‘Lightyear’ Movie Review: “Into The Beyond”
The first time I ever stepped foot into a movie theater was when I saw Toy Story. I was four years old, watching the biggest screen imaginable but the story itself was small. The story of play-toys coming to life. Nearly three decades later, the movie that inspired the main character in that film arrived. But Lightyear didn’t just arrive, it inspired me. It brings the tale of Andy’s hero, Buzz Lightyear, to the forefront of Pixar’s ongoing continuity and offers 2022 one of the year’s best sci-fi adventures.
Pixar tends to stretch the limitations of fans’ expectations in terms of concept. However, the scale of Lightyear alone sets this latest project apart from its studio’s predecessors. This iteration of Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is a space ranger on a seemingly long-term mission as he awakes from hypersleep and immediately jumps into the action. Alongside his loyal friend Hawthorne, Buzz explores a mysterious planet and launches a mission that affects the lives of his crewmates for literal decades. After failing to exit the planet’s atmosphere thanks to an attack by its inhabitants, Buzz, Hawthorne, and company are left marooned with only their wit and their will to save them.
A plan to harvest the planet’s core and create a hyperspeed engine fails miserably, creating the film’s main complexity: time travel. For every minute Buzz spends attempting to reach hyperspeed, his friends live an entire year on earth. While the stakes start high, they elevate even more due to the visual of Buzz returning to his station, watching his friends age.
The film juggles heartfelt beats with a relentless onslaught of comedic timing by the voice cast. Evans is able to unleash his trademark brand of smugness and humor. Joined by an enthusiastic KeKe Palmer and an always dependable Taika Waititi, the main characters are as charming as they are heroic. Animation is an often understated medium. But it cannot be understated how effectively the character work of these actors comes across. Perhaps most notably is the adorable robotic cat named Sox, voiced by longtime Pixar employee Peter Sohn.
It’s clear director Angus MacLane and co-writers Jason Headley and Matthew Aldrich had a yarn to spin when creating Lightyear. The feature serves as a love letter to the space epic. It’s also a genuine, heartfelt story about an iconic character. Buzz Lightyear is a pop culture icon, recognizable by millions all around the world. To that suit and place it on not just Buzz, but also Black and brown men and women as they the world is something that will stand the test of time. Additionally, the nonchalant acknowledgment of Buzz’s partner Hawthorne’s sexuality normalizes a lesbian relationship in a brief but memorable way. Plenty have complained about how Disney has harmed the efforts of the LGBTQIA+ community. Nevertheless, Lightyear offers a slight glimpse at what could be. At what should be.
With all that said, Lightyear is a story about overcoming your harshest critics. It is a story about overcoming heartbreak to make way for duty. It’s a story about a ragtag group of underachievers who manage to overachieve when it matters most. Lightyear is a film that exists for its own sake, sure. However, Pixar managed to take the powerful IP and churn out an all-time classic that will likely spawn a series of sequels and spinoffs. Go out of your way to catch Lightyear on the biggest screen possible. – Christian Hubbard
Lightyear is in theaters everywhere now!
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