I despair. The world was far, far too harsh on Lightyear. While people were too busy moaning about Tim Allen not being in it or that it was ‘unnecessary’, they seemed totally oblivious to the fact that what it is is a beautifully animated sci-fi adventure packed with humour, wonder, and heart.
Yes, it’s very difficult to understand why people weren’t totally taken by Lightyear, and indeed why it hasn’t been showered with the utmost praise. Here is Disney/Pixar’s most visually stunning film to date, with their most loveable sidekick character yet in the form of robo-cat Sox (voiced adorably by animator Peter Sohn), and the usual Disney wholesomeness, adventure, and heart. I went into the film expecting to dislike it from the childish vitriol surrounding it I’d heard, and I’ve honestly come out of it with one of my new favourites…
As a film within the Toy Story universe rather than a continuing part of it – it is revealed in opening titles that “In 1995, a boy named Andy got a Buzz Lightyear toy for his birthday. It was from his favorite movie. This is that movie.” – perhaps this is part of the reason many viewers were disappointed, because Lightyear simply isn’t a Toy Story film. Frankly, though, it is all the better for it. The film works wonderfully as a standalone sci-fi adventure that also feels like a loving homage to earlier films in its genre. Full of wonder and intergalactic charm, Lightyear is just good old-fashioned fun.
Criticisms aimed at Lightyear are unfair and ridiculous, and I will defend it passionately. The Tim Allen ‘nontroversy’, first of all, is absurd. From the aforementioned opening canonical explanation, we’ve learned that the toy is based on this film. How rare is it to buy a toy of a blockbuster film and find that the A-list actor behind it has also voiced the toy? It doesn’t happen. It makes sense that a toy of a Chris Evans character would in fact be voiced by someone like Allen. As for the argument that it’s unnecessary and we learn nothing from it about the character or the Toy Story universe – f**k off. Every film’s aim is to entertain, and Lightyear entertains – thus it is not ‘unnecessary’. It isn’t a Toy Story film, and doesn’t really purport to be such. It’s a sci-fi adventure flick that just so happens to be a film within the Toy Story universe.
I loved Lightyear. Loved it. There were enough easter eggs for fans of not just Toy Story but of the sci-fi genre to make it feel loving and made with a passionate reverence, but enough of its own individuality and character to feel like its own, confident entry in the Disney/Pixar oeuvre. A pre-existing knowledge of Toy Story isn’t even remotely required. And taken as an animation showcase, my word…Lightyear is a work of art. Everything about it looks immaculate and immersive. Disney’s 4K disc is an absolute must-own for demoing your system.
I just…Argh, it frustrates me no end that the criticism of Lightyear is largely just so empty. The film oozes love and looks immaculate. The action sequences are genuinely thrilling, and the tension within these scenes is often truly palpable. I was on the edge of my seat, shouting at the screen – and was both surprised and elated when I became aware just how hooked and compelled I was. I was totally enraptured from the opening sequence to the final credits. Without sounding excessive, films like Lightyear reminded me why I love movies.
Maybe if this was just an original character and the film had no links to Buzz Lightyear, it would’ve been better received – maybe people are just struggling to separate it from their childhood memories of Toy Story. But come on. Grow up, shut up, and watch Lightyear with an open mind and an open heart. You’ll love it.
Lightyear goes to infinity, and beyond. It’s Disney/Pixar’s best film in years, and I’ll die on this hill.
LIGHTYEAR is available now on Digital, DVD, Blu-ray, 4K UHD, and Disney+