To Infinity ... with LIGHTYEAR
If asked what origin stories of fictional characters bear no interest for me, Buzz Lightyear would have been on the list. As much as I enjoyed the Toy Story franchise, I’d never found Buzz to be an appealing character due to his arrogant, delusional, and vengeful nature. Until now.
Disney and Pixar take his Buzz to new heights with Lightyear, the definitive origin story of the hero who inspired the toy. The movie follows the legendary Space Ranger Buzz (Chris Evans), marooned on the hostile planet T’Kani Prime – located 4.2 million light-years from Earth – alongside his commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) and their crew, as a result of his overconfidence.
As Buzz battles with guilt and technology in getting his crew back home, his greatest challenge is time. It’s discovered that he experiences time dilation with each hyperspeed test flight. During his flight of less than five minutes, four years pass on the planet below. Obsessed with solving the hyperspeed fuel issue to get back to Earth, Buzz is oblivious to Alisha and the crew members as they get on with their lives, build families, and grow old in their new environment. His only constant companion becomes a charming robot cat, Sox (voiced by Peter Sohn).
Just as Buzz is about to crack the code, a mysterious alien ship arrives that threatens the colony – it’s Zurg (voiced by James Brolin), who leads an army of ruthless robots. Buzz is then forced to team up with a group of ambitious recruits known as the Junior Zap Patrol, only to discover they are untrained and unequipped to battle Zurg’s robots. The plot begins to twist as Buzz struggles with going it alone on his mission, only to realize the value of teamwork – and the price of overconfidence in the most bizarre reveal of Buzz’s story.
Lightyear features the voices of Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi and Dale Soules as the Junior Zap Patrol’s Izzy Hawthorne, Mo Morrison and Darby Steel, respectively. The voice cast also includes Mary McDonald-Lewis as onboard computer I.V.A.N., Isiah Whitlock Jr. as Commander Burnside, Efren Ramirez as Airman Diaz, and Keira Hairston as Young Izzy.
Lightyear was directed by Angus MacLane (co-director Finding Dory) who joined Pixar Animation Studios as an animator in 1997, His credits also include Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. as well as the Academy Award-winning films The Incredibles, WALL•E and Toy Story 3.
The futuristic score was composed by award-winning composer Michael Giacchino (Up), and perfectly complements the rich visual elements of Lightyear.
Science fiction fans will definitely have a field day with the distilled concepts of space travel and time in Lightyear; however, as with most animated films from Disney and Pixar I recommend invoking a suspension of disbelief to get the most enjoyment out of this fun movie.
The main flaw that I found to be most confusing and detrimental for Lightyear is the opening text – "In 1995, Andy got a toy. That toy was based on a movie. This is that movie. " I was so confused by the opening that it took me out of the moment for a couple minutes.
Despite its flaws, Lightyear is a gorgeously animated sci-fi adventure that's thrilling and emotional, offering a heartfelt message for viewers. We are reminded that it is acceptable to make mistakes. What matters most is having a team you can trust – and maybe a delightfully versatile robotic cat, whose hacking skills cover computers, dart technology, and a blowtorch.