Lightyear (2022)—A Pointless Spin-Off of a Popular Pixar Series
Let me preface by saying that I like many others didn’t care about this movie when it was first announced. Lightyear is an animated spin-off for one of Pixar’s most iconic characters: Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story series. According to the film’s intro, the toy Buzz Lightyear was based off the movie (this movie) Lightyear. Sounds like some weird Inception shit. Why did Pixar decide to make this spin-off? You tell me!
Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Chris Evans) ends up accidentally stranding himself, his commanding officer Alisha Hawthorne (voiced by Uzo Aduba) and a rookie space ranger on an alien planet. During their time there, Lightyear tries again and again to achieve hyper-speed to bring everyone home. With every failure, 4 years pass. Eventually, Commander Hawthorne passes away, leaving Buzz on his own as the hyper-speed program is shut down. Lightyear eventually figures out the formula for hyper speed, but upon returning, learns that humanity is now under attack by the evil robot Zurg.
Pixar is by no means an incompetent filmmaking studio. But while Pixar shines when telling adult stories in an adult medium, they are at their lowest when making pointless sequels or spin-offs, such as Cars 2 and Finding Dory. The case of Lightyear, unfortunately, is of the latter. To me, this film shouldn’t have been made. What was the point for creating a spin-off for a Toy Story character? Was it for nostalgic reasons? Because Buzz Lightyear in the film is not the same Buzz from Toy Story. It seems that Pixar is beginning to run out of ideas with their recent films. While Soul is an absolutely amazing film that easily makes my top five, Luca seemed to be just an ok film. Meanwhile, Lightyear is perhaps one of their weakest films with just an average story and subpar characters.
Speaking of the characters, the two best characters are easily Sox, Buzz’s pet robo-cat, and Alisha Hawthorne. While I initially just thought of Sox as the token cute pet that would be merchandised to death, he actually was not only useful to the plot, but also a fun personality. Meanwhile, while she wasn’t onscreen for too long, Alisha Hawthorne was the only one who sincerely believed in Buzz and his mission for bringing everyone back home. Her granddaughter Izzy shares her determination and will, although I would’ve liked to see her character arc further fleshed out.
While the majority of the characters, including Buzz were not too bad, they felt rushed in their development. However, one character that stood out to me was Mo Morrison (voiced by Taika Waititi) and not in a good way. Mo is very clumsy and accidentally joined Izzy’s gang by accident. Throughout the film, his clumsiness consistently gets Buzz and Izzy into trouble. Hell, most of their problems in the second to third act are caused by him. While the film tries to portray him as a comic relief character, it failed miserably. Mo’s clumsiness started to grate on my nerves almost as much as Boo from Monsters Inc. or Mater from Cars. And although I love Taika Waititi as an actor and director, this is certainly not one of my favorite roles from Waititi.
When this film came out, a lot of people didn’t like that it featured a same-sex kiss between Alisha and her wife that lasted for maybe half a second, claiming it was Disney spreading propaganda in children’s movies. Now I usually don’t let my political opinions spill out in otherwise non-political movies, but in this case, I would like to address this. How is showing a brief kiss onscreen between a married couple propaganda? No one had any problems when Pocahontas was sexualized in her movie. Some say that the reason this film flopped was due to “woke” pandering. However, that’s not the reason this movie flopped, it was because no one wanted to see a Buzz Lightyear spin-off.
Overall, Lightyear is a pointless spin-off that slightly tarnishes Pixar’s legacy, which hurts so much, since I know Pixar is capable of making amazing movies. While not nearly as bad as Cars2, the film isn’t really worth your time. If you’re a huge sci-fi nerd, you may find it amusing, but that’s all the film will ever be. While the performances are overall solid, the story is lacking and the fact that this spin-off follows one of the best films Pixar has to offer further makes me feel like this was just a cash grab. For a film about a space ranger, it never fully takes off.