“Chris Evans shines as the new voice of Buzz, bringing more than just Captain America’s bravado to the well-established, and beloved character, along with a host of loveable new characters.”
LIGHTYEAR is a dazzling masterpiece for fans new, and old alike. This origin story is packed full of Pixar polish: from emotional moments to big belly laughs, Evans and company pull out all the stops to tell a near-perfect star-blazing story of facing expectations, adapting from failures, and accepting the faults within ourselves.
Growing up as a 90s generation child meant that Pixar’s debut film Toy Story (1995) had a great impact on my youth. I can still recall to this day, going to a theater to watch the film, and being enamored by the heartwarming story of toys come to life. Like many from my generation and beyond though, one character, in particular, stole the show for me: Buzz Lightyear.
Just ask my parents, and they will tell you: I always wanted a Buzz Lightyear action figure toy as a child more than I wanted my next meal. While those dreams were not fully realized until I was in my late 20s, the importance of the character, and the world that later developed around him never left me, clearly!
LIGHTYEAR – To Infinity and Beyond all Expectations
From the incredible “in-universe” opening title sequence featured in Toy Story 2 to the cartoon film Buzz Lightyear of Star Command (2000), as well as the TV cartoon series (2000–2001) by the same name; I could not get enough of LIGHTYEAR.
So when Pixar Studios announced that my beloved childhood favorite character was getting his own film without original voice actor Tim Allen, or even TV show voice actor Patrick Warburton, but with Chris Evans of Marvel’s Captain America fame in the iconic space ranger suit, I was a bit nervous, to say the least.
Well now LIGHTYEAR is here, and as the credits rolled past after the refreshingly short 100min runtime, I found myself thrilled that what Pixar, Evans, and director Angus Maclane have accomplished here is nothing short of brilliance.
Chris Evans shines as the new voice of Buzz, bringing more than just Captain America’s bravado to the well-established, and beloved character, along with a host of loveable new characters who all come together to tell an important story of accepting mistakes, and adapting to life’s challenges.
This is not just a half-hearted cash grab to trick parents into buying their children new, expensive toys based on an existing IP (though that is definitely part of the plan). Lightyear works on every level. The film would work even if Toy Story never existed at all in the first place.
Unsurprisingly too, the animation and art direction in general for LIGHTYEAR is simply breathtaking. Pixar never ceases to impress with its ability to produce the most stunning, highly detailed, visual feasts, and LIGHTYEAR is no exception. Every inch of the screen was bursting with detail in the IMAX presentation that I watched. Everything feels lived in, natural, and yet dazzling to behold. Bravo Pixar, I see another Oscar in your future.
LIGHTYEAR‘s SOX is a Scene-Stealer
Watch out parents everywhere; your children are going to be asking for “Sox” this holiday season
There is an incredible sense of character for Buzz from the voice talents of Evans. He not only manages to capture the ridgid, dry humor of Tim Allen’s original performance (in particular, the first few minutes of Allen’s Buzz from Toy Story) but also establishes his own brand of heart and soul into the character. Evans' takes the character from plastic toy to relatable human in a way that Allen or Warburton never managed to capture.
Speaking of characters, this is a surprisingly small cast that comes together to form an endearing list of new faces. Of particular note is Peter Sohn’s portrayal of the robotic cat named Sox, who utterly steals the show. Given to Buzz as a sort of therapy pet by his commanding officer, and best friend Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Abuda) Sox the cat is a scene-stealer with Sohn’s hilarious, dry delivery, and the visual gags that ensue from his antics that never feel forced just for a laugh. Watch out parents everywhere; your children are going to be asking for “Sox” this holiday season.
Worth mentioning too is the supporting character named Izzy (Keke Palmer) who beautifully captures the struggles of overcoming the expectations of greatness set upon her simply for her family's namesake. It is a beautiful, uplifting B plot that teaches audiences the importance of finding their own path amongst the stars.
Nothing is Perfect, and LIGHTYEAR is Not Free From a Bit of Space Debris
While I loved the vast majority of the film, it is not without its faults. While all Buzz Lightyear content up to this point has established his long-standing villain, The Evil Emperor Zurg, as a maniacal robotic ruler seeking to destroy Star Command, LIGHTYEAR rewrites the villain's origins. While I would not directly call the changes to the antagonist to be a mistake, they nevertheless felt like the only real piece of contradiction to everything that has been established about Zurg (voiced here by James Brolin) up to this point in other mediums.
Nothing is perfect, and Lightyear is not free from a bit of space debris, and while the changes to Zurg are not at all true to the originally established lore, what is set in place with this version of the iconic villain teaches a valuable lesson about learning from failure, finding the best in everyone, and the importance of asking for help.
I can think of no better message than this for all to hear. With all the chaos surrounding us on a daily basis, watching a story about how our past mistakes can still lead to bright futures is something that should be shouted to the stars above us, for all to hear.
LIGHTYEAR is a triumph for old, and new fans alike. From the dazzling animation to the strong performances, and the heartfelt message of accepting mistakes, Chris Evans, and the company take audiences' expectations to infinity, and beyond.
Buzz Lightyear embarks on an intergalactic adventure with a group of ambitious recruits and his robot companion.
Runtime: 105 mins
Director: Angus MacLane
Cast: Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Dale Soules, James Brolin
LIGHTYEAR is coming to theaters June 17, 2022.