Lightyear Review: Chris Evans Is The Voice Of The Biggest Spaciest Hero In The Toy Story Universe

A spinoff was bound to come out sooner or later. Did we need an origin story to the Buzz Lightyear character from Toy Story? No. BUT the Lightyear film by Angus MacLane certainly does know how to build a world around the character we only learned about through the toy story franchise. The film is about a flight, failure, and working together to achieve a common goal.

Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) is an enemy of time. He is a brave but often headstrong man who doesn’t need help from anyone. This attitude is why as a Space Ranger, he got a whole colony stranded on a random planet, and they can’t leave because the hyperspace crystal broke. They need a new one to journey home, so the scientist creates a new one, and he has to test it out. He fails on the first try but realizes when he goes four years into the future. For his efforts, he receives a Cat companion named Sox, who works on building the formula for a new crystal. Buzz cannot accept this loss, so he tries and tries. On his last attempt, he returns to find his best friend, Commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) has entered into a relationship, gotten married, had a child, had a grandchild, and grew old.

Now, the people of the planet are trapped in a dome with violent Alien robots hovering above and trying to break in. On the outskirts of the dome where Buzz ends up is where he meets Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), the granddaughter of Alisha, Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), and Darby Steele (Dale Soules). After all the years missed, Buzz still wants to be a hero, so with his new friends in tow, they try to save the people from the looming threat of a robot apocalypse.

Lightyear doesn’t rely too much on Toy Story lore to build its world, but it would have benefited from showing some connection to that part of the franchise instead of using title cards. Much like in Toy Story, Buzz finds a way to play well with others, regardless of heroics, and his diverse group of companions is often more interesting than he is. Izzy, Mo, and Darby have their own talents that are useful in getting Buzz out of trouble. 

The animation is gorgeous and hyper-realistic. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if it was animated or live-action. The art department put their all into designing this universe and its characters and robotic villains. Children will go nuts for this expansive three-dimensional world featuring one of the most beloved and well-known Disney heroes. The only issue is sometimes the story becomes convoluted and drags on. Almost like there was a need to pad the runtime, causing Lightyear to get into even more trouble and creating a never-ending slew of trampling obstacles which I get is the crux of every film but dang, how many times is the story going to kick Buzz when he’s down. Sheesh.

The film is also Disney’s first real attempt at explicitly portraying queer animated characters. Alisha marries a woman in Lightyear, and the audience witnesses that. It’s not explained away, shown off-screen, or implied. In fact, its a non-issue–which is how it should be portrayed. What is also unique about what MacLane and co-writer Jason Headly have done here is create well-rounded Black characters. No one turns into a frog, cat, or bird. They are allowed to be. Izzy is put forth as a leader, and has a well-rounded arc that lends itself to future appearances, and Keke Palmer is so energetic and fun to listen to. It may not be a big deal to some, but seeing someone who looks like me take the reigns in one of my favorite film genres hit me right in the feels. 

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