It comes as a surprise to nobody that after a fantastic streak of strikingly original movies that connected to the hearts of millions of people, Pixar would face their first true failure, critically and commercially in the form of ‘Lightyear‘, a movie that struggles to justify its existence apart from how stunning it looks. It is genuinely absurd to think let alone believe that in the mid-90s, this would be the movie that made Andy wish for the Buzz Lightyear action figure. The few original ideas it does contain are never fully realized and by the end, the movie mutates into something truly forgettable. It’s the first Pixar movie where I can genuinely say that for those two hours, little to nothing happened. To keep waiting and begging the movie to win you over with that classic Pixar magic and it just never happens, that is ‘Lightyear‘ in a nutshell. That being said, let’s talk about why this movie genuinely does not work.
minor plot spoilers for ‘Lightyear‘ are featured in this review.
Funnily enough, the last Pixar movie I saw in theatres was ‘Toy Story 4‘ back in 2019. Even though I am not the biggest fan of the franchise, it was still a satisfying entry with that classic Pixar depth. When it came to ‘Lightyear‘ I was genuinely excited after that first teaser trailer they dropped with Bowie’s ‘Starman‘ blasting against that stunning Pixar animation. It looked like an epic Pixar space adventure that took on a much more serious approach than Pixar’s usual affairs. When it came to release week, I won’t lie, there weren’t a ton of people coming in to see the movie. There would be a few families and that’s it. Some kids would have the actual ‘Toy Story’ toys in their backpacks as if they were trying to come out, it was super cute and wholesome especially because the kids looked ecstatic. It was literally that picture that was going around Twitter with Andy in the theatre and the toys sat next to him, it was literally that. However, the problem is that I don’t think neither Andy or those kids walked out particularly excited or inspired, not enough to buy him and play with him for hours. The biggest problem with ‘Lightyear‘ is that it never quite goes to infinity and beyond and considering this is a Pixar movie, that says something.
‘Lightyear‘ is by no means a bad movie but it never pleads it’s case well enough to justify it’s own existence. I mean, it’s a Pixar animated Buzz Lightyear movie, you would think there would be awe-inspiring space battles, colourful aliens, epic missions and yet the movie offers just a much duller version of that. There is this truly mesmerizing shot where Buzz finally achieves lightspeed after god knows how many tries, and the lights and the colours reflect on his helmet and under it there is this beautifully animated expression of awe on Buzz’s face. That’s what I was looking for and when I realized that most of the movie will be spent on this goddamn planet I was genuinely disappointed, I couldn’t believe that the Buzz Lightyear movie would spend most of it’s runtime on a planet that looks like Dagobah from ‘Star Wars’. I managed to convince myself to stay open-minded and hope that the movie will have a great script and character and it will be this quaint space movie that happens to have Buzz Lightyear in it… but the movie failed on that aspect as well. Outside of the Hawthorne relatives, the new characters introduced in ‘Lightyear‘ are honestly uninteresting. They never delve into their backstories and are mostly used as comic-relief which came off annoying at times. Even when it comes to Felicia Hawthorne and that tragic montage, I wished I spent more time with Felicia and Buzz. It was emotional sure but it felt rushed, a problem which this movie gets into over and over again.
Ironically enough, this movie’s biggest enemy is time because just like how time accelerates the further Buzz travels, so does the emotional weight the more the movie progresses. Izzy Hawthorne, Felicia’s granddaughter is a great character with tons of potential but the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with it. In the third act the movie puts her in a situation where she needs to travel through space on her own, no ship, no wires, just her and Sox. Prior to this the movie made sure to mention that she is actually afraid of space despite wanting to become a space ranger. There is so much that they could’ve done with that. It reminds me of the scene from ‘Encanto‘ where Mirabel walks Antonio to get his gift despite having clear trauma from her own ceremony. The thing is, with that scene, the movie actually showed it to you, even if it was moments before, it had a greater emotional impact. This movie never does that and it leaves a scene that could’ve been a highlight to end up just fine. The biggest example of this flaw is the weird revelation of Zurg’s identity, it’s a concept that has so much potential yet they turn the character into a corny villain two scenes after he is revealed. They didn’t go far enough, they quite literally never go to infinity and beyond.
All of this being said, ‘Lightyear‘ is still a Pixar movie, it definitely has it’s redeeming qualities. The animation, obviously looks stunning. The character animation and expression is incredible, the locations while not adventurous still look stunning and borderline photo-realistic. It’s genuinely hard to watch a new Pixar movie and not be blown away by what you’re seeing. Long-time Pixar collaborator Michael Giacchino who is on a roll these past couple of months returns with quite a decent score. It fits the movie quite well and I like the theme quite a bit. The voice-cast also does a great job, I actually really enjoyed Chris Evans in this role, his delivery and inflection was very entertaining to hear, if that makes any sense. I actually believe that the actual toy based on this movie would sound like Tim Allen. Keke Palmer is a delight in everything she is in and this is no exception, I just wish she was given more to work with. Taika Waititi is Taika Waititi and Taika Waititi can get a bit annoying at times. Still love the guy but considering how far his character was reduced to comic-relief, I wasn’t all that delighted by him. Last but not least, I can’t not mention the true star of the movie, Sox! He is by far the only reason this movie should exist and I need a life-size plush or toy or action figure right freaking now.
Overall, ‘Lightyear‘ unfortunately cannot be mentioned in the same vein as the last few Pixar entries. It’s underwhelming story, lacking script and unimagainitive aesthetic hold back this movie so far that it’s honestly one of the most inconsequential movies of the year. Well not for Pixar because this actually bombed so there were actual consequences there, at least Cars 2 made half a billion dollars! Haha, well that’s just sad. I’m sure children will find it entertaining while watching and completely forget about it by the next day and as for adults who grew up with the franchise, I’m honestly not sure. As someone who didn’t care for it, I would much rather rewatch those movies than this but I wouldn’t mind rewatching this if it were on TV. Unfortunately for Pixar that is quite a low blow. If anything, this movie should inspire more original stories instead of unnecessary franchise spin-off cash-grabs.
‘Lightyear‘ is still showing in select theatres and will premiere on Disney+ on August 3rd.