Pixar brings along LIGHTYEAR released the film whose main character served as a template for the space ranger Captain Buzz Lightyear. A charming idea without any great ambitions to create a masterpiece. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Lightyear (USA 2022)
The experienced space ranger Buzz Lightyear, his commander Alisha Hawthorne and a team of more than a thousand scientists and technicians are on their way home after their latest mission. About 4.2 million light-years from Earth, a signal from a sensor alerts them that they are near an unexplored planet that may have an abundance of important raw materials. Buzz makes the decision to steer the exploration spacecraft towards T’Kani Prime – a swampy planet filled with aggressive creepers and giant beetles. When a panicked attempt to get away as quickly as possible fails horribly and results in a crash that destroys their power cell, Buzz, Alisha and the entire crew find themselves stuck on the not-so-hospitable planet. The crew is already preparing for the fact that it could take a while to get away again. But this happens faster than you think and Buzz develops a desire for something bigger that will change his understanding of space and time forever…
One thing straight away: There was no need for a connection between “Lightyear” and the “Toy Story” trilogy and its successor “Everything listens to no command”. The fact that the focus of the story about an ambitious space ranger named Captain Buzz Lightyear is the character who became a toy figure after the events described is just a nice gimmick. “Lightyear” is Andy’s favorite film. Andy was the main human character in the first three “Toy Story” films, which is how his love for space toys, especially his Buzz, came about. The adventures that he then denies with his initial rival Woody are now movie history. The astronaut could have been anyone else, but with the connection to the toy adventure series, “Lightyear” is of course much easier to market. Nevertheless, one should scale back any expectations of fan service and the like that may have been built up by the interpretation of “Toy Story”, because the film is primarily a loving bow or a series of homages – depending on how positive or negative you want to interpret this. It bows to numerous space and science fiction epics. And if you didn’t know that “Lightyear” was released just a short time later after “Top Gun: Maverick”, you would probably have to use that as a source of inspiration for the narrative bracket.
Space ranger Captain Buzz Lightyear has his goal firmly in mind, without knowing the dimensions…
But first, Pixar quotes itself. Shortly after the start of the film, an excellently conceived prologue reminds us of the time-lapse life of the two main characters “Above”, when Captain Buzz Lightyear tears through time and space on his mission and in the space of just a few minutes loses four earth years. Everyone around him is aging, raising families and living their lives. Only when Lightyear’s greatest caregiver is suddenly no longer there does Buzz become aware of the extent of his actions and the thematic foundation is laid. It’s a pity that this, along with its final message – unlike what we’re used to from Pixar – is much simpler here. Nevertheless, the focus is on the adventure plot. And as a space action comedy, Lightyear works pretty well too. The story runs along largely generic lines. Already at the beginning of the mission, the end point of the story is clear (and thus also what the film wants to say). Even the running gags are often announced well in advance. But of all things, this does little harm to the humor, which largely works through its surprise effect. Its execution is too precise for that and is performed by characters who are all charming and endearing in their warm-heartedness and quirkiness.
“The story follows largely generic lines. Right from the start of the mission, the end point of the story is clear (and therefore what the film wants to say). Even the running gags are often announced well in advance.”
The group of characters that “Lightyear” focuses on from the second third onwards is a colorful, diverse cast of men and women of different age groups who enrich the story sometimes more and sometimes less intensively. Not all of them advance the plot, but each of them has a handful of moments in which individual scenes benefit from them and the humor they generate. Once again, however, a non-human creature turns out to be the scene-stealer: Sox, a robot cat that could hardly be described more accurately than as a mixture of Baymax and a Swiss Army knife. While the Disney merchandise department will be particularly happy about the design of this incredibly cute sidekick, Sox’s function is not just limited to being cute. Unlike many other furry Disney companions, he is largely responsible for the positive outcome of the story. The function of his role should therefore have been established long before the cat design was worked out. And a TARS-like vehicle just doesn’t sell that well…
It’s better to travel with a crew than alone…
Speaking of TARS: The pioneer of the “Interstellar” crew is not mentioned here as an example for nothing, because in its illustration of space and time, “Lightyear” is occasionally reminiscent of the Christopher Nolan masterpiece. Same with “Star Wars” and even “Battlestar Galactica.” The designs of the robots and alien creatures made cheerful use of the far-reaching science fiction potpourri. This may be useful for the plot (“Lightyear” is not one of those films that wants to captivate you with a stunning world), but it doesn’t make the film look particularly varied or creative. The reason for this is by no means the quality of the animation itself – the lifelike design of the cat is breathtaking. Instead, the spectrum of colors and backgrounds is too simple and monotonous to evoke astonished looks like “Everything is Upside Down”, “Soul” or “Luca” recently. But especially from the perspective that the text panel encourages us to see at the beginning of the film, all the strengths and weaknesses make sense again. “Lightyear” is an entertaining, action-packed space adventure with loving characters and hero leaders, which gives younger viewers in particular a little lesson or two and, given their limited viewing experience, they might be surprised by some of the developments . “Lightyear” is therefore an absolutely credible Andy’s favorite film.
“The designs of the robots and alien creatures made cheerful use of the far-reaching science fiction potpourri. This may be useful for the plot, but it doesn’t make the film look particularly varied or creative.”
Conclusion: “Lightyear” is an energetic, nice space adventure that scores above all with its humor and likeable characters, but neither comes close to the great highlights of recent Pixar history nor fulfills the previously suggested promise of targeting the “Toy Story” series add to.
“Lightyear” can be seen in USA cinemas from June 16, 2022.