Review: Pixar’s Lightyear is Not a Toy Story Movie, It’s a Buzz Lightyear Movie

Fans of the Toy Story franchise might be a bit surprised by Pixar’s newest film, Lightyear. This movie is not a Toy Story film at all, but a Buzz Lightyear one. As indicated by the trailers, and confirmed by director and screenwriter Angus MacFarlane, Andy’s toys did not come from this film. This movie exists as live-action in the Toy Story world, and then there is an animated series based off this film, and that is where the toys come from.

In watching Lightyear, it is quite clear, for many reasons, that this is a different Buzz Lightyear. This is the man, not the toy. Hence the creators chose to cast a different voice actor, rather than Tim Allen, in the role. It was important to differentiate the two characters, so Chris Evans was brought in.

Lightyear tells a story about when Buzz makes a mistake that causes him and a whole team of Space Rangers and scientists to be stranded on a hostile alien planet. He then vows to find a way to fix things. Even if that means giving up years of his life to do it. He becomes a man obsessed, stuck in the past, beating himself up over one simple mistake. He refuses to live in the present, instead dwelling in the past. This movie explores the dark path you can go down when you refuse to forgive yourself, even if others have already.

After a particularly long jump into the future, Buzz finds his settlement under attack and trapped by robots led by Zurg. He isn't alone though, stranded outside the settlement with him are Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), Darby Steele (Dale Soules), and Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi). They aren't the best team he could ask for, but they are the only one he has.

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Image Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

Evans has played a man out of time before, just one of the reasons he is a great choice for this role. He also loves space, as well as animation. This version of Buzz Lightyear looks much more human than the toy Andy owns in Toy Story. He has more realistic proportions and is less chunky and cartoonish.

This really is the whole vibe of the film when it comes down to it. Lightyear is a cinematic event. It is visually stunning and focuses on darker and more mature themes than the Toy Story films do. The lighting and shading help drive this point home, as does the incredible and intense score by composer Michael Giacchino.

Lightyear is truly a love letter to science fiction films of the past. It channels movies like Star Wars, Aliens, Interstellar, and 2001: A Space Odyssey – which is apparent to anyone watching. The colorful space travel, the eerie terrain of the planet, and the details such as reflections on the glass of the space helmets, create a feast for the eyes. Lightyear is easily Pixar‘s best-looking movie yet.

Chris Evans does a phenomenal job channeling his inner Buzz Lightyear, bringing something new to the fan-favorite character, but he isn’t alone in this film. The supporting group of characters that surround him are all absolutely wonderful and round out the cast nicely.

The rag-tag group of misfits that he finds himself adventuring with brings a lot of humor to the film. The way they go back and forth with each other, along with dealing with their own issues, adds fun, but also more depth to the story.

That said, the standout is clearly Sox. He is voiced by Peter Sohn and is a companion robot cat that Buzz was gifted. His comedic timing is flawless. He is both adorable and hilarious. Sox steals every scene he is in, without question.

You can’t have a Buzz Lightyear movie without Zurg, and he brings with him some surprises. In this version, he is more giant mechanical robot than anything else. He has a bunch of robot minions and he has it out for Buzz. This gives viewers some massive action sequences and chase scenes that are a complete joy to watch. The stakes feel real, and Zurg is absolutely terrifying. He is voiced by the incredibly talented James Brolin, and gives off some big bad Thanos vibes.

In true Pixar fashion tears will be shed, laughs will be had, and life lessons will be learned. Lightyear heavily focuses on the dangers of living in the past and the importance of embracing the life you have, versus rushing through it. It will teach people to face their fears, and enjoy life, no matter what obstacles are thrown at them or what mistakes they have made.

This should go without saying but stay through the credits as there are three end credit scenes – and the last one is a doozy!

Rating: 90/100

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Featured Image Credit: Disney/Pixar.


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Tessa Smith owns MamasGeeky.com and is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic and a huge geek. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Hollywood Critics Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. She grew up watching movies, playing video games, and reading comic books -- and still loves all of those things. She proudly lets her geek flag fly and spreads the word that there is nothing wrong with being a geek.