixar will hopefully not go the way of the dinosaur.
However, the movie does introduce some new delightful and well-rounded characters that help bring a lot of colour to the story and enhances Buzz's goodness. The favourite by far is SOX - a feline companion robot with Sahara-dry humour that's both adorable and hilarious. Voiced by Pixar allrounder Peter Sohn, that cat was extremely loveable, amplified by small clever details, especially when it audibly says 'beep boop' when it's processing something. We also have the bubbly optimism of Izzy Hawthorne, voiced by Keke Palmer, who is a balm to Buzz's grumpiness, and I loved her character design and animated movements. This crew of misfits is then rounded off by accident-prone Mo and the scheming elderly convict Darby that likes to blow stuff up. I love that they incorporated this badass grandma into the works, giving us something a little different and fresh.
In the end, I enjoyed the film but just didn't love it. I sometimes felt like Lightyear was just a little too serious and should have leaned more into the satire of a Toy Story spinoff. I understand why they went for something different to the tone of Toy Story, and it works to make Lightyear a standalone entity, but when it's riding on the coattails of nostalgia to market this movie, you're left wondering who the filmmakers made this movie for.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: