Chris Evans plays a soldier lost in time, who has to adjust to a new reality and won’t quit until the mission is complete. Sound familiar? No, this is not the new Captain America. This is the Buzz Lightyear Story
Lightyear is Disney/Pixar’s brand-new animated adventure featuring everyone’s favourite space ranger, Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story franchise.
When the original Toy Story released in the late nineties, the hysteria around the associated merchandise was massive. But there was one toy in particular from the movie that every kid wanted, the Buzz Lightyear with the laser sounds and retractable wings, it was every kids dream. Much like the movie storyline, Buzz was the star of the show, the must have toy. The story of the toy who had to come to terms with the fact he wasn’t real, was a real winner for Disney.
Fast forward 25yrs and Disney have decided to try and monetise the star power of Buzz in his own movie, ‘Lightyear’. But as the very first screen of the movie informs us, this is not the origin story of ‘that’ toy but the real space ranger the toy was based on. Could that be the reason they choose to replace Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz with Chris Evans?
Pixar have always been very loyal to their voice cast, with the same actors returning for numerous projects and spin offs over the years. It did make the decision to replace Tim Allen seem quite strange. Not that many of films audience will notice the change but it’s just a point to note.
Buzz and his crew are stranded on a planet due to a mistake he blames himself for and he dedicates his life to fixing it, getting everyone home and completing the mission. During this time, he loses friends, makes new ones and watches life pass him by, all the while never wavering from his mission.
The quality of the animation is top notch, as you would expect from a studio of Pixar’s calibre. The voice acting and dialogue is engaging with a few funny moments. A nice addition to the ensemble was Buzz’s new sidekick/companion cat ‘Sox’ voiced brilliantly by Peter Sohn. There are some cool set pieces and moments the kids will really enjoy. But much like space itself, it felt a bit empty, like something was missing
Much like Wolverine is always better with the X men than in his solo movies, Buzz maybe needs a cast of lovable characters around him to really shine. While his supporting cast here are great, voiced by the likes of Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer and Uzo Aduba, without knowing more about their characters and having time to get to know them, they just feel like accessories to further Buzz’s ‘one man show ‘story.
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Toy Story was a classic ‘odd couple’ movie, with Woody and Buzz coming from different worlds trying to get along. It was charming, relatable with no world ending stakes. This move felt like it has absolutely nothing to do with Toy Story outside its name. It’s a one-man mission to save his world. Which makes me wonder, why not just give the character a different name and build it as a new franchise? Since the success of Kevin Feiges MCU, Disney are determined to spinoff as much as they possibly can, in all the ‘universes’ they control.
So, all characters get a movie or a spinoff show. While everyone has a story to tell, not all stories need to be told. I used to like the mystery of Hans Solo, till someone decided we needed a ‘Solo’ story which to be fair was alright but completely unnecessary- there is nothing wrong with a little mystery. I think the link to Toy Story hurts this movie as there is a certain expectation which is not met. A much better choice would be to create this exact same story with a new character, freed from the restraints of trying to link to a 30yr old beloved franchise.
And now the ‘elephant in the room’ or the storm in a teacup, depending on where you sit politically/socially etc. There is a lesbian relationship shown in the movie, by that I mean two women are shown to be together, they share a kiss and grow old together. This ‘sequence’ which has caused so much controversy is possibly 5mins in total (when pieced together). I’ve heard some say they don’t have a problem with same sex relationships, but a kid’s film is not the place for it.
Disney have shown Scar murdering his brother, parents killed, kids lost and multiple tragedies and harsh realities. In a way, many kids have learnt about the good and bad things that can happen in life from watching animated movies from the likes of Disney and Dreamworks. Many of them prepare kids for what they will be confronted with and come across in their real lives. If a child saw two women walking down the street holding hands like ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’, I don’t believe we would shield their eyes and tell them to look away?
When my 5yr old asked me during ‘Lightyear’ if a woman can marry a woman, I said yes because 1) In most western societies they can, 2) I don’t have a problem with it and 3) It actually reflects the society she is living in now. You have never heard anyone complain about children being ‘exposed at a young age’ when Prince Charming kisses Cinderella or any of the other numerous heterosexual relationships in Disney films.
Don’t get me wrong, it felt a bit strange. even uncomfortable to see a same sex relationship in a kid’s film, but I applied the same rationale I would to any relationship in a kid’s movie. Was it sexual or sexualised, was it explicit in anyway, did it feel exploitative? From my point of view, I answered ‘No’ to all those questions so Pixar can crack on. There are some countries where homosexuality is still illegal, those countries have banned this movie which is their choice. It is a shame though that the thousands of gay people in those countries looking for a lifeline and some representation on screen, some sign that they are not alone will miss out on moments like this.
‘Lightyear’ is a fun movie; it’s got good energy and some original characters with potential. It’s hurt by its connection to the ‘Toy Story’ universe as those expecting a movie of a similar feel will be sorely disappointed. This would have fared better as an original character without the baggage of expectation. It’s worth watching, and your kids should enjoy it, but I doubt its one that will provoke the same sort of love and nostalgia that the main ‘Toy Story’ franchise still does so many years later. A fun quality Pixar movie that lacks the heart, charm, and joy of its source material.