Cert – PG, Run-time – 1 hour 47 minutes, Director – Angus MacLane
After stranding himself and his crew on an unknown planet space commander Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) dedicates himself to completing his mission, spending years trying to find a way home.
“You. Are. A. TOY!! You aren’t the real Buzz Lightyear, you’re an… Oh, you’re an action figure! You are a child’s plaything!” was once the only case for the big screen figure of space ranger Buzz Lightyear, however now we get to see the film that apparently inspired that particular toy, and the imagination of its owner, Andy. Yet, instead of leaning into the idea of pastiching mid-90s sci-fi blockbusters, Lightyear has a generally direct nature. As we see Buzz (Chris Evans) and fellow space commander Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba) fail to escape from an unknown planet, they find themselves, alongside their expansive crew, stranded and lacking the ability to get back home. Therefore, whilst battling living-vines and rarely-seen bug-like aliens, Buzz takes it upon himself to complete the mission and find a way to get everyone off the planet, despite lacking the required formula to properly reach hyper-speed.
There’s an enjoyable nature to the first act of the film as we see multiple attempts by Buzz to single-handedly save everyone. There’s an entertaining feel to the big sci-fi blockbuster stylings of certain action sequences, helped by the stunning animation, and as a whole the film works better during its more direct and serious moments. When it attempts to crack a joke things more often than not fall fairly flat. Yes, there are a couple of chuckles here and there – particularly relating some references to Toy Story, which luckily die down just before they get too much – but most of the time the humour appears to break into the stride that the film is making in terms of the lighter dramatic side of itself.
Humour is worked more into the film as Buzz finds himself trapped out of Star Command’s makeshift city, and having to fend from giant robots that prevent anyone from leaving the planet. Equipped with companion robot cat SOX (Peter Sohn) – who luckily doesn’t play out as much of a frequent comic relief figure as might initially seem to be the case – and unprepared trainees Izzy (Keke Palmer), Darby (Dale Souls) and Mo (Taika Waititi), the titular figures mission gains a few extra steps. As the film begins to travel down this course you can feel and see the scenes and elements that construct the narrative being stretched out. Things slow down as the film begins to feel overlong, particularly during the third act, thanks to the extra elements and details that appear to be added from point to point within the plot. It simply results in the feeling that things are both, as mentioned, a bit too long and also generally meandering within the rambling construction.
It’s a shame for something that starts out with so much promise and intrigue. The initial set up and action elements mixed with the spectacular animation and general style genuinely set this up to be something amazing. There’s a lot of hope that it will capture something of a throwback feel to great sci-fi blockbusters, with the feeling of being one itself. However, overtime this fades as things begin to slip into feeling slightly more generic and leaning away from these grand sci-fi beginnings. While the film as a whole remains watchable and still has some pretty good ideas and moments it does become a bit trying at times, particularly in regards to the run-time and the narrative which feels as if it’s occasionally repeating itself. Beginning to leave it slightly stranded instead of properly taking off.
While starting off with plenty of grand sci-fi spectacle, Lightyear begins to devolve into a somewhat generic stretch, slightly dampened by its attempts at humour which break into the stride of the enjoyable action at play.