Pixar’s track record with original works needs no introduction, its track record with its sequels is a different story altogether. Granted it is naturally difficult to create something that can live up to what came before, but with how strong Pixar properties are, you’d think they’d have the creativity to pull it off. Staggeringly, however, Pixar has fallen at the second hurdle several times with many films hyped up but not quite hitting their mark. Toy Story is an exception, however, so with the announcement of a spinoff that focused on Buzz Lightyear, it was interesting to discover why Pixar was taking this direction. Now after seeing Lightyear, it became clear that instead of the creative side of Pixar, we got the side of Pixar that use property to meet its merchandise profit targets.
Although we have the cheaper side of Pixar with Lightyear, the quality of its computer animation is one thing that Pixar can’t seem to make cheaper. When it comes to 3D animation, there’s no question that Pixar rules the roost and Lightyear is another fine example of how Pixar will settle for nothing less than perfection. Pixar’s improvement over the years of animating human characters is another reason to admire this studio, I always found they animated non-human characters better, but they’ve cracked the formula and I think now the Pixar style is at the top of its game.
Aside from the titular space ranger himself, this time voiced by Chris Evans, Lightyear has many additional characters that you do manage to squeeze a laugh from once or twice. Children will immediately fall in love with a robot cat Sox (Peter Sohn), who’s more of a Swiss army cat than a robot cat as he conveniently has the tool that can get Buzz and the other characters out of sticky situations. The human characters of Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), Mo (Taika Waititi) and Darby (Dale Soules) have enough quirks to make some kind of fun of what is otherwise a very conventional story.
This conventionalism is perhaps what I find the most disappointing from Pixar. We know that Pixar can tell better and more emotionally hitting stories, but seeing the writers go a more conventional route that offers up nothing different from what we’ve seen in science-fiction storytelling, feels pretty pathetic. Even when the film feels like it is making fun of its own conventions, it is making the same point that has been made many times already.
I’m sure that the filmmakers of Lightyear may have had originality in mind, but for a film that seems to want to stay away from Toy Story, it sure relies heavily on familiar dialogue. It also has a place in the Toy Story world that also makes this film confusing. At the beginning of the film, we are told that this film is the one that Andy saw that made him want a Buzz Lightyear figure for his birthday. So with this information, are we supposed to judge this as its own thing, or as a film in the Toy Story franchise? Whichever you decide to judge this film on will possibly affect your own thoughts on Lightyear, and I have the feeling if you link this with Toy Story, you made end up feeling more disappointed than me, who judges this film as its own thing.
In all honesty, I think this film would have made more profit if it was released on Disney+, which is a bit of a kicker for Pixar’s Turning Red, which is much more like the Pixar we know and love. I kept getting the feeling that Lightyear only made it to cinemas because of its links to Toy Story, with makes how you’re supposed to view this film even more confusing.
If you know me then I don’t really want to give too much away about the film I’m reviewing, but sometimes I have to bend the rule slightly just to get a good point across. So, with that being said, let’s talk about Emperor Zurg. If you know your Toy Story then you know Zurg is the villain of Lightyear. In the Toy Story films he is obviously supposed to be based on Darth Vader, but in Lightyear, that concept is scrapped entirely, and they take Zurg in a completely new direction. I’m not saying that it’s necessarily a bad direction that had good possibilities, but the direction we had was already perfect for the material.
Lightyear overall is just a big letdown from Pixar. It is almost as if Pixar is now operating with a carrot and stick system of making original animated stories (the Pixar we love) by using the money made from financially profitable films and merchandise of said film (the Pixar we hate). I guess we’re just going to have to get used to Pixar making these types of films so that we can get great original storytelling with sublime animation. Ah well, every cloud has a silver lining, I guess.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Lightyear? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Elvis