The first 30 minutes of Lightyear are simply perfect. The story is emotional, inspirational, and a true visual spectacle. Plus, I absolutely love how this movie is presented as the movie that Andy saw in the original Toy Story. Pixar’s visuals are top notch here, although the opening credits seem like something Warner Bros. would cook up for a dreary Buzz Lightyear movie, which is a stark contrast to the Avengers-esque closing credits. Everything from the lighting in, on, and around Buzz’s ship as he slingshots around the sun, to the deserted landscape of an alien planet where the inhabitants of the Turnip starship build a settlement camp are out of this world. The visuals are so impressive that it makes one wonder – when will we see Pixar produce a Star Wars movie?
The film falls into a slight lull once Izzy (Keke Palmer), Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), Darby Steel (Dale Soules), and Zurg (James Brolin) are introduced. I can’t place my finger on it, but there’s something about this section that feels like an entirely different movie. Interestingly enough, the deleted scenes reveal that the story underwent several changes over the five years of production, which actually explains a lot. Buzz brings up his father at one point, which seems out of place, but Buzz’s father Lawrence had a much larger presence in other drafts of the movie. Either way, this is where the movie really slows down until the third act.
It also doesn’t help that the B-team is so damn obnoxious; Izzy grows on you, but Mo and Darby are downright annoying. Taiki Wattki in particularly fails to launch his character who’s clearly meant to be “so annoying he’s likeable”. Trust he, HE’S NOT.
Fortunately, Chris Evans as Buzz, Peter Sohn as the loveable, scene-stealing, emotional-support-robot cat Sox, and Uzo Aduba as Alisha Hawthrone do such an amazing job that they elevate this movie from middlingly to a must see. Evans is best known for his role as Captain America, and his motivational speeches here are just as inspirational. While Evan’s does his best Tim Allen impression for the more familiar quotes, his voice overall is confident and commanding, and is further highlighted by Michael Giacchino’s amazing score, particularly during the time dilation montage. It’s painful watching a determined Buzz fail over and over again as he tries to rescue the crew from their stranded predicament, all the while watching everyone around him rapidly age. The sequence does so much in such a short time.
Most devastating of all is seeing the toll each flight essentially has on Alisha. There’s an earnestness to Evans’s performance that makes his PTSD all the more palpable; it’s also endearing to see Buzz do whatever it takes fix his mistake.
Although the movie is possibly 10 minutes too long, the story comes full circle for a successful launch, inspiring the space ranger/cadet in all of us to soar to infinity and beyond.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The Big Comic Page was provided a digital copy of the movie for review purposes. Included were deleted scenes, featurettes that take you behind the scenes, and commentary with director Angus MacLane, writer Jason Headly, and director of photography Jeremy Lasky.
Lightyear is available on digital August 3 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD September 13.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511