Thursday, June 16, 2022

Lightyear - Review


Within the first few moments of Lightyear, the on screen text does more good for this film (or at least comparable good) than all its marketing campaign. The lens with which one views the entire concept shifts entirely when you know that this is supposedly the 1995 film that got Andy interested in Buzz Lightyear and space in general. Keeping that in mind, the sort of safe approach to this fairly likable sci-fi, action film that just can’t reach the beyond it so strives to find. 

Following the legendary space ranger known as Buzz Lightyear, the film picks up after he and other space rangers and explorers are marooned on a planet millions of lightyears from Earth. As Buzz tries to find a way for all to return home safely, he’s joined by a group of ambitious rookies and the ever charming robotic cat, Sox. All seems well until the arrival of Zurg and his army of evil robots complicate the mission. 

As far as Pixar films go, the secrets of Lightyear should remain so, preserving the emotional hits of its story. And it is Pixar, so there are emotional punches thrown, and for the most part, they connect. Intertwined throughout those moments though is a bunch of sci-fi adventuring that while entertaining, feels rather stale. It’s a film that’s clearly inspired by so many other sci-fi stories and space adventures that you can see the fingerprints from people picking certain elements up, animating them gorgeously as Pixar does, and placing them in their newest film.

That’s not to say that Lightyear is a bad film, far from it in fact, but its knack for playing it safe holds it back from reaching the highest highs of Pixar’s filmography. Perhaps the biggest success lies in this new batch of characters. Chris Evans gets to voice the titular hero this time, steering more into the action star persona to fit the idea of this fictional 1995 blockbuster. Buzz is just that, a hero, and Evans has more than mastered that presence after almost a decade playing a star-spangled one for Marvel.

Throw in some fun characters voiced by KeKe Palmer and Taika Waititi, as well as what will assuredly be a favorite robotic feline voiced by Peter Sohn, and you’ve get an interesting ensemble to follow on an adventure for just under two hours. 

However, where Pixar shines, with each new film more than the last, is in the visually stunning animation they put to the screen. It’s improving with each subsequent release in one way or another, and Lightyear is no different. Director Angus MacLane has taken a big budget sci-fi, action, adventure blockbuster of the 1990s, added the Pixar charm and heart, and run it through this beautiful Pixar lens for a film that’s more fun than most of those same blockbusters its inspired by could ever be.

As far as spin-offs go, Lightyear is a pretty solid one. The voice talent is top-notch, the story is a fun adventure, and the animation continues to reach new heights. There are certainly flaws in its story and it can’t muster enough to reach the heights of past Pixar outings, but knowing what the aim was here in making Pixar’s version of a big space blockbuster, Lightyear accomplishes that mission at the very least. And let’s be honest, it’s hard to not have a good time with a film that features a robot cat stealing every scene. 

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