While spending years attempting to return home, marooned Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear encounters an army of ruthless robots commanded by Zurg who are attempting to steal his fuel source.
Buzz Lightyear is one of Pixar’s most iconic creations, part of the double act (with Woody) that launched the animation studio with ‘Toy Story’ back in the mid-90s. ‘Toy Story 2’ and ‘Toy Story 3’ followed to critical acclaim, but by ‘Toy Story 4’ it felt as if the studio was stretching to justify another movie about its most marketable concept, especially after such a strong and seemingly definitive ending in ‘Toy Story 3’. That brings us to ‘Lightyear’, a film that attempts to tell the origin story of the character that would become the Buzz Lightyear toy, taking us full circle to why Andy was so excited to receive his new Buzz toy at the very beginning of the series.
The plot of the film centres on Buzz in his early days as a space ranger in Star Command, where a mission to a far away planet leads him and his crew to get stranded, requiring them to find a way home whilst confronting the villainous Zurg, who we first met in ‘Toy Story 2’. Despite some initial confusion from actor Chris Evans (who voices Buzz in the place of Tim Allen), this isn’t the story of ‘Buzz Lightyear’ the person, but of the film that was supposedly Andy’s favourite film as a child within the ‘Toy Story’ universe. Like all Pixar movies it looks brilliant and the animation is of the highest quality, but it matters little when the story is so safe, mundane and ultimately unnecessary. It manages to take one of Pixar’s most enjoyable characters and remove a lot of what made him fun, stranding him in a movie as desolate as the hostile planet Buzz and his crew spend much of this movie on.
Sequels have been a core part of the Pixar canon since the beginning and a large number of their most successful films have had them, but this is perhaps the first that feels like a truly lazy cash in, as opposed to a evolution of the characters and stories introduced in earlier films. It is comfortably one of Pixar’s weakest films, and feels more akin to the types of bog standard movies Disney was churning out in their barren periods. Sadly, for perhaps the first time in their 30 year history, it appears that Pixar may have reached this point too. At their best, Pixar make clever, subtle and smart movies that appeal to both adults and children, whereas I’m not sure this will even resonate that strongly with kids. It’ll still make a lot of money and probably even more in merchandising, and perhaps that’s OK, but Pixar always seemed to be striving for something greater than just churning out lazy sequels with little new to say, but disappointingly we may have reached this point with ‘Lightyear’ the clearest case study yet.
Directed By: Angus MacLane
Starring: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Uzo Aduba, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Bill Hader